We are proud that our nominee, Chau Yoder, will be recognized at this year’s Threads of Hope ceremony, hosted by Diablo Magazine! Below is the piece written about Chau for the feature in Diablo Magazine. To read more about Threads of Hope and all of the 2018 award winners, click here. Scroll down to watch the tribute video shown at the event.
Cancer Support Community San Francisco Bay Area
By Meghan Walsh, Diablo Magazine
Chau Yoder sums up her life’s work in six words: “I just share what I learn.”
The 72-year-old has learned many trades over the decades. She spent 25 years as an engineer and a manager at Chevron before retiring in 1999 to pursue a spiritual education. Since then, the Walnut Creek mother of two has filled her time practicing and teaching meditation, yoga, tai chi, and other mindfulness techniques to everyone from school-kids to corporate board members. For the past 29 years, she has volunteered countless hours to teach these wellness exercises to patients at the Walnut Creek–based Cancer Support Community San Francisco Bay Area.
“I feel my mission is to help me and others to live life with more joy and less suffering—to embrace life,” Yoder says.
Yoder came to California from Vietnam to study at Fresno State, where she was the only woman in the engineering department when she first enrolled. Her childhood was ravaged by war, and not long after immigrating to the United States, two of her brothers were killed by a drunk driver.
Having endured so many life challenges, Yoder signed up for a personal-growth seminar in the mid-1980s. “I was so left-brain I could hardly take it in,” she says.
But Yoder brought what she learned back to her colleagues at Chevron. The informal lessons evolved into a standing one-hour mindfulness session every week. Not long afterward, Yoder started volunteering at the Cancer Support Community.
“Chau led the first mindfulness class when we opened our doors as the Wellness Community in 1990, and she has led weekly classes since then—incorporating yoga, tai chi, and chi kung, along with mindfulness and meditation,” says Jim Bouquin, executive director of the Cancer Support Community. “Chau’s healing practice has made a profound difference in the lives of our most vulnerable community members. We estimate that she has served more than 2,000 people facing cancer since 1990.”
Chris Holm began taking Yoder’s integrated tai chi class after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011.
“When you have cancer, you’re worried it was your fault, and worry about what’s to come,” Holm says. “That class was a real refuge from that worry. … It was such a physically, emotionally, and spiritually nurturing space.” Yoder teaches her students to be aware of the body and listen to what it’s saying. She uses the acronym P.B.S.: pause, breathe, smile.
Even as a septuagenarian, Yoder hasn’t slowed down a bit; she boasts that she can still heave her 18-pound grandson up the stairs. As Holm puts it: “She’s a living example of how mindfulness and movement can benefit a person.”
How to help: “There are so many ways to help people with their well-being,” Yoder says. “The Cancer Support Community has an extensive calendar of activities. Offer what you have to give, and it will make a difference.”