Cancer is heavy. Second only to a cure, the thing you want most for the people carrying that diagnosis is that they find someone, some place, some thing to take a little of the weight.
Cancer is also nearly inevitable. It comes to almost every family eventually. In my case, cancer diagnoses for my wife and my father arrived just months apart and provided a sudden and unwelcome education in four kinds of surgery, two types of chemotherapy, one approach to radiation and, so far, two immunotherapy drugs. If I’m not thinking specifically about my destination when I back the car out of the driveway, my first instinct is to turn towards Juravinski Cancer Centre.
Yet, as hard as our friends, family and I try, my wife and my father – two remarkable, smart and strong people – have needed a little more. They found it at Wellwood.
The first thing they found is the kind of help that’s easy to see in a program guide or on a website. It’s the information that helps people understand the realities of living with cancer. It’s the peer support sessions. It’s the art and Tai Chi classes my father joined. It’s the restorative yoga that interested my wife.
The second thing they found at Wellwood is a feeling. It’s being someplace where cancer loses some of its power, where it’s lighter. It’s being around people who understand, so you don’t need to explain. You can relax and be yourself. You can find – paradoxically in a cancer-support centre – a zone where cancer almost doesn’t matter.
The weight gets lifted.
When our ten-year-old daughter visits Wellwood with other children whose families have been affected by serious illness, she feels like it’s one of the only places she goes where she doesn’t have a secret.
The weight gets lifted.
When I know that people I love have a place they look forward to visiting, people they enjoy seeing and programs that fit what they need, I feel like I have some help too.
And the weight gets lifted.
My father recognized early on that he was part of something great at Wellwood. "It’s free," he said. "It’s relaxed. It’s upbeat on a sincerely downbeat subject."
My wife and I give to Wellwood monthly. For all the great work Wellwood does, it’s not government funded, covered through OHIP or supported by user fees. It’s no cost to everyone who needs it and that’s only possible because of donations like mine and hopefully yours. The generosity of the Wellwood family keeps the entire Wellwood program accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances. That generosity provides peer support, exercise and movement classes, creative workshops, meditation and relaxation sessions and the kind of information that helps people navigate the often-complex pathways of cancer treatment and care.
Wellwood’s volunteer-driven structure invests these programs with a tremendous feeling of community while delivering an unmatched return on investment for the organization’s contributors. My wife and I know our donations reach the front lines of Wellwood’s work because that’s the only place the money can go. We know our gifts make life just a little bit better for people like my wife, my daughter and my father who, after brain surgery, treatments and several Wellwood programs, said ...
"When you’re diagnosed with cancer, particularly terminal cancer, it changes how you think about yourself. I’m sure there’s a tendency for people to begin thinking of themselves as a ‘cancer person’ and it was Wellwood that stopped that. When I came to Wellwood, I got involved in activities that were so captivating, so interesting and filled with people who were good humoured and talented in many ways. And I began thinking of myself as one of those people. So now I think of myself as a recreational art student rather than a cancer person."
My dad shared that view of Wellwood just weeks before he died. Of the many things I inherited from him, I know that his enthusiasm for Wellwood has the potential to be among the most important. Please consider making a donation to Wellwood this spring.
You can lift a bit of the weight from someone who could use a little help, possibly in a family very much like yours.
With sincere thanks,