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The Mothers' Living Stories Project

Bay Area Resource Guide on Parenting through Cancer

The idea for a resource guide on parenting through cancer was raised by women who attended our focus groups in Alameda, Marin, and San Francisco Counties during 1996. These mothers unanimously attested to the lack and inaccessibility of support groups, information, and written materials that specifically addressed their concerns as parents living with cancer. The Parenting Through Cancer Resource Guide became a joint effort between the mothers and the Mothers' Living Stories Project.

Many agencies and individuals offer valuable assistance to cancer patients, and other resource guides can lead you to their services. Similarly, many helpful books and videos address general parenting concerns. The Parenting Through Cancer Resource Guide includes only those services and materials that have a special focus on parenting during serious illness. Entries are based on information given by agencies and recommendations offered by health care or other professionals and mothers living with cancer. No agency or resource pays for its inclusion in the Resource Guide. The listing of any agency, book, video, or web site does not imply endorsement by The Mothers' Living Stories Project or any of its sponsors or advisors.

The MLS Resource Guide offers detailed information for services in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you live elsewhere, explore the national resources and links, the books and videos, and our suggestions for creating a resource guide in your own community.

Please note that for some time we have not been able to update specific resources and links in the Resources section. Although many of the institutions and agencies still exist, their contact information, web sites or specific services offered may have changed. We apologize for this inconvenience.

San Francisco Bay Area Agencies

About the Agencies and Services Listed in this Guide
We have printed the address, telephone number, web site address, and some descriptive information for each agency or service. We try to note whether the service is specific to breast cancer or provides assistance for other cancers and illnesses. We also note whether the service is for mothers, for children, or for families. There may be a charge for some services, but many are free or have a sliding scale. Please note that changes in services, especially support groups, are frequent. A support group listed today may be over by the time you call. Similarly, a service not yet listed in the Guide may have just begun. It is always worthwhile to call the agencies. Ask about their offerings. Let them know your interests and needs. Enough demand from parents may lead to the development of new services.

Bay Area resources are listed in alphabetical order under the following categories:

Support, Education, Information, Family Activities

Alta Bates Comprehensive Cancer Center
2001 Dwight Way
Berkeley, CA  94704

Conducts several support groups for women with breast cancer, including one for women under 40 that includes many mothers. One group is for partners and spouses of women with breast cancer. Free. Also provides a resource center with lending library.

Ann Martin Children's Center
1250 Grand Avenue
Piedmont, CA  94610

Helps families develop emotional resilience to meet life’s challenges, including illness and bereavement. Offers support to children, adults, and couples; provides consultation to schools around children's needs; assists the family in talking about the illness; helps youth recover from the psychological impact of grief, trauma, and transition. Provides psychotherapy, academic tutoring and remediation, and educational and psychological diagnostic testing as needed. Reduced fees available for some services. Families may also be eligible for services through county and state agencies and some health insurance plans.

California Pacific Medical Center
Institute for Health and Healing (IHH)
P.O. Box 7999
San Francisco, CA  94120-7999
415-600-HEAL [-4325]

Has ongoing support group for parents facing life-threatening illness, with concurrent group for children ages five and over, free (Children and Families Facing Life Threatening/Chronic Illnesses). Provides a broad range of activities, groups, and resources related to complementary medicine and the healing arts, including specialty groups for women with cancer. Also sites in San Mateo and Marin Counties, as well as IHH/Planetree Health Library and Information.

Camp Kesem
Hillel at Stanford
P. O. Box 20526
Old Union Clubhouse
Stanford, CA  94309

An overnight summer camp serving children in the greater San Francisco Bay Area between the ages of 6 and 13 who have a parent who has or had cancer. A secular camp open to all children regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, or financial status. Free, but enrollment is limited to 75 campers.

Camp Tawonga
131 Steuart Street, Suite 460
San Francisco, CA  94105
415-543-2267; Fax: 415-543-5417

Offers “Grief and Growing,” A Healing Weekend for Bereaved Individuals and Families, once a year, usually in May. Through creative play, discussions, Jewish ritual, and the healing power of nature, the program is designed to create a safe place to explore feelings and concerns with a sympathetic and supportive community. Open to all, although the program includes some Jewish practices. Reduced fees available depending on situation.

Center for Attitudinal Healing
33 Buchanan Drive
Sausalito, CA 94965

Has groups for adults and children ages five and over who are facing life-threatening illness, plus support for family members and caregivers. Also special outreach, including a home and hospital visiting program. Free.

