Cancer Support for Women in Yellowknife

The Cause

The NWT Breast Health/Breast Cancer Action Group (Action Group) wants to strengthen the community’s capacity to support women living with any type of cancer in Yellowknife, by providing workshops for cancer survivors and presentations to local/NWT health care agencies, community resource people and other community members. The workshops will focus on several areas often identified as important by cancer survivors: 1) how to deal with the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment 2) cancer, relationships and sexuality, and 3) healthy nutrition for cancer survivors. We will invite expert facilitators in these areas to provide the workshops and presentations.

Since January 2016 an Action Group board volunteer has facilitated a monthly peer support group for women experiencing any type of cancer in Yellowknife. The peer support group empowers women to share their stories and receive emotional support and information from other women with similar life-changing experiences. Topics of discussion have included: making cancer treatment choices, dealing with fatigue, relationships, nutrition, stress management, dealing with side effects, cancer survivorship, and many more.

Cancer survivors who have benefitted from peer support often want to return that gift and pay it forward by providing peer support to others diagnosed with cancer. The proposed workshops will give cancer survivors and peer support facilitators in Yellowknife additional knowledge and skills to support others. We wish to hold two Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) workshops and one on healthy nutrition for cancer recovery in the fall of 2017, and a workshop on cancer, relationships and sexuality in early 2018. We will collaborate with and invite other agencies to offer presentations and in-service sessions by the workshop facilitators for health care providers, other community resource people (such as counsellors, aestheticians) and community members.

We are seeking $4000 from the Field Law Community Fund for the facilitators’ fees for these workshops and presentations. A City of Yellowknife grant, and donated services, will cover other related costs. There will be no registration fees for participants in the workshops or the presentations.

Who Will it Benefit?

Women experiencing cancer, peer support volunteers and community/NWT health care providers and other resource people will have increased knowledge and skills to support other women facing cancer. As a result women dealing with cancer will experience better support and reduced stress.

