For fifteen years, CancerPartners (formerly Gilda’s Club Desert Cities) provided support and free services for those affected by cancer, their families and friends. The non-profit played an important role as hospitals and facilities delivered top medical care, but often left clients to figure out the rest on their own.

CancerPartners filled that void as a one-stop shop for information and resources offering professionally led support groups, medical lectures and workshops, healthy lifestyle classes and social events at no cost to participants, ensuring that all could benefit from the program, regardless of their financial situation.

However, as the focus on whole person health began to grow, facilities offering medical care started to recognize the need and opportunity to further support their clients and began developing programs on their own. As such, wellness offerings increased and the need for a stand-alone facility decreased; thus, the organization’s mission to ensure that “all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community” was accomplished.

Founded as Gilda’s Club Desert Cities, the organization first opened its doors in Cathedral City in November 2004, fulfilling the vision of valley resident Paula Berke and co-founders Phyllis Greene, Judy Wolfe and Estelle Cooper. Gilda’s Club moved to Palm Desert at the end of 2013 and in 2017 changed its name to CancerPartners.

“Nothing remotely resembling this kind of all-embracing cancer support existed in the Coachella Valley when the founders began their pioneering efforts,” said CEO/President Marie Elena Geyer. “Today, however, several other health care organizations (including two of the valley’s hospitals) have begun to offer similar programs. Thus, cancer patients now have a variety of opportunities to get the support they need.”

Those seeking support services can now contact Desert Regional Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and Eisenhower Health’s Lucy Curci Cancer Center to explore the many programs and resources offered at each.

Some of CancerPartners’s program specialists who are also Desert Health contributors continue their work with cancer patients and survivors. Shay Moraga (Shay’s Story, page 4) teaches yoga for cancer through the Lucy Curci center each Wednesday at 10:45am and through her company Namaste with Shay ( Moraga also started a non-profit called Shay’s Warriors to inspire, empower and educate others on life after cancer from the survivor’s perspective.

Certified holistic nutritional health coach Dipika Patel (Fresh Cuisine, page 24) who led culinary classes at CancerPartners still provides nutritional guidance through her company Love Your Life Healthy ( Her six-month hands-on program supports and guides cancer patients, their families and survivors with individualized eating and lifestyle plans.

“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve an average of 3,400 clients each year,” says CancerPartners Board Chairman Paul Golden.

Desert Health thanks CancerPartners for providing our valley with such valuable services over the past 15 years and wishes all of their team the very best in future endeavors.

For more information on cancer support and wellness programs contact Desert Regional Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center at (760) 416.4800 ( and Eisenhower Health’s Lucy Curci Cancer Center at (760) 647.3602.Shay Moraga can be reached at [email protected]; Dipika Patel can be reached at [email protected].

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