Wellspring on the Medicine Hat horizon

November 17, 2023

As Wellspring Alberta works to expand free cancer support services across the province, Medicine Hat and area residents are invited to share their thoughts on what resources they would like to see in their community.

“We’re on a mission to co-create sustainable cancer support communities across the province. We already have a thriving online community of programs and support that serves cancer patients and their loved ones living anywhere with internet access, but we have learned that there is a pressing need for people living with cancer to also come together in person for programs, so we are polling residents in rural Alberta, to find out how best Wellspring can be a partner,” said Rebecca Perkins, Wellspring outreach manager.

Have your thoughts heard

On November 20 and 22, Wellspring will be holding interactive information sessions in Medicine Hat, inviting cancer patients, caregivers, medical professionals, and potential supporters to come together to learn about Wellspring and offer their thoughts on next steps to work together, bringing in-person Wellspring programs to the city of Medicine Hat.

“Wellspring subscribes to the view that people living with cancer are the experts in their experience; they know what it feels like, what they need, and what is lacking in their world. We want those living in Medicine Hat to show us the need, and tell us how Wellspring can help fill it,” said Perkins.

Sign up for a Medicine Hat session

Need for support in Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat resident Sarah Drever was a single mom with two young kids and a career she loved when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2017. Travelling to Calgary for surgery and treatment was excruciatingly hard on the young mom, but what was even more difficult was dealing with the serious upheaval in her life, and the long-term mental and emotional fall out of cancer, without any practical supports in her area.

“Before cancer, I was very high functioning. I could think ahead, multitask, remember dates. I was very organized, and I had a high stress tolerance. I could handle pretty much anything at work. After surgery and treatment, I couldn’t even hold a conversation and chop watermelon at the same time,” said Sarah, describing brain fog, one of many challenging side effects of chemotherapy. [Read Sarah’s full story]

When the pandemic elevated Wellspring outside the walls of its three support centres in Calgary and Edmonton, to a robust online community, Sarah Drever was one of the first to join the free community.

“So many things changed for me after cancer. I was an emotional wreck at times. I was scattered, scared, and unable to go back to work. When I found Wellspring, the support I got was lifechanging. These were people who totally understood what it is to have cancer. I gained tools and learned strategies that helped me cope, and have subsequently helped with my healing. We have nothing like this in Medicine Hat and the need here is so great,” said Sarah.

Volunteer voices

As Wellspring commits to extending its reach in regional and remote areas of Alberta, it has forged a Community Connector volunteer program consisting of a team of individuals spread out across the province, to help raise awareness about Wellspring and bring its free cancer support programs to as many people as possible.

Cancer survivor Sarah Drever, is one such volunteer. Having joined Wellspring and found immeasurable benefits, she is now seizing plenty of opportunities to welcome new people to Wellspring, and to spread the word about Wellspring and its support and resources in Medicine Hat and surrounding towns.

“Cancer is so isolating. But it doesn’t have to be. When you join Wellspring, you are in a room with others – virtually or in person – who totally understand what you are going through. You can be vulnerable; you can be honest; it is completely okay to be not okay,” said Sarah. “I am so happy to help others find their way to Wellspring so they can find the support and tools that I found, and the community of support that helped me to heal.”

Wellspring is still actively recruiting volunteers from across the province to become Community Connectors. Those who are interested in learning more can apply online or email outreach@wellspringalberta.ca.

Means to an end

Seventeen years after opening its first community cancer support centre in Calgary, Wellspring stays true to its founding mission to provide non-clinical professionally led programs and a safe enriching community of support, free of charge, to those facing cancer and their families. As Wellspring extends it reach across the province, needs on all levels are vastly expanding: the pressing need for cancer support services; the need for people to know about Wellspring; and the need for Wellspring to viably sustain its costs and operations.

Wellspring does not receive any core government funding, but relies on corporate donations, grants, and the steadfast support of communities and loyal friends.

In the words of one devoted donor:

“Don’t wait to donate when you need the support of Wellspring – if we all do that, Wellspring won’t be there for any of us. Every one of us will be affected by cancer at some point – whether it’s ourselves, a family member, or a co-worker. That’s just the way it is. And that’s just one of the reasons why my support for Wellspring is unwavering.” Wellspring donor, Joanna Low. [Read Joanna’s story]

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