Despite working as an oncology nurse, Kathy Campbell was stunned by her own cancer diagnosis. “I had looked after breast cancer patients for 15 years; to be told I had breast cancer, it was a real shock,” she recalls. “I went from working in my unit to becoming a patient in it.”
Campbell underwent surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and breast reconstruction with the support of her colleagues, who treated her along with her friends and family. Now, cancer-free for 15 years, she feels incredibly blessed. So much so that she’s a volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society’s (CCS) Peer Match program – the same program that gave her the support she needed to not just survive, but thrive. Peer match connects people facing cancer and caregivers, one-on-one, with a trained volunteer who has had a similar cancer experience.
“I felt kind of lost,” says Campbell. “I didn’t know anyone who had come through treatment and was actually living a life again.” Her peer match volunteer was a 30-year survivor. “Hearing she had survived 30 years was a real shot in the arm for me. She understood where I was. She listened to my anxieties, and was so positive. It gave me the motivation to move out of treatment and into recovery. I decided that, when I was healthy, this is what I wanted to do.”
And she did – providing a comforting ear to others dealing with cancer for the past 13 years. “It’s a privilege to be there for someone at a very frightening and vulnerable time in their life,” says Campbell. “It’s rewarding knowing that I’ve helped ease someone’s fears or helped move them along in their own journey.”
“We’re so lucky to have such dedicated volunteers,” affirms Laura Burnett, vice-president of cancer information and support services at CCS. “It’s meaningful to speak with someone with that lived experience. They can provide insights that, unless you’ve been in those shoes, you can’t share. ”
CCS provides a wide range of information and support to people affected by cancer. “When someone’s diagnosed, it impacts so many areas of their life,” says Burnett. “We provide trusted information, and people can ask us any question. We also recognize the integral role of caregivers and support them as much as possible, too.”
The facilitation of such support between peers has proven immensely empowering. “CCS provides that vital piece of support,” says Campbell. “Cancer strips you bare. When you can reach out to someone who understands, it makes your own journey bearable.”
Canadian Cancer Society Support Services
Cancer Information Service
The national help line, available in 150+ languages, is accessible to anyone with questions regarding cancer; 1-888-939-3333, firstname.lastname@example.org or live chat.
“We can help with information on prevention all the way through to end-of-life care,” says Burnett.
Community Services Locator (csl.cancer.ca/)
A directory of 4,000+ services supporting those experiencing cancer. “It’s a crowd-sourcing model where people can add services they found helpful,” says Burnett.
An online forum to share experiences and support for anyone impacted by cancer. “It’s a special community that’s trusted and safe, where no post goes unanswered,” says Burnett.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s support system helps people with cancer and their caregivers live their lives as fully as possible. Other programs include support in getting to treatment, assistance with somewhere to stay during treatment, camps for children and young adults, wigs and breast prostheses and more.
Learn more at cancer.ca.
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.