Is the Program Right for You?

Making sure the right people come to the Cancer Help Program is essential to the experience. The application process helps determine whether you and the program are fit for each other. The first level entails asking yourself whether the program right for you.

Are you:

  • Emotionally balanced, psychologically mature, and able to share space well with others?
  • Open to gaining a deeper understanding of yourself?
  • Under the care of a qualified physician?
  • Medically stable and physically strong enough to spend a week in a rural retreat setting?

Can you:

  • Take care of yourself and be safe an hour from the nearest hospital?
  • Work well in a small group setting where people are exploring deeply personal issues and often experience powerful emotions?
  • Recognize that each participant in the program must find his or her unique way through the cancer experience?
  • Understand what the retreat offers, be confident that you will benefit from it, and commit yourself to participating fully?

If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, please feel free to apply.

Significant others are welcome to apply, but they are at the retreat to do their own work—not to be a caregiver.

The Commonweal Cancer Help Program welcomes participants of all ethnicities, gender orientations, and income levels. We leave politics and other questions that may divide us at the door so we can focus on the shared goal of deep, intentional healing.

The Application Process

If you were able to answer the questions at left with a “yes,” the next steps are:

  1. Call Waz Thomas at 415.868.0970 x316 or email him via the Contact page on this site.
  2. After your conversation with Waz, please complete the preliminary application he sends via email. It should take about 10 minutes to fill out.
  3. Write an autobiographical letter about your life to Michael Lerner, co-founder and co-leader of the Cancer Help Program (Waz will send guidelines). Please send the letter, along with the completed application back to Waz. Writing this letter is an essential part of participating in the Cancer Help Program. Many find it to be an invaluable experience.
  4. Waz will confirm receipt of your documents, and you will be placed on our waiting list.* Please indicate whether you can come on short notice if a space on one of the retreats opens up. This happens quite frequently.
  5. Arlene Allsman, the CCHP coordinator, will call six to eight weeks before the retreat that has an opening for you. Once you know what your dates are and commit to coming, you’ll receive a longer, more complete application.
  6. Submit the second (full) application, along with a non-refundable deposit, to Arlene. If you have need of a scholarship, she will be the person to talk to. (A monthly payment plan is also an option.)

You’ll find information about dates and costs here.

* Note that submitting an application doesn’t guarantee admission into the Commonweal Cancer Help Program. We screen applications and do our best to ensure that the program is right for you and that you would do well in it. Our concerns include your physical health, mental and emotional well-being, and your ability to work effectively in an intensive small-group setting.

The Waiting List (and What to Do While You Wait)

There is a great deal you can do while you’re waiting to join us at the Cancer Help Program. We have four websites with invaluable information for you:

  • CancerChoices, based at Commonweal, is a state-of-the art website on integrating conventional and integrative cancer therapies. Because this field is complex, it can take a while to learn to navigate the website, so have patience. CancerChoiceshas evidence-based summaries of more than 80 integrative cancer therapies under “Search Therapies.”  It also has extended handbooks on breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer, as well as a growing list of other cancers. CancerChoices currently gets 10,000 hits a month. There is no other free website that provides as objective a view of your choices.
  • The self-guided Cancer-Fighting Kitchen online program is a gift from Rebecca Katz, who is a nationally known culinary educator. Her book, Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, now in its second edition, is based on science and on what Rebecca calls “the power of yum.” The online program is free for you as an applicant to the Cancer Help Program.
  • Healing Circles Global, based at Commonweal, is a second website that can help you address the mental, emotional, and spiritual struggles that often accompany a cancer diagnosis. You can benefit from the powerful health benefits of social support by creating your own healing circles, including small ones with just two people and larger ones that can include many more.
  • The New School at Commonweal has more than 250 podcasts and videos of thought leaders from across the country and around the world who explore nature, culture, and the inner life. You will find dozens of exceptional resources about cancer, including multi-part conversations with physicians such as Donald Abrams, Keith Block, Brian Bouch, Dwight McKee, Rachel Naomi Remen, Mark Renneker, and many others.

Michael Lerner, co-founder of Commonweal and the Cancer Help Program, is also co-founder of Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, Healing Circles, and The New School. There is a tremendous amount you can do for yourself at home with these four resources, and they will prepare you to benefit even more from the Cancer Help Program.