Talking about her colon cancer was the last thing Mary wanted to do when she received the initial news. “At first, I could hardly breathe when people would start talking about their cancer,” she explained. That was in 1996, when she was told she had less than two years to live. Since then, her thoughts about supportive cancer care have changed dramatically. Having participated in several programs herself, Mary is now one of more than 100 cancer survivors at Wellspring who help others cope with the diagnosis, treatment and effects of cancer.
Last year, Wellspring centres across Ontario registered nearly 20,000 visits to their 40 different programs for patients and families living with any type of cancer. But last year, there were more than 17,000 new cases of colorectal cancer alone in Canada. To meet this incredible need, Wellspring has just announced the launch of its Colorectal Cancer Information and Networking Program. The program, which will include both informative presentations by experts, as well as professionally-facilitated support group sessions, can assist both patients and caregivers as they deal with the disease.
“I’m very much in need of this information,” said Charles, a patient who has taken a number of Wellspring programs in the past and is looking forward to one that focuses on his particular diagnosis.
Charles called the new group “innovative and different from other programs” he had tried, because it combines practical information about the disease and its treatment options, with the opportunity to find support from others dealing with similar issues. He noted that many of the information-gathering services in existence are either costly or geared toward medical professionals, and that much of the information he has found is American-based. This program will allow him to ask local experts and patients about options and experiences.
The program will also provide support for patients like Happy, who initially had trouble finding people who understood her specific disease and wanted to talk about it. There is “great benefit in a support group,” she said, explaining that she had found comfort at Wellspring: “it was so nice to have a place to do that weeping,” she said. Happy also echoed Charles in saying that the “treatment comes to you” approach is limited, and that many patients require accessible information about the disease, its effects and its treatments.
Judi Perry Brinkert, who manages a Wellspring centre, explained that many of the patients and family members who come to Wellspring are afraid to walk through the door the first time. “People cope with the disease in different ways, which is why we offer such a broad range of programs,” she explained. This new program for colorectal cancer patients comes just in time for the hundreds of people with this disease who are seeking support at Wellspring, and who would like the opportunity to learn about their cancer in a safe, confidential setting.
Wellspring is a network of centres that provide psychological, emotional and informational support, at no charge, to individuals and families living with any type of cancer. Centres offer a variety of programs, including individual and group support, coping skills sessions and other services that provide tools people can use to cope with cancer effectively. For more information about this or other Wellspring programs, and to find the centre nearest you, please call (416) 961-1928 or visit our website at www.wellspring.ca