Women impacted by breast or gynecological cancers often face many unknowns. These can lead to fear, a sense of isolation and anxiety.
To ease the transition into the world of cancer and its repercussions, a group was formed in Sooke in 2011. The Sooke Region Women’s Cancer Support Society is a group of women who share, talk and provide information to each other. They provide names of service providers and they help women navigate and network with people in the community.
“For a lot of women you can just never assume they don’t need a group and comfortable place to share,” said Phoebe Dunbar, one of the original organizers and a cancer survivor. “There’s a really nice human factor about it.”
It all started when the hikes up the Kludahk Trail to view the avalanche lilies were used as a fundraiser for the newly formed cancer support group. Every since they have used the hardy, annual avalanche lily as a symbol of hope and survival.
Mary Dunn, a health practitioner and another of the original founders of the group, said some of the members are women who have been newly diagnosed and others are eight years on.
“Newer members can take away some of the fear of the unknown,” said Carey Redsma, a cancer survivor.
“Even though every woman’s treatment is different, someone can provide information and support,” said Dunn.
The group is facilitated by health care practitioners but it isn’t an evening of lectures and talks, although they do at times have guest speakers. What it is about is women who have a common situation getting together to talk about it. Some people may not want to talk, they may just come to listen.
“You can come sit in and listen, you don’t have to tell your story – you can have a cup of tea and just listen,” said Redsma. “Come sit in an see if it’s for you.”
Dunn said one of the benefits of a group such as this that is for women only, it that they can talk about stuff they wouldn’t necessarily talk to their family or friends about.
There is no set agenda and they talk about whatever comes up. It is private and confidential and the location is private as well, which the society is very grateful for. The members range in age from mid-30s to their 70s.
They try to promote a healthy lifestyle and that could be anything from sharing recipes to hiking together. Staying healthy is a lot of the focus.
The Sooke Region Women’s Cancer Support Society meets once a month, on the second Tuesday of each month at the Sooke Harbour House Potlatch Room from 7 to 9 p.m.
“It’s a good thing we’ve got a group but it’s so bad there are so many new diagnoses,” said Redsma.