Nothing can ever prepare one for a diagnosis of cancer. The emotional, psychological and physical impact is often overwhelming. Not only are the effects of treatment punishing on the body, but the toll from the shock followed by uncontrollable fear often leaves patients reeling. Some say their world stops. They feel isolated from what is normal, cut off from their lives and very much alone.
As many as 40 per cent of Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer and embark on similar journeys at some point in their lives. While they are fortunate to have access to medical care that rivals any in the world, the medical intervention they receive is only one part of the healing process.
Research shows that approximately 85 per cent of patients are affected by the often devastating non-medical consequences of cancer – the anxiety, depression, confusion, fatigue, nausea and pain. But, when medical care is complemented with emotional, rehabilitative and practical support, cancer patients not only improve their quality of life but have been proven to experience an increase in longevity. It is in this area of psychosocial healthcare that Wellspring Cancer Support Network excels, and plays a unique and crucial role in Canada.
A wealth of innovative programs
Wellspring is a warm and welcoming network of community-based centres in Southern Ontario and Calgary, providing a comprehensive range of supportive care programs and services for anyone living with any type of cancer, at any stage.
Led by qualified and experienced professionals including psychotherapists, physiotherapists, art therapists, dietitians and more, Wellspring’s 40 programs span a wide range of categories, from individual and group support to rehabilitation services, to practical guidance in areas such as nutrition, finance management and workplace issues. The entire continuum of programming opportunities offered at Wellspring is evidence-based, professionally evaluated and developed and piloted through the Wellspring Centre of Innovation.
Some of the innovative offerings at Wellspring include the Nourish series of twelve nutritional education and demonstration programs for people with site-specific cancers; for individuals in the treatment phase of their illness who are challenged by palate changes, medical interactions and loss of appetite; or for those who have completed treatment looking to ensure ongoing wellness and recurrence prevention.
Exercise is another critical tool in the healing process with evidence showing that benefits are gained when exercise is incorporated into treatment plans right from the point of diagnosis. Exercise helps improve physical functioning, fatigue management and overall quality of life; it reduces pain, the side-effects of treatment, improves self-esteem, aids in better treatment compliance and even secondary prevention for some types of cancer. Led by professionals specifically trained in cancer rehabilitation, the Cancer Exercise program at Wellspring includes an individual assessment and personalized plan, and an opportunity to exercise with other patients in a supportive group setting.
The award-winning Money Matters program helps patients work through the financial consequences of cancer, which for many can be equally as harrowing as the diagnosis. By curtailing the ability to work, coupled with the host of unplanned expenses, cancer drastically affects a patient’s livelihood. Patients concerned about their finances are able to meet privately with a Money Matters case manager who will assess their personal circumstances, provide options to help make the most of available resources, and will identify any government programs for which the patient might be eligible.
Beyond the door: telling one’s story
Every person who visits a Wellspring centre has a unique set of needs. While some seek out single items of support, others immerse themselves in an array of programs and activities. Those who find it difficult to acknowledge that they need help find that being surrounded by a community of peers, who are survivors, is a very powerful first step on the road toward healing.
Wellspring has helped tens of thousands of men, women and children who have been touched by cancer, as well as their caregivers and loved ones. Beyond the benefits that they offer in the moment, Wellspring’s programs have the ultimate objective of building, in an unrushed manner, a patient’s capacity to manage their own care.
Wellspring Centres are places of safety, comfort, ease and confidentiality. Each is located in a warm, home-like setting, with a cadre of staff and many highly-motivated peer volunteers who help guide patients on their personal path toward wellness. Wellspring charges no fees, and requires no medical referral. For more information about a Wellspring centre near you, visit wellspring.ca or call 416-921-1928. Wellspring receives no government or other core funding, and is funded exclusively by independent donors and corporate partners.