Chinatown Public Health Center
1490 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA  94133

“Dr. Play,” a support group for children whose parents have cancer, meets concurrently with the Chinese Women’s Cancer Support Group. Takes place the first and third Saturdays of the month from 1:30 to 3:30. Has a Chinese Guide to Breast Cancer Resources.

Circle of Care (formerly PediatriCare)
2540 Charleston Street
Oakland, CA 94602

Has Living with Illness and Living with Loss groups for children of any age who are coping with serious illness or traumatic loss. Separate, concurrent groups for parents, caretakers and teens. Also provides home-based counseling and support services. Serves Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Moderate fees on sliding scale. No one turned away because of inability to pay.

Community Breast Health Project
390 Cambridge
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Clearinghouse for support and information for breast cancer patients. Offers occasional special workshops and services that address mothering and breast cancer. Provides a young women’s breast cancer support group, a metastatic breast cancer support group, and a DCIS support group. Also offers Stories of the Journey: A Creative Writing Workshop for Breast Cancer Survivors. Other services include a helpline, a library, a newsletter, an open house every Thursday evening with physicians to answer questions, assistance preparing for medical appointments, short-term counseling, and a “buddy system” that matches individuals with someone who has gone through a similar situation. See “What Do I Tell My Child” on the web site. Free.

East Bay Cancer Support Group, Inc.
20080 Redwood Road
Castro Valley, CA 94596

Offers support groups for adult cancer patients, adult caregivers, adolescent caregivers, and children with a parent coping with cancer. Also has bereavement groups for adults, adolescents, and children. Provides regular phone contact for individuals who need support outside the meetings and in-home counseling for group participants who become physically unable to attend. Free.

Healing Adventures
5323 Rosalind Avenue
Richmond, CA 94805-2446

Gentle outdoor adventures for families with cancer and other illnesses. Activities include trips, retreats and workshops. Experienced guides accommodate medical needs. Scholarships available.

Kara Grief Support
457 Kingsley Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Offers individual counseling and support groups for those experiencing loss, including ongoing (twice-monthly) grief support groups for children, teenagers and adults who have experienced the death of a loved one. Group participants share their experience and learn from the experience of others. An initial interview is scheduled to assess the client's need and determine appropriate service.  Free. Also presents an annual conference that provides education and support for health care and mental health professionals who work with those who are coping with life-threatening illness, death and bereavement.

Kids Count Too
American Cancer Society

Has a six-session support group for children ages three through teens with a special support session available for parents. Call the American Cancer Society to see if the group is offered in your area (800-227-2345).

Kids Helping Kids
c/o Parents Helping Parents
3041 Olcott Street
Santa Clara, CA 95054
408-727-5775 ext. 150

A support group for children that have a family member in their household living with cancer or other life-threatening illness. Children enjoy a book or movie night one evening a month in addition to supervised recreational outings one Saturday each month. Offers kids a chance to have fun and be with others who share a similar situation.

Kids Konnected
27071 Cabot Road, Suite 102
Laguna Hills, CA  92653
Hotline: 1-800-899-2866 for calls outside California

Has a 24-hour hotline for children (800-899-2866), an online chatroom, and a website developed specifically for use by children who have a parent with cancer. Kids Konnected groups provide programs for youth leadership, support group meetings, social events and other outreach programs. Several summer camps are also available. Has model programs in California and throughout the nation. Check the website for details and for an up-to-date database on books about cancer and coping skills. Free.

Life Tapes Project
Alison Leigh Siegel, MFTI, MA
New Perspectives Center for Counseling
5026 Geary Blvd.
San Francisco, Ca 94118
415-835-2167 (w)

Provides a 1 ½ to 2 hour videotaped interview with cancer patients and their family members. Gives a free, edited videotape and DVD. Part of a study on the effects of participating in the project in order to better understand and meet the needs of persons and families confronted with life-threatening illness. Interviewees must be willing to complete confidential questionnaires at three points in time (taking less than an hour each) and a brief telephone interview at the end.

Marin Cancer Institute at Marin General Hospital
1350 South Eliseo Drive
Greenbrae, CA  94904
(415) 925-7372 or (888) 731-9900 (toll-free)
For the Marin Breast Center, call 415-925-7787

Provides a variety of cancer support groups, sometimes including a group focusing on cancer and parenthood, women's cancer support, women with breast cancer, and partners of women with breast cancer. All free. Also offers workshops, retreats, and classes for women with cancer that incorporate yoga and other healing arts. Some free. The Circle Resource Center has books, videos, and tapes that can be borrowed.

