The same day that Aggie Elliot was diagnosed with cancer she decided to go to a Wellspring Centre.
“I was already familiar with the organization, and now faced with the reality of a cancer diagnosis I went straight to Wellspring Downtown Toronto,” she says. “I walked in and basically said ‘Hi, I have cancer. I became a member that day.”
Through Wellspring, Aggie had access to programs such as Cancer Exercise, yoga, nutrition seminars and the Healing Journey, which helped her as she underwent a rigorous treatment plan that included radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.
“I was a positive thinker throughout the whole process and I refused to give in. My focus became on nurturing hope and focusing on the present and what was immediately ahead of me,” she says. “The Healing Journey introduced me to meditation and acceptance. It helped me prepare for what was ahead.”
It was this same determination that spurred Aggie to commemorate the life-changing year with a grand gesture. In an effort to raise money and awareness for Wellspring, Aggie decided she would walk from Toronto to her cottage in Balm Beach near Midland, Ontario, a nearly 135 kilometer journey.
“I feel very welcomed at Wellspring. I find that it really caters to my needs and it has allowed me to meet so many other people who are going through the same emotional roller-coaster,” says Aggie, who still benefits from Wellspring programs during her recovery. “I was so grateful to Wellspring offering these helpful programs for free that I thought, ‘I had to do something: I love to walk so why not walk for Wellspring.’”
The idea of a walk appealed to Aggie because throughout her treatment she had used walking as a way to exercise and meditate, walking to and from her hospital treatments and doctor appointments in downtown Toronto.
After recovering from treatment Aggie’s walking spree only increased as she prepared for her big walk. She participated in the Cancer Exercise program, a 20-week individualized regimen available to people during any stage in their cancer journey. “Cancer Exercise really helped me to build up my stamina. Trainers Manesha and Cherilee were amazing. It felt like they were my own personal trainers,” she says with a laugh.
To raise money, Aggie emailed friends and family telling them about her plans and about what Wellspring meant to her. She set her goal at $2,000. “Immediately I was overwhelmed by the response. In the first weekend I covered my goal and then went on to raise $5,100,” she says.
Aggie planned the walk for June of 2016, almost exactly one year from her diagnosis. “It made me feel like I had come full circle with that part of my journey,” she says.
For three days, with family and friends on hand to offer support and the occasional orange slice, Aggie walked 12 hours straight, covering 45 kilometers per day. At the end of each day, Aggie’s crew would drive her home, then early the next morning they’d drop her off at the previous day’s spot.
It was a tough, physically demanding journey, but in the same way she used her walks to and from treatment to meditate, Aggie used the time to reflect on how far she has come emotionally.
“When you have a cancer diagnosis your life becomes centered around all of your doctor’s appointments, you really don’t have much control over your life. The walk was a way of getting back control and Wellspring has been a big part of that.”
Aggie prides herself on being an evangelist for Wellspring, spreading word about the organization wherever she can. She’s already recruited one fellow fundraiser: her son, Jake, who helped organize the Bullseye Axe throwing golf tournament in September, and who will be contributing a woodwork creation to this year’s Light Up Wellspring event. “I am so grateful and blessed with the support I received from my children Emma, Jake, my husband, Paul, and my extended family and many friends!”
” Cancer has changed my outlook on life. There is a quote that really made an impact on my outlook: ‘You never really know how strong you are until strong is the only choice you have.” I most certainly feel stronger and see each day with more gratitude.’”