Photo © Courtesy of Wellspring
A Wellspring member and volunteer shares the story of her cancer journey.
Living with and recovering from cancer is mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging. Wellspring offers a lifeline that many with cancer might not even realize they need. Wellspring provides programs and services that help those affected by the disease to take an active role in controlling their cancer experience and improving their quality of life.
With locations in Alberta and several within Southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area, including a virtual centre for online programs that serves all of Canada, Wellspring helps meet the psychosocial, emotional, physical, and practical needs of those living with any cancer at any stage in the journey, and for their loved ones, all at no charge and without a referral.
Wellspring is where Alyssa and so many others found the support, the compassion and the strength they needed to move on with their lives.
In 2001, at the age of 31, Alyssa was diagnosed with a slow-growing, incurable form of lymphoma. Alyssa’s chemotherapy treatment started in 2002, and over the next 15 years, she received treatment twice more, all the while working and starting a family. But Alyssa’s challenges were far from over.
“In 2017, I had a significant recurrence and the lymphoma transformed into an aggressive form, requiring immediate treatment followed by a stem cell transplant,” shares Alyssa. “It was an incredibly stressful and intense period, and it took me a lot longer to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally than expected.”
Alyssa reveals that initially, she was reluctant to visit Wellspring. “I wasn’t on active treatment, I didn’t look “sick,” and I wasn’t sure it was the right place for me,” she shares. “What I learned is that the wide range of programs, information, and people who share the cancer experience meant that I could get help at every stage. Initially, I joined a yoga class, but over time, I participated in support group discussions, Cancer Exercise, as well as other supports, and it has been a lifeline for me.”
One of the benefits of having a network of community-based centres is that Wellspring is in tune with what the cancer community needs. While diagnosis and treatment are discussed in detail, post-treatment discussions are often scant. Wellspring changes this by providing support programs for every stage of a person’s cancer journey, from understanding their initial diagnosis to support throughout and after their active treatment.
“Cancer centres do an incredible job of supporting cancer patients and their families through diagnosis and treatment, but once treatment ends, recovery tends to be up to the patient to navigate,” Alyssa adds. “Some symptoms don’t have an obvious medical solution. Fatigue, for example, can be challenging and last indefinitely.”
Wellspring programs provide members with professionally-led and well-researched programs that identify issues and share strategies for managing future post-treatment challenges, with coaching support from someone who has experience with cancer, either as a patient or caregiver. Like all Wellspring services, these programs focus on the person, not the disease, creating an empowering, compassionate and respectful community that helps its members successfully transition back into their lives.
Alyssa has been a Wellspring member and peer-support volunteer for 20 years, more recently coaching community members who are recovering from their active cancer treatment.
“I couldn’t put my life on hold and wait for the uncertainty to pass; that might never happen,” Alyssa recalls. “Instead, I had to figure out how to live well despite the uncertainty of what was ahead. Treatment options are continuing to develop at a rapid rate. What might feel like the end of the road could change as new trials and treatments become available.”
“This year in May will mark the 20th anniversary of my original diagnosis, and I will have doubled the original life expectancy of 10 years that I was given. Miracles do happen! …It’s a testament to the significant advancements in medical care that have occurred, as well as to the incredible support I received from Wellspring to help me throughout my cancer journey.”
Wellspring is funded solely through the generosity of everyday heroes and sponsors. Support the cancer community today at Wellspring.ca
“I was so glad I got over my initial hesitation, as Wellspring had resources for me for things I didn’t even realize I needed. It may sound cliché, but the biggest step I’ve taken is to try and just focus on today; shut out the noise and worries about the future and simply focus on how to make today a really great day.”
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Wellspring is a Canada-wide network of community-based centres, each offering programs and services, at no charge and without referral, to anyone, with any type of cancer, at any stage in their journey.