A Dynamic Duo Sparked By Friendship

September 01, 2013

Jackie Banchik and Diane FeldmanWhen Jackie Banchik and Diane Feldman were introduced 40 years ago, they would never have guessed that the meeting would result in an enduring friendship and a partnership that would leave a mark on the John Wayne Cancer Institute.

They were young women living in Los Angeles, pursuing careers, caring for their families and still finding time to do volunteer work. Jackie, born in Chicago and raised in LA, worked as an occupational therapist. Diane was an elementary school teacher in Chicago where she was born and raised, and she became an interior designer after moving to Los Angeles.

They met in the early 1970s at a charity event and became friends. Through the challenges and joys of working and raising children, the two women shared experiences, supported each other and cherished their friendship.

When Diane’s father was diagnosed with cancer, Sandy Cohen, co-founder and first president of what was to become the Auxiliary, recommended the John Wayne Cancer Clinic. Diane’s father eventually died of cancer, but she was awed by the work of the Auxiliary and joined this small group of women.

“I was impressed with the intimacy of the John Wayne Cancer Clinic,” Diane recalls. “We saw that it was a hands-on organization. The patients weren’t just numbers; everyone was treated as a unique individual.”

Diane became the Auxiliary’s second president, the group grew rapidly, and the volunteer program was begun.

Shortly thereafter, Jackie joined the group. Her grandmother had died of cancer, and she admired the work of Donald L. Morton, MD, and the physicians of the clinic. She eventually started volunteering in the clinic every Wednesday, escorting patients to their examination rooms. Jackie was also drawn to the Auxiliary members’ care and dedication.

“Although we didn’t know each other initially, we became a tight knit group, working together and sharing our goals. We all had a history of someone in our family having cancer.”

Jackie became the Auxiliary's fourth president and, during her tenure, the John Wayne Clinic at UCLA moved to Saint John’s Health Center, becoming the John Wayne Cancer Institute.

Six years after joining the Auxiliary, Jackie was diagnosed with cancer and was successfully treated by Dr. Morton. On her 50th birthday, grateful for her health and Dr. Morton’s care, she and her husband, Howard, started the Banchik Family Library.

“I wanted a place for women to go and sit and have material to read,” says Jackie. “They could watch tapes and talk with their family. A nurse or doctor could come in, and they could chat. I wanted that very much. Over the years, I can’t tell you how many people would come up and say, ‘It’s so comforting to have that room.’”

Moved by the Banchik family’s gift, Diane and her husband, Danny, provided funds to start the Feldman Audio-Visual Center, dedicated to Diane’s father and mother-in-law.

“We wanted a center with materials for all types of cancer – a place with every kind of resource: print materials, videos, pamphlets. In addition, physicians would have another place to meet privately with their patients.”

Among their Auxiliary projects, Diane and Jackie are very proud of the “Circles of Distinction” which they created to honor the Institute’s donors. “We wanted to have each and every person who contributed recognize how much their gift was appreciated. "

They cherish the time they spend together as friends and Auxiliary members.

"The truth of the matter is, there is no one that we know who has not been touched by cancer. It’s something that concerns us all.”