Five years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer…The treatment was lengthy and exhausting: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy… When it was finally over, I felt like I just came back from nuclear war. Completely drained, worn-out… unsure about how to live further.
My doctors mentioned I could reach out to an organization named Wellspring at the Sunnybrook Hospital – that offers support to cancer patients and their families.
Interestingly, Wellspring receives no hospital or government funding and exists strictly on private and corporate donations. There are nine centers in Canada: two – in Toronto and one each – in Oakville, Brampton, Calgary, Edmonton, London, Niagara, and Stratford. They are open every day and you can just walk in, no appointment needed.
This is how I ended up in Wellspring at Sunnybrook … I remember my first visit and the sense of genuine warmth and care… At the entrance, a volunteer greeted me, asked me about the reason for my visit and gave me a questionnaire to fill out. Then, he told me about the programs in the center and offered me cookies and a cup of tea… The center looked nice and cozy, decorated with taste, nice paintings on the walls. There’s a kitchen, a gym, a library with computers, as well as a few rooms with couches to relax if needed.
Then, they showed me a schedule of programs – intended to improve the physical and emotional condition of cancer patients. It’s updated monthly, and all available programs can be found on www.wellspring.ca. It’s worth saying that all programs are free and conducted by certified specialists – experienced in working with oncology patients.
Out of many-many programs offered at the center, my favourite were:
Talks and seminars:
- Naturopathy (information on how to strengthen the immune system and overall health with natural remedies);
- Breast cancer and nutrition (tons of useful information on a healthy diet for people with cancer); and ”Super Healthy Food” – information about food products, based on facts and scientific researches.
- “Money Matters “- talk about the financial side of things for people with cancer;
- “Meeting with a Lawyer “- questions related to the legislation, for example, that cancer patients cannot be discriminated, dismissed from work (in this case the employer can be sued), etc.
- “Cancer Fitness”- exercises to restore physical condition;
- Yoga (low impact) and meditation – to help restore physical strength and mobility. The instructors monitor closely blood pressure, pulse, etc. and gradually increase the intensity of exercises.
- Qigong (low impact)
- “Cancer Journey” – an amazing psychology class; helps accept yourself at this moment and in this state, and move on. Conducted by a psychotherapist with 30 years of experience at Princess Margaret Hospital & Hospice.
- “Art Therapy” – a great class, helps to distract yourself from pain and ease your mind. For me personally, it helped forget about the pain after radiotherapy.
- “Brain Fog Therapy” conducted by a neurologist; helps to restore the ability to think clearly, focus, to improve memory.
And, of course, the cooking classes were just amazing! Conducted by experienced certified dieticians and nutritionists in an interactive and entertaining way. They taught us how to cook tasty and healthy food – suitable for our condition, mostly vegetarian. Each recipe is based on scientific facts and research. Here are some of my favourites: kale chips, pumpkin soup with ginger, and a dessert made of beans. After the classes, we usually gathered together in a cafeteria – to enjoy our delicious food, to chat and get to know each other.
I kept coming to the centre every day for 2 months. I met some really wonderful people and made lots of new friends. Most importantly, I once again got the taste of life! There, I met people who compared to me were in a much worse condition. Despite that, they were not giving up, stayed positive, supported others! My heart was aching when I watched this. And then I realized that cancer can’t stop us from feeling, loving, being good friends. Cancer cannot stop us from being kind and generous, from being brave. Cancer is just a disease…
After two months I felt a thousand times better and, most importantly, regained enough confidence to get back to normal life. I went back to my regular gym, went on a couple of vacation trips. Four months later I completely forgot about this whole cancer nightmare, and I know it wouldn’t be possible without Wellspring.
If you, your family member, your friend, acquaintance, coworker gets diagnosed with cancer (God forbid but nevertheless!) contact Wellspring – they can help to cope and heal. Angels are there!
Wellspring: your source for cancer support
According to the 2018 Canadian Partnership Against Cancer report “Living with Cancer: Report on the Patient Experience”:
- 8 of 10 cancer patients report physical problems after the end of treatment;
- 7 of 10 cancer patients report emotional problems;
- 4 out of 10 cancer patients report problems related to work, finance, insurance, etc.
More than 85% of the problems experienced by people who have survived cancer and cancer treatment are non-medical, such as: fear, anxiety, isolation, guilt, pain, financial problems.
How can Wellspring help?
Thanks to rehabilitation programs, support groups, help from “Companions in Misfortune” as well as experienced professionals in the field of fitness, psychology, and many others, Wellspring helps thousands and thousands of oncology patients to actively fight cancer and its consequences, helps to improve quality of life.
Wellspring programs, classes, and workshops are focused on:
- stress management;
- rehabilitation and restoration of the health of cancer patients;
- overcoming fear and isolation associated with the returning to work, to family, and a normal life;
- legal and financial advice, support on getting information
The main focus of Wellspring programs is on the person, not the disease. The Wellspring organization was recognized by Health Canada as an outstanding example of public-health organizational excellence.