Wellspring partners with hospital to bring hope to breast cancer care

In the mammography waiting area at St. Joseph’s Health Care, London is a vibrant reminder of hope. Colourful works of art painted on acrylic panels appear as stained glass where patients wait for their tests. But what makes the art special is that the pieces are a gift from those in the midst of their cancer journey to others who may be just starting out.

The panels were created by participants in the art therapy program of Wellspring, a non-profit organization offering psychological, emotional, social, spiritual and informational support to individuals and families living with any type of cancer. In a unique partnership, St. Joseph’s, a leader in breast care, has joined with Wellspring to broaden breast cancer care for patients and their families. In addition to the waiting room art, Wellspring has provided training for St. Joseph’s staff and volunteers in the ‘softer’ aspects of care – how to be effective at providing emotional support for this population of patients.

“We have a very healthy respect for the medical field and we know there have been great gains in the area of diagnostics, medicines, and treatment protocols,” explains Kristen Goodman, executive director of Wellspring in London. “But we also know there are many people needing access to these services and not always the time to be able to spend with people during these confused and troubling times.”

Goodman knows the services of St. Joseph’s well. She is the former coordinator of ambulatory care and central services at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Hospital, where she worked for 32 years. Treating and curing cancer, is one thing, she says. Living with cancer is something else.

“For the patient and caregiver there is an additional huge emotional component that ebbs and flows for the remainder of their lives.”

Research has shown that supportive care eases the emotional and physical strains of cancer and its treatments, enhances quality of life for cancer patients, and helps families and caregivers find the most effective ways to respond.

Gillian Milcz, coordinator of breast assessment at St. Joseph’s, says staff and volunteers have been very receptive to the Wellspring training, which focuses on listening skills, engagement techniques and information on community services that could be valuable to patients.

“The integration of Wellspring and St. Joseph’s has provided a unique opportunity for patient healing at the physical, emotional and spiritual level,” says Milcz. “It helps us to provide the warmth and information our patients need.”

Wellspring and St. Joseph’s continue to explore ways both organizations can further address the needs of people struggling with cancer.