I was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 with DCIS (stage 1) and it was isolated to just my right breast. As such, I had a right mastectomy in 2010 and was fortunate to have reconstruction right away. I was told they had gotten all the cancer out and I had clear margins. No further treatment was required.
Then 12 years later in the spring of 2022, I was experiencing pain down my right leg and told my family doctor that I thought it was sciatica. He suggested I try physiotherapy. I went for a few weeks but nothing was working, so I went back to my doctor. He ordered an x-ray and MRI to determine the cause.
After an onslaught of testing, I received my diagnosis. My breast cancer had metastasized to my bones; it was in my lower spine and all of the extremities of my body.
When I heard the news, I went into a huge panic. What was I going to do?
It was as if my whole world had crumbled. I didn’t feel like talking, I had no purpose, I didn’t have an appetite … but I think I felt more depressed than anything else. I would cry a lot.
A friend of mine who also had cancer spread to another part of her body, said, “Rupi, you really should go to Wellspring. It’s a wealth of knowledge, information and support,” and I realized, you know what, I think I need to go. I need it more than ever.
In July, I met with a peer support person at Wellspring Birmingham Gilgan House in Oakville. They told me about the different programs that were available and I attended some of them, including Nourish, Art Therapy and some of the meditation programs.
When I first went to Wellspring, I had quite a bit of pain walking because of the cancer in my spine. I needed a cane and was walking hunched over. Although physically I was still in a lot of pain, my headspace was also not in a very good spot.
I remember once when I was in the middle of a Tai Chi class, I felt overcome with emotion and sat down on one of the sofa chairs and started crying. I was trying so hard to be back to the way I was and nothing was working. The instructor took me to the main reception area and I met with another peer support person.
Meeting with peer support and then a counsellor at Wellspring were really turning points for me. Through my tears I shared with peer support how I was feeling so lost and physically awful. She listened and let me know about different Wellspring programs that would be of help. She then connected me with a counsellor, who was particularly helpful as I was able to talk through my thoughts and what was happening to me. The counsellor mentioned the suite of Oasis programs for people with metastatic and advanced cancer. She said, “There’s a lot of people in your situation in the Oasis programs, people that have the same diagnosis of you. And they’re living long, happy, fruitful lives. You can do that too.” That was really the turning point, like the clouds cleared and the sun came out.
So in September, I joined Oasis and the Exercise program.
Through the Oasis support group, I learnt that I’m not alone. And if I really work at it, I can get some ‘normalcy’ back into my life. As for Exercise, about a month or so into the program, I was able to let go of my cane. It’s now almost a year I can actually walk standing up straight and I have less pain.
Wellspring was providing support not only for my mind but also for my body and spirit.
I was eating healthy with the Nourish classes, and had community with the Oasis support group. And now I had exercise to strengthen my body. These programs were like a lifeline for me.
And it just got just better and better.
Being involved in so many of Wellspring’s programs has given me purpose. It’s given me something to work towards. It gives me a community. It gives me likeminded people that are there to help. If you’re having a good day, they’re celebrating your good day. If you’re not having a good day, they’re helping you through it. And I’ve made friends along the way – people who understand what I’m going through.
Also, the people that are leading the programs here are professionals. I don’t want just anyone providing me with advice, especially as a cancer patient. My bones are weak. I need to be very careful when I do my exercise or other programs, and I want a professional that understands – which is what Wellspring provides.
Wellspring has made me a happier, more peaceful and loving person. I am learning to live with my diagnosis – I am learning to live again.
Thank you to the Halton Region Community Investment Fund for their support of our Peer-to-Peer Counselling and Short-Term Counselling programs delivered to Halton residents.