Volunteers offer cancer support network

Tyler Clarke
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Cancer treatment can be an incredibly difficult thing to go through, but a local network of volunteers want patients to know they’re not alone. 

Members of the Prince Albert and area - based peer support group CanSurmount are seen — a group currently seeking more people to assist along their cancer journey. From left is Anne Neely, Donna Christopherson and Fern Lloyd. 

Cancer treatment can be an incredibly difficult thing to go through, but a local network of volunteers want patients to know they’re not alone.

The key challenge for CanSermount — a peer support network for people living with cancer — is letting people now they exist.

“So often, we miss people because of their short stay in hospitals,” member Fern Lloyd said. “So, the more they know about CanSermount the more they’ll find us.”

Keen on helping local cancer patients along their cancer journey, CanSermount volunteers want their word to spread until everyone that needs assistance knows whom to call.

The volunteers aren’t advice givers, member Donna Christopherson said, but a support network.

Christopherson was attracted to the group during her time as a social worker, when she’d spend time at health-care facilities.

“A lot of people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer feel frightened and lonely,” she said.

“The volunteer from CanSurmount would come in and visit that patient, and that patient would seem so much calmer after they’d come in, because they’d met someone that had cancer, had gone through the treatment and was up and about … going on with life.”

For cancer survivor and founding member of Prince Albert’s CanSurmount chapter Anne Neely, it’s about helping people who are in the same boat she saw herself in when she was diagnosed with cancer 40 years ago.

About five years ago, she remembers meeting with a friend who was diagnosed with cancer who was feeling uncertain about going in for surgery.

“It was the same type of cancer she was going for surgeries as I had,” Neely said.  

“I said, ‘look, it’s 35 years for me, you can do it too’ … She was just so excited to know there was someone else who had gone through that surgery.”

This is a far cry from when Neely was diagnosed with cancer, during which time there were no such support networks in place.

A lot of people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer feel frightened and lonely. Donna Christopherson

“It was a lonely road, I can tell you that,” she said.

CanSurmount volunteers greet patients with a rose and a bow, and poinsettias around Christmas.

“It’s just to keep the door open and to let them know we’re thinking of them and we’re there to support them,” Lloyd explained.

Volunteers then follow and support the patient for as long as they’d like, with meetings and personal assistance whenever needed or wanted.

“We know that they’re not always able to come to our meetings, but if they’re having a bad day, phone us,” Lloyd said.

When cancer patients lose their battle with cancer, sometimes CanSurmount volunteers carry on their services to the family, after all, “It affects not only the patient, but the whole family that needs support,” Neely said.

All volunteers go through a training process, with an underlying focus on building listening skills, partnered with learning the various things cancer patients are likely to be interested in, such as the ins and outs of visiting the Royal University Hospital.

“Our theme is to give our love and support,” Neely said.

The Prince Albert and area chapter of CanSurmount meet the third Tuesday in March, April, May and November at the lower level of the Wesley United Church, at 65 11th St. E. Meetings begin at 7 p.m.

The group is also planning a potluck supper for Oct. 16 at 6 p.m., which will be followed by a panel of presenters, including some from the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, pastoral care and others. This event is also at the Wesley United Church.

For those unable to attend these events and want more information on the group, Christopherson can be contacted at 764-8756 for more information.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Wesley United Church, University Hospital

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