Mothers' Group of the South Bay
Lucy Berlin, Coordinator
Mountain View, CA

Peer support group for mothers diagnosed with primary breast cancer with newborn through school-age children. Also accepts young women with this diagnosis who do not have children. Discussions include communication with the children and spouse, handling treatment side effects, preventing chemotherapy-related infertility, genetic risks, prophylactic surgeries, and parenting through cancer. Meets monthly at a quiet restaurant in Menlo Park. Also advocacy for the needs of young women with breast cancer. Free.

Mothers’ Living Stories Project
Berkeley, CA 94709

Between 1995-2005, Project helped Bay Area mothers living with cancer audiorecord a life story and personal legacy for their children, either through individual interviews with a Volunteer Listener or in a facilitated writing circle. Services were free in five counties. Published this Resource Guide, which can be downloaded from the website. Another Morning: Voices of Truth and Hope from Mothers with Cancer, authored by Project Founder Linda Blachman and published in 2006, is based on the mothers’ stories and the work of the Project. Mentoring, consultation, educational presentations and training available on a for-fee basis: contact linda@lindablachman.com

Through the Looking Glass
2198 Sixth Street, Suite 100
Berkeley, CA 94710-2204
800-644-2666  510-848-1112 TTY: 1-800-804-1616

A nationally recognized disability community-based agency that has pioneered research, training, and services for families in which a child, parent, or grandparent has a disability or medical issue, including cancer. Offers services, information, and referrals for parents, primarily in the Bay Area, but also has a National Resource Center for Parents with Disability.

UCSF Ida and Joseph Friend Cancer Center
Cancer Resource Center
1600 Divisadero St., Room B101
San Francisco, CA  94143-1725

Provides a variety of support groups for adults and young adults with cancer, including those with breast cancer, DCIS, gynecological and other cancers. Offers a support group for husbands and significant others, family and friends, and a gay and lesbian support group. Free. Also has a Peer Support Program, spiritual support services, and a Resource Center with lending library. 

The Wellness Community
3276 McNutt
Walnut Creek, CA  94596

Has ongoing weekly support groups for cancer patients and their family and loved ones. Nine times a year offers a program called Kids Count Too, a half-day gathering of children and teens whose parents have cancer. Also has monthly support groups, as well as special weekly drop-in groups, some of which are specific to breast cancer and gynecologic/ovarian cancer. The Family Transition Group provides support for bereaved family members. Offers monthly educational programs and a variety of weekly and monthly stress management and gentle movement programs. Weekly support groups in Spanish for patients, families and loved ones. Twice-weekly Newcomers Meetings orient people to the services. All services are free.

WomenCARE Santa Cruz
617- B Water Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Offers advocacy, resources, education and support to women with cancer, to their families and friends, and to healthcare practitioners. Includes support groups, healing activities, a navigator program, and a new group, “Cancer in My Family,” for young people ten and over who have a loved one with cancer. This group is co-sponsored with the Katz Cancer Resource Center at Dominican Hospital, and with the Hospice Caring Project. Second and fourth Wednesdays. Call to register and for location: 831-462-7770. Services are free.

Women's Cancer Resource Center
5741 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609
Hotline: 510-420-7900
Toll-free: 1-888-421-7900

Offers a variety of peer-facilitated support groups, including a group for teens who have a parent or guardian with cancer. Has a Peer Referral program, an Information and Referral Helpline that includes services for Spanish speakers and the deaf community, and a comprehensive resource library. Has Sister to Sister program for African American women, a Latina Services Program, and Lesbians with Cancer support group. Provides research and information packets for women unable to use the library in person. Other programs help low-income women obtain financial assistance or free and low-fee therapy and in-home support services. (See In-Home and Practical Support section and The East Bay Breast Cancer Emergency Fund below.)

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Cancer Counseling and Psychotherapy Referrals

UCSF Ida and Joseph Friend Cancer Resource Center
1600 Divisadero Street, Room B101
San Francisco, CA 94143

Provides referrals for individual and family counseling and psychotherapy to cancer patients.

Women's Cancer Resource Center
5741 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA  94609
Toll-free: 1-888-421-7900

Has lists of free and low-fee therapists throughout the Bay Area experienced in working with people with cancer and their families.

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In-Home, Practical, and Other Support

American Cancer Society
3012 Summit Street, Fifth Floor, B Wing
Oakland, CA  94609
1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-117-2345)

Offers transportation to and from cancer-related treatment. The “Look Good...Feel Better” program teaches beauty techniques to help combat the appearance-related side affects of cancer treatment. Sponsors “Reach to Recovery,” a peer support program for women with breast cancer, as well as the Cancer Survivor’s Network, which includes discussion groups and links to many resources.

