Cancer Wellness Centre launches Giving Tuesday campaign
By Nick Zacharias
PHOTO COURTESY ASHLIE FRANK
With cancer behind her (she celebrated a full year of remission as of October) Saint-Lazare resident Ashlie Frank and her husband Benjamin Kendrick now look forward to a much happier challenge – they’re due to become first-time parents in March, 2021.
From within the walls of a welcoming house in Kirkland, the West Island Cancer Wellness Centre (WICWC) provides a crucial service to people experiencing cancer – that is to help them cope with all the physical, emotional, and social fallout that comes with dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Says Linda Thompson of the WICWC, “We provide a complete wellness program for mind, body and spirit for people with cancer and for their families or caregivers. The doctors and surgeons have to focus on the body – their job is to deal with getting the cancer out. What we do is provide a whole range of other services to help people cope, to provide the critical support that’s needed to help people deal with all the challenges that come with battling cancer.” Their goal is to help people find overall wellness, which is a critical factor in achieving physical healing. Though located on the West Island, the centre’s programs our open to anyone living with cancer.
“Our services are free for everyone, and our commitment is to provide assistance to patients and caregivers from the moment of diagnosis to one year post-treatment,” says Thompson. The services are free thanks to the almost incalculable generosity of their roughly 175 volunteers; on top of people providing administrative and logistical services, they boast a team of over 100 certified professionals who donate their time to assist people in their healing journeys. “We offer counselling, massage therapy, nutrition advice, fitness and yoga instruction, meditation, sound therapy, reflexology and reiki – the list goes on and on.”
PHOTO COURTESY WICWC
Ashlie Frank managed to keep a positive outlook through her cancer treatment, thanks in large part to the enormous support she got from the volunteer-driven West Island Cancer Wellness Centre.
Saint-Lazare resident Ashlie Frank is this year’s ambassador for the WICWC, and she’s living proof of the success of the program. She was diagnosed with rectal cancer after moving here four years ago, while she and her husband’s families remained in the United States. Still young enough to be thinking of having children as something for the future, she underwent an egg extraction procedure and ovarian suspension surgery, followed by an array of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgical treatments for her condition. With the support of the centre, she is now living cancer-free and she and her husband are joyfully expecting their first child.
“It was such a positive experience,” says Frank. “You get this huge diagnosis that falls on your plate, and you think, ‘now what?’ The surgeons and doctors do a fantastic job but they have to be focused on
the cancer itself, while the centre really takes a whole-person approach. To have a resource like that through all the challenges was so beneficial.” On top of all the wellness services they provide, Frank says a great benefit was meeting people who were going through the same things. “It makes it a lot less isolating.”
COVID-19 brought many things to a halt, but that unfortunately doesn’t include cancer, and the need for the WICWC continues. They have carried on providing support both one-on-one and in groups through Zoom meetings, and in person at the centre with stringent protocols strictly observed. A challenging side effect of the pandemic has been the need to cancel two of their major fundraising events.
“We’re completely dependent on donations to provide services, and this year unfortunately our financial donations have dropped by 30 per cent,” said Thompson.
With over 800 actively registered patients, the need for donations to let them continue providing compassionate care is great. Starting on Giving Tuesday (a nationally recognized day to encourage generosity following the commercial frenzy of Black Friday) the registered charity has launched a campaign for the month of December to ask people to give generously and support people who are facing cancer. Says Thompson, “We are applying for grants, but it’s going to take a lot of donations to get us there, and we hope this can make the difference.”
Montreal-based industrial automation supplier Laurentide Controls has generously offered to match all donations up to $5000, so any money given will go twice as far towards helping more people like Ashlie beat cancer. If you’d like to donate to the cause, please visit wicwc.com/givingtuesday-2020/ or call the centre at (514) 695-9355.