Meet Dr. Frances Baumgarten, in her own words: “In 1993 I found myself dealing with a recurrence of the breast cancer I had originally treated in 1989. The difference this time was that it had metastasized. My only chance of survival was to have several surgeries, intensive chemotherapy, a stem cell replacement and radiation.
“Even though I had practiced psychology for over 15 years, in both psychological and medical settings, I was unprepared to deal with my emotional state and certainly couldn’t touch the pain of my family and friends. To my surprise my colleagues were no better prepared.
“Everyone kept telling me to be strong and I would be fine. I kept saying you don’t know that—just read the research and the statistics. There was no one I could talk with about the enormous amount of fear, pain and discomfort that accompanied me all along this journey. In looking back, I see that it was even more isolating for my children and family. Everybody tried to be stoic for each other; we all suffered silently.
“After my treatments, and during my recovery, I couldn’t believe thatI had spent 21 consecutive days in the hospital and not one person, other than my oncologist, walked into my room and said, ‘Let’s talk about what you are going through. And by the way, how are your children and husband and mother doing?’
“At that point, my dream was for a center where all cancer patients and their family members can get better prepared to deal with the enormous challenges of this disease. Where no one had to suffer in silence.
“Yes, there are plenty of support groups available, but not a place where it is safe for you to release your deepest, darkest thoughts and have someone like me, a trained professional who understands cancer inside and out, to help you manage them.
“My dream now exists. The Center for Cancer Counseling became the place where all cancer patients, family members, partners, children, teens, friends, coworkers, and caregivers could learn how to express feelings and develop strong coping skills and strategies.–a safe, comfortable place where you and your family learn how to maintain a quality of life that is worthwhile, rewarding, fulfilling, successful and happy. A place where families facing death can receive special help for all family members during this difficult time. A place available to everyone who asks for our help, and cost is not an issue.”
Fran is the co-founder and clinical leader of the Center for Cancer Counseling. A two-time survivor of cancer, her passion to help cancer patients and their families manage and survive cancer, along with her personal experience with cancer led her to begin this non-profit organization. In practice as a licensed clinical psychologist for over 30 years, Dr. Baumgarten earned her Ph.D. from California School of Professional Psychology.