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Communitas

About Brittany Blockman

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So far Brittany Blockman has created 13 blog entries.

In Memoriam: Clara Jackson

February 3, 2000 – July 4, 2019

Clara was a young beautiful girl, with a smile that lit up every room she entered. Her thick dark lushes hair and eyelashes that went on for days, was the envy of all the nurses at UCSF.

Music made Clara happy! She wrote songs, sang beautifully, and even at her lowest times could be found dancing. Her favorite nurse Kelli always had time for a dance with Clara. Even with IV’s hooked to her arms, feeling the terrible side effects from her Chemo, dancing was the one thing that helped Clara the most when she was struggling.

Clara was asked to participate with 3 fellow cancer patients in a musical video. It is a moment in time we will always have in her remembrance.


Clara had many talents. She loved to paint, draw and write poems. She also had a love for all animals and was involved with her twin brother Keith in FFA throughout high school. She had a pig named Johnny and a lamb named Navy.

Throughout her medical journey, Clara always wanted to become a nurse. Halfway through her treatments, she decided a nurse practitioner might be the better route to take. She had a huge heart and loved everyone, and she wanted to help those that might endure their own medical challenges.

Clara had a special love for her dad. He would come in early in the morning to her hospital room, she would say “shush mom is sleeping” and they would have the most wonderful quiet conversations. They both share a love for pizza, and she would always tell her dad to leave early and go eat his favorite pizza at Sparks because they closed at 9pm.

Clara wanted to work at a young age. She had her first job at 16. She had a great value for money and always was very appreciative of gifts she was given throughout her life. When her Godparents gifted her a car, it quickly became her most prized possession.

The doctors and nurses at UCSF were nothing less than amazing. We are all so very grateful for their dedication, knowledgeable expertise, and for the wonderful care she always received.

Clara is no longer in the physical world, but her smile, her beauty, and her love for her family will forever live on through her spirit in many ways, especially through her music.

We love you Mami, we miss you more than words will ever be able to express. You are our angel in heaven Clarita!

-By Martha Jackson, Clara’s Mother

November 12th, 2019//By //

Reflections from a Teen Retreat Participant

When I left the Communitas retreat, I went straight to work. I felt weird during the two hours that I worked that day, like a part of me was missing, and managed to stick it through another half hour before leaving early and not completing the remaining two hours of the shift. To date, it is the only time I have had to use my sick hours. I got in the car and sat there, didn’t even turn on the AC, for more than a half-hour. I felt like a part of me was missing, and that something in me had fundamentally changed since the last time I had been here, just five days previously. 

Five days before, my Mom and I had arrived at a red house with our wagon almost overflowing with stuff that we probably didn’t need to bring. I was nervous, I was stuck with this group of nearly all strangers for the next five days. It felt impossibly long. But before I went to sleep that night, only hours later, I already knew those five days would be way too short. I wanted to stay there forever.

I had done one of the Communitas support groups the spring before the retreat last June. I knew what the mind-body groups were like. I anticipated the skills we would learn, whether it was art therapy or the check-ins that usually lasted most of the two hours set aside for group. What I didn’t anticipate was everything else, the amazing meals cooked by Commonweal staff, the walks to the ocean, the way it was so easy to talk to this group of people, even though less than a week earlier, they had all been strangers. For the first time in my life, I could be myself around people my age. I didn’t have to pretend to be way less sick than I am and then deal with people around me telling me that I must be faking it. I didn’t have to think about all of the little things that make life more difficult in the real world. For the first time since I have gotten sick, I felt okay with the way I was. 

Anyone who’s had a chronic illness knows it means fighting two very different fights. One against your body, and one against everyone else who thinks they understand your body. Brittany’s goal was to, for at least that time that we spent there, make the second fight disappear. All of us came to that retreat for different reasons, but one thing I think we all have in common is the want to be understood. In my almost three years as a medical mystery, what the retreat gave us in those five days was the best thing I could have ever gotten.

It’s strange to look back on the retreat now, so many months later. It feels like a lifetime ago, and also like it was just yesterday that I left. There are so many things I feel like I can’t even talk about because those moments are so special to me that I doubt I could even find the words to express how much they meant to me. 

Natalie Comerford

November 7th, 2019//By //

In Memoriam: Bianca Valdivia

May 13, 1998 – October 30, 2018

I met Bianca when she was 15 years old, at the start of our first Communitas group in 2014. Bianca endeared herself to our Communitas group and staff from the beginning, with her kind and gracious presence. She became our most dedicated community member and participated in every Communitas group we had from 2014-2018, evolving from participant to program volunteer, leader, and advisor. She helped us launch the first Communitas Health retreat in June 2018, and served as our teen program volunteer and counselor. Bianca became the heart and soul of our program, the glue of our community, and touched so many lives in the process of her involvement.

