Ocean Wilderness to host women’s cancer retreat

Women dealing with cancer get together for support and information

  • Oct. 31, 2012 4:00 p.m.

Last September Phoebe Dunbar was enjoying the beautiful fall day working in the Sunriver Allotment Gardens when she remember the mammogram appointment she had booked with the B.C. Cancer Agency’s free mobile screening program. Because she was dressed in gardening clothes, sweaty and dirt under her fingernails she thought maybe she would just cancel the appointment until one of the ladies at the gardens said to her, “Phoebe you really need to just go – you never know it might just save your life.”  A lump was discovered during the mammogram and resulted in a diagnosis of breast cancer.

The lady at the garden that day was Jacquie Michaud and she knew all too well the importance of mammograms because six years earlier Jacquie had discovered a lump that was confirmed at the mammogram clinic a couple days later.  The message Jacquie gave Phoebe that day is one she would like all women to hear – early detection is critical when it comes to a breast cancer diagnosis – it is the key to a long and healthy outcome.

Statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society state that one in nine women are expected to develop breast cancer during their lifetime.  In B.C. in 2012, it is expected 3,000 women and 25 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately another 1,000 women will be diagnosed with some form of gynecological cancer.

Early detection through increased access to free mammograms, and improvements in treatment have all meant the chances of survival today are reassuringly high.

While we now know more about treatment and prevention, receiving a diagnosis of breast or a form of gynecological cancer is hugely challenging physically, emotionally and psychologically. Many women often experience physical conditions such as lymphedema as a result of having surgery and treatment; fatigue is a common side effect, as well as anxiety associated with the fear of reoccurrence.

As Phoebe and Jacquie went through their surgery and treatment they found other women in the community, who had also experienced breast cance, reaching out to encourage them. It spurred on an idea for Phoebe to start a local group that could offer women in the region support and in May of 2012, the Sooke Region Women’s Cancer Support Society was formed.

The mission of the society is to improve the sense of well being and enhance the quality of life for women whose lives have been impacted by a diagnosis of breast or gynecological cancer.

Through the generosity of Frederique Philip, the group meets every second Tuesday at Sooke Harbour House at 7 p.m. Local medical professionals – Dr. Shayna Chamitoff, an experienced practicing psychiatrist and Mary Dunn, RN and public health nurse, facilitate the group meetings.  The monthly gatherings are a chance for women to offer support to one another in a safe and confidential environment.

In November, the society will be hosting a weekend workshop.  The workshop, being held at Ocean Wilderness due to the generosity of Lori LeCourt and a private donor, will offer the chance for women to receive additional and relevant information. Dr. Ardythe Taylor, well respected for her work over the past 10 years in the development and implementation of Supportive Cancer Care Programs, will be the facilitator for the weekend. Dr. Taylor is herself a breast cancer survivor and knows well the struggles patients encounter.  She will be working with the women and holding workshops on the topics of:

What is possible for a full and healthy recovery,

How to deal with fear, anxiety and uncertainty,

Creating a personal healing plans.

Over the weekend members of the groups are also being offered free counseling sessions with Dr. Chamitoff and personal care massages and reflexology thanks to Christine Hopkins and Marlene Barry.

If you are interested in becoming a participant or receive information on the Sooke Region Women’s Cancer Support Society, please contact Mary Dunn at 250-646-2554 or mail to: marydunn@shaw.ca.

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