Anna’s Program
3470 Buskirk Avenue
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
Concord, CA 94520

An in-home program of psychosocial services for women with recurrent, inflammatory, or stage IV metastatic breast cancer and their families offering: case management, emotional support, practical assistance, and spiritual support. Serves Central and East Contra Costa County, and sometimes Southern Solano County. Free.

Breast Cancer Emergency Fund
965 Mission Street, Ste 630
San Francisco, CA 94103

Modeled after and administered by the AIDS Emergency Fund, this program provides short-term emergency funds (up to $600) towards housing, utility or medical bills. Must be a resident of San Francisco County and have a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Center for Independent Living
2539 Telegraph Avenue
Berkeley, CA  94704
610 16th Street
Oakland, CA  94612

Provides in-home assistance for a nominal fee.

Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic
5691 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609

A licensed health provider that offer complementary and alternative medical treatments (acupuncture, massage, massage, herbs, imagery) to low-income women living with cancer. Treatments combat the side effects of cancer and its treatments and boost immune systems and quality of life. Also has In-Home Comfort Care Program for those with end-stage cancer, a Post Treatment Program, and The Carol Zambel Treatment Access Fund for women who require financial assistance in obtaining additional CAM treatments, herbs, and medication that are not currently offered by the Clinic.

East Bay Breast Cancer Emergency Fund (EBBCEF)
Women's Cancer Resource Center
5741 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA  94609
Toll-free: 1-888-421-7900

Sponsored by Friends of Faith, the EBBCEF provides financial assistance to low- income women currently being treated for breast cancer and living in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The fund provides up to $600 per year to help with basic living needs. Requires a referral from a health-care provider. For more information, contact Dolores Moorehead at 510-420-7900 ext. 112.

Karen Swanson Enabling Fund
Community Breast Health Project
390 Cambridge Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301

A fund to fulfill the special needs of, or requests from, persons with breast cancer. The Fund is not intended for treatment, but for improving quality or ease of life, or of the dying process. Available throughout the Bay Area.


A joint program of The Breast Cancer Fund and Shanti serving women with breast and gynecological cancer in San Francisco. Offers assistance with: transportation to and from medical appointments and support groups for patient and accompanying caregiver and children; in-home meal delivery seven days a week; temporary emergency funds for costs such as rent and child care; in-home volunteers for practical support such as grocery shopping, light housekeeping, and appointment making; referrals to social services agencies and other resources; and applying for financial benefits to cover treatment.

Marilyn’s Fund
Marin General Hospital Foundation
5 Bon Air Road, Suite 217
Larkspur, CA 94939

An Endowment Fund to provide financial assistance to Marin County women in need who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Funds to be used only for medications, wigs, and testing and examinations where abnormalities are suspected. Free mammogram for women in need in Marin County.

Women's Cancer Resource Center
5741 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA  94609
Toll-free: 1-888-421-7900

The BETTS program provides free in-home support for women with cancer. May include cooking, light housekeeping, transportation, and emotional support for up to three hours per week. Volunteers are limited and there may be a waiting list. The Peer Referrals program has lists of other women with similar circumstances who are willing to be contacted for peer support and information.

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General Bay Area Resources for Living with Life-Threatening Illness

Bay Area Health Libraries

List of all libraries in the Bay Area that have substantial collections of health information and are open to the public.

Better Health Foundation
426 Seventeenth Street, Suite 450
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: (510) 444-5096

Provides guides with comprehensive listings of cancer resources, including regional and national organizations, support groups, counseling, child care, screening, diagnosis, treatment and financial assistance. Guides are designed to help individuals to make more informed decisions and to take charge of their health. Go to web site for free copies.

Breast Cancer Action
55 New Montgomery, Ste. 323
San Francisco, CA 94105


BCA is part of a network of grassroots groups throughout California which serve "as a catalyst for the prevention and cure of breast cancer through education and advocacy, through helping to refocus research on detecting the causes of breast cancer, and through empowering women and men to have a voice in decisions about their diagnosis and treatment."

Planetree Health Resource Center

Planetree is a network of over 20 patient-centered, hospitals and community health libraries throughout the U.S. and Europe that encourage individuals to learn more about healthcare and medicine in order to become active participants in their own care and well-being. Libraries are free and open to the public. There are centers in San Jose and San Francisco; the San Jose center maintains the above website. The San Francisco site may be reached by phone at (415) 923-3680.

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