When Bianca was 10 years old, she was diagnosed with a rare lung condition “idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis”, which forced her to rely on an oxygen tank to breathe and be hospitalized frequently. Her condition progressed to her requiring a double lung transplant for her survival, which she received in August of 2015. For 3 years, she was able to live a more normal life, finishing high school and attending college to pursue her dream of becoming a child life specialist. She was able to spend the night away from home for the first time and travel on an airplane. She got to dream of her future again.

Unfortunately, in August 2018, her lungs began to fail rapidly, and she was placed on life support, as she awaited a second lung transplant. She was able to receive a new set of lungs in September but faced many complications after the procedure. On Oct 30th, 2018, we lost our dear Bianca after a 2-month struggle in the ICU and a wave of grief hit our Communitas community, her many friends, and loving family.

It’s hard to describe Bianca because when you say the words, they sound too good to be true: radiant, compassionate, positive, endlessly grateful, always caring about others even when she was suffering, beautiful inside and out, full of joy and love. She was a sweetheart, but she was also a determined fighter and one of the strongest people I have ever met. She was wise well beyond her years and knew what truly mattered in life—a naturally old soul made even more knowing by her struggles.

As she told one of her nurses in the ICU on one of her final days, Bianca was put on this planet to inspire others and she felt that she had gotten to do that. I absolutely know she accomplished that and so much more, as I have witnessed the impact she had on those around her in the Communitas community. She made everyone in our groups feel so at ease and on their hardest days, inspired them not to give up. When I went to say goodbye to her at the hospital, I whispered in her ear that I was going to make sure her inspiration carried on into the future through the Communitas Health organization and that as many people as possible knew her name and story.

I set up a scholarship fund in her honor, so that as many families as possible can experience the Communitas Health Retreat—a program that meant so much to her and that she helped shape and guide. By enabling others to attend this program in her name, I know that we will carry forward her life mission of helping other kids experiencing chronic illness and create a lasting legacy for her.

Knowing Bianca and being in her presence has been one of the greatest honors and blessings of my life. Thank you for teaching us how to smile through our struggles and be grateful for each other and the little things in life. We love you and miss you every day.

You can donate to the Bianca Valdivia scholarship fund here or by mailing a donation to: Commonweal/Communitas, Commonweal, PO Box 316, Bolinas, CA, 94924 (please note that the donation is in honor of Bianca Valdivia).

With love and gratitude,
Brittany Blockman 
Communitas Health, Founder/Director

November 7th, 2019//By //

Mind-Body Medicine Overview (Communitas Group 1)

WEBSITES

-Dr. Jim Gordon, Center for Mind-Body Medicine:  https://cmbm.org/self-care/

VIDEO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nD_71eoxPFM (5:32)

AUDIO

-Soft Belly Breathing recording:

 (Cliff Smyth)

BOOKS

-Gordon, J. S. (1996). Manifesto for a new medicine: Your guide to healing partnerships and wise use of alternative therapies. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

-Goleman, D. & Gurin, J. (1993). Mind body medicine: How to use your mind for better health. Yonkers, NY: Consumer Reports Books.

-Phillips, M. (2007). Reversing chronic pain. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

October 16th, 2016//By //

Autogenics (Communitas Group 2)

SCRIPTS

Raymond Lloyd Richmond:  http://www.guidetopsychology.com/autogen.htm#1

VIDEO

Yasmine Buraik: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Lzi4T6mu0U (audio recording: 14:00)

AUDIO

Cliff Smyth: General autogenics process: TB uploaded

Cliff Smyth: Autogenic hand warming:

 

BOOKS

Sadigh, M. R. (2004). Autogenic training: A mind-body approach to the treatment of fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome. New York, NY: Haworth Medical Press

October 16th, 2016//By //

Meditation and Mindfulness (Communitas Group 3)

WEBSITE

AUDIO

  • Jon Kabat-Zinn, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society Mindfulness Meditation: [Series 3 is recommended] http://www.mindfulnesscds.com/collections/cds OR http://www.mindfulnesscds.com/collections/mp3s
  • Gina Biegel, LMFT, Mindfulness for Teens: Meditation Practices to Reduce Stress and Promote Well-Being (CD, MP3) http://www.stressedteens.com/store/
  • Amy Saltzman, MD, Still Quiet Place: Mindfulness for Teens (CD) Available from http://www.stillquietplace.com/?page_id=16
  • “Mindfulness Meditation for Teens” by Bodhipaks
  • Mindfulness bodyscan meditation, Dave Potter, MBSR instructor, Guided body scan: http://palousemindfulness.com/disks/bodyscan.mp3 (33.01)
  • Mindfulness bodyscan meditation – Guided body scan: http://palousemindfulness.com/disks/bodyscan.mp3 (33.01)

VIDEO

BOOKS FOR TEENS AND CHILDREN

  • Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and their parents) by Eline Snel and Myla Kabat-Zinn. Includes a CD.
  • Gina M. Biegel, The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness Skills to Help You Deal with Stress (Instant Help Books, 2009)
  • Joseph V. Ciarrochi, Louise Hayes, and Ann Bailey, Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life for Teens: A Guide to Living an Extraordinary Life (Instant Help, 2012)
  • Mark C. Purcell and Jason R. Murphy, Mindfulness for Teen Anger: A Workbook to Overcome Anger and Aggression Using MBSR and DBT Skills (Instant Help, 2014)
  • Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein, A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger Pub- lications, 2010)
  • Christopher Willard, Mindfulness for Teen Anxiety: A Workbook for Overcoming Anxiety at Home, at School, and Everywhere Else (Instant Help, 2014)
  • Dzung Vo, The Mindful Teen (Instant Help, 2015)

BOOKS FOR ADULTS

  • Burch, V. & Penman, D. (2013). You are not your pain: Using mindfulness to relieve pain, reduce stress, and restore well-being. New York, NY: Flat Iron Books. (Based on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program with a primary focus on pain.)
  • Kornfield, J. (2004). Meditation for beginners. Bolder, CO: Sounds True.
  • Susan Kaiser Greenland, The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate (Free Press, 2010)
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (rev. and updated ed.) (Bantam Books, 2013)
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment—And Your Life (includes audio CD) (Sounds True, 2012)
October 16th, 2016//By //

Mindful Nutrition (Communitas Group 3)

WEBSITES

VIDEOS

BOOKS

  • Chozen Bays, J. (2009). Mindful eating: A guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship to food. Boston: Shambala.
  • Hanh, T. N. & Cheung, L. (2011). Savor: Mindful eating, Mindful life. New York, NY: Harper Collins
  • Albers, S. (2009). 50 ways to sooth yourself without food. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger
  • Albers, S. (2011). “But I deserve this chocolate”: The 50 most common diet-derailing excuses and how to outwit them. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger
  • Albers, S. (2009). 50 ways to sooth yourself without food. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger
  • Albers, S. (2011). “But I deserve this chocolate”: The 50 most common diet-derailing excuses and how to outwit them. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger
October 16th, 2016//By //

Movement (Communitas Group 5)

ONLINE RESOURCES

  • American Heart Association: www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/Physical-Activity_UCM_001080_SubHomePage.js
  • President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition: Ideas and resources: www.fitness.gov
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/
  • National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability: http://www.ncpad.org/content/9/Exercise~and~Fitness

BOOKS

  • Davis, M., Eshelman, E. R., McKay, M. (2008). The relaxation and stress reduction workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications. Chapter 20, pages 329–353 provides information about different types of exercise, dealing with barriers to exercise, making your own plan, and online resources.
  • Sharfarman, S. (1997). Awareness heals: The Feldenkrais Method for dynamic health. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Contains gentle awareness through movement exercises for flexibility, easier movement, and pain reduction.
  • Ratey, John. J. (2008). Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company
  • Reynolds, Gretchen. (2012). The first 20 minutes: Surprising science reveals how we can exercise better, train smarter, live longer. New York, NY: Hudson Street Books.
  • Broad, William. J. (2012): The Science of Yoga: The risks and the rewards. New York, NY: Simon and Shuster.
October 16th, 2016//By //

Breathing (Communitas Group 5)

WEBSITES

 

 

October 16th, 2016//By //

Writing & Journaling (Communitas Group 6)

RESARCH articles

  • Baikie, K. A., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(5), 338-346. doi: 10.1192/apt.11.5.338 Available from: http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338
  • American Psychological Association: Gratefulness and heart health http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/04/grateful-heart.aspx

 BOOKS

 There are many books and other resources on journal writing, story telling, and poetry, and how they can contribute to your health and your life. Here are a few.

  • DeSalvo, Louise. (1999). Writing as a way to healing: How telling stories transforms our lives. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
  • Fox, John. (1997). Poetic medicine: The healing art of poem-making. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.
  • Capacchione, Lucia. (1989). The well-being journal: Drawing upon your inner power to heal yourself. North Hollywood, CA: Newcastle Publishing.
  • Stone, Richard. (1996). The healing art of story telling: A sacred journey of personal discovery. New York, NY: Hyperion.
  • Rainer, Tristine. (1979). The new diary. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher.
  • Lee, John. (1994). Writing from the body: For writers, artists and dreamers who long to free your voice. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.
October 16th, 2016//By //