Writing for the Health of It– A Member’s Perspective

There we were at the first of eight sessions of Writing for the Health of It. Since it was the program’s debut at Wellspring Chinguacousy, none of the seven of us knew exactly what to expect, but we were game.

Our facilitator‘s gentle manner created a safe environment in which we could share our deepest feelings and experiences, if we so desired.  She made it clear that this wasn’t about our writing ability or technique.   Instead, the purpose was to get memories onto paper, to consider things we wanted to change in our lives, and to write about our hopes and fears for the future.  Rather than solving problems, through writing we would work through them, along with any challenges that lay ahead.

This was my first experience attending a Wellspring program. What I found to be most fascinating was each person’s response to the writing assignment. With absolute freedom to write what surfaced within us, some responded to the exact question or statement, while others elected to either tell a story aloud or they wrote on a different aspect altogether. We learned that none was incorrect. For what was important was reflecting on the topic, being introspective and seeking our respective responses and then getting out what emerged from inside each one of us in a presentable format.

It was through the interest from other women writers in the group that our confidence grew both in writing and in sharing. We evolved into more confident women, who weren’t embarrassed about participating in a “show and tell” exercise or to laugh at ourselves or shed a few tears as we dug deep and cheered each other on.  By the last session, we had a better understanding of ourselves and a deepened respect for the road each of us is travelling through our respective cancer journeys.

Anthony’s Wish

In appreciation of the support and encouragement he and his family received at Wellspring Chinguacousy, Anthony, who just turned 18, and his mother, Shanita, are organizing “Anthony’s Wish” to raise awareness and funds for the Centre.  “Wellspring’s an amazing place. Volunteers know exactly where you are coming from,” he offers as one of his reasons for undertaking this benefit.

Cancer Journey

Anthony was 15 in 2008 when he was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a type of bone cancer in his left shoulder.  Doctors wanted to amputate his arm and shoulder to prevent the cancer from spreading, but neither he nor his family wanted this drastic action taken. This made Anthony determined to strengthen his arm and shoulder muscles.

His mom recalled seeing an advertisement for Wellspring Chinguacousy in The Brampton Guardian and made contact. When he and his Mom visited the Centre and learned that Anthony was too young to participate in the exercise program. The Centre Manager obtained special permission to get him enrolled and this allowed Anthony to “build muscle and strengthen my arm and shoulder before my surgery.”

As a result of his determination and persistence his arm was saved.  The tumor, along with some muscle and bone were removed. He was told that he could expect to be out of his hospital bed and walking in about a week’s time.   Not Anthony. The day following surgery he was walking the hall. Both he and his mother attribute this result to Wellspring’s Cancer Exercise Program. “He was so strong after surgery. The surgical staff couldn’t believe he was walking,” recalls Shanita.

Program Benefits

This program meant a lot to Anthony and he wants to see others benefit.  By far the majority of members who trained with him were women who had undergone surgery for breast cancer. “I felt stronger and more confident after speaking with the members. They’d been through the chemo and radiation and gave me advice. I took their advice and it really helped me.” However, he believes that, “It’s about time more guys enroll.”

Shanita shares her son’s sentiments.  “Members and volunteers encouraged him and bolstered his self-esteem and they even contacted him during his recovery.”

Maria Can’t Imagine Life Without Wellspring

When Maria Whipps visited Wellspring Chinguacousy for the first time, her connection was immediate.  “To my surprise I was in a beautiful home where I found the atmosphere so inviting”.  

Diagnosed three and a half years ago with Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer where the white cells attack the bone tissue, she attributes Revlimid, administered with steroids as being responsible for giving her energy and removing pain.  Maria has faced the fact that her cancer is treatable but not curable. She’s on palliative care to maintain her quality of life.   One might say that her motto is, “Accept the cancer and then you can go on.”  Instead of being angry with her diagnosis, this feisty yet delicate woman believes that “Cancer was an enormous lesson for me. We complain about the past and worry about the future when what we should be doing is focusing on the present moment.  Cancer changes you, hopefully for the better.”

While she has attended many programs at Wellspring Chinguacousy it’s the human contact and the positive energy she feels there that has helped her the most.   “Wellspring gives you the tools to let go of stress and resentment in order to cope with day-to-day living.  But, it’s the positive energy and the common element of cancer that have helped me the most.   There’s energy in there that makes me feel very relaxed and welcome.”  Maria also takes advantage of Wellspring’s free transportation services to attend programs.

“Relaxation and Visualization is one of my favorite programs because there’s a lot of dialogue and a lively exchange and sharing.  We do a meditation and then the leader invites members to share with the group. There’s always a core group, and a few new members each week, so it varies a little bit.”

Maria also enjoys the Knitting Program, held every Friday.  “Knitting has a certain rhythm that is very relaxing.  It’s an open forum so we can talk about the silliest things.   If you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to.” Before the group begins or at breaks, many participants sit around the kitchen table enjoying coffee and tea together. Some bring their lunch, while others bring cookies or Indian food to share.

Maria is also a regular monthly donor. “We are given so much at Wellspring that we should give a little bit back.” After a bit of thought, she adds, “I wish I could give more.   If you spend say ten hours at a place week after week after week, like I do, you should give something”.    However, Maria’s main reason for being a donor is that “Wellspring is in my heart, it’s really part of me.  I couldn’t imagine life without Wellspring”.