Early in her cancer journey Lynne Benjamin heard something in a Wellspring support group that struck a chord with her.
“I remember someone asking, ‘When am I going to get back to normal?’ The program leader looked at that person and said, ‘I think probably it’s going to be a new normal.’ I think that was pretty eye-opening for me,” Lynne says. “I realized I couldn’t just step right back into where I was. Because I’m not the same. Because a cancer experience changes you.”
Diagnosed with breast cancer, Lynne turned to Wellspring where she was able to access one-on-one counselling with Dr. Mary Vachon, an expert on the emotional crisis of cancer.
“Sessions with her helped me to heal and move on with my life,” Lynne says. “She guided me in my return-to-work, helping me to manage the kind of questions and interactions that might take place about my diagnosis.”
Lynne returned to work several months later, however was hospitalized shortly thereafter with a serious autoimmune disease. Recovery was difficult and prolonged, requiring Lynne to take another six months away from work.
“It was then that I realized I needed to go back,” Lynne remembers. “I knew I needed to focus on my recovery and that’s when I did a really deep dive into what Wellspring has to offer.”
A medical doctor who works in palliative care, Lynne was reluctant to throw herself into the group setting of Relaxation and Visualization, which had been recommended to her as a starting point.
“I was pretty nervous about the whole group thing. I went in with a pretty strong preconceived notion that I wouldn’t like it,” she says.
“Right away I felt incredibly comfortable and welcomed and accepted. I think going to the group was kind of a pivotal point for me. It took away all of the reservations I had; they just kind of melted away. It didn’t matter who I was or what my job was.”
Soon after, Lynne signed up for the Healing Journey program. One of Wellspring’s most popular programs, the Healing Journey provides those living with cancer with simple but proven psychological and spiritual tools which promote inner harmony, peace and healing.
“I was very impressed from the get-go with the Healing Journey. It is intellectual, challenging and expertly facilitated,” says Lynne. “It’s very practical, but also very spiritual. I came away from it with a very strong sense of connectedness. It opens you up to explore aspects of yourself that you might not have otherwise. ”
It was that sense of connectedness which resonated most for Lynne, who gained great strength and courage from going through programs alongside other Wellspring members.
“As a physician I’m always trying to understand human behavior. I watched people grow in ways that amazed me. To watch people change partly because of what they were doing at Wellspring was truly remarkable.”
“At Wellspring I learned about the scaffolding that supports people through their life and especially through their cancer journey such as family, friends, community, church. Wellspring is a huge part of that scaffolding,” Lynne says.
As a physician, Lynne now steers patients towards the organization that has helped her so much. “I can recommend Wellspring with an intimate knowledge of what it is. I have had a few occasions to look someone in the eye and say, ‘this program is right for you.’ And in my palliative care work I know how much Wellspring can help both patients and families,” she says.
“You do it to help yourself and then it also ends up helping your family. I grew as a person in a way that would have never happened if I hadn’t gone to Wellspring.”
“Someone in a support group said something really amazing: ‘cancer is like a gift wrapped in barbed wire.’ To me, Wellspring is an accepting, healing environment where you are safe to open that gift and then share it with others.”
“I asked my son, who is very creative, how he would describe Wellspring,” Lynne says. “He told me this: ‘Wellspring is a physical place that you go to. But then once you’ve been, you become a kind of mini-Wellspring, equipped with all of this knowledge and ability that you can pass on. It’s like a chain-reaction.’”
Lynne has seen firsthand the profound effect that Wellspring has on people’s lives, both as a member and as a physician treating with someone with cancer. A close friend that Lynne had made at Wellspring—someone Lynne had met the on her first day of the Healing Journey—eventually became Lynne’s patient.
“She was approaching the end of her life and was unable to attend a centre,” Lynne says. “But Wellspring came to her via emails, texts, letters, phone calls and visits from the many she had connected with.”
“What I saw at her house, was that she had taken Wellspring with her; all the people that she’d connected with, all the books and meditation tapes helped her so much. And it helped her to prepare her family for what was coming. That was a very powerful thing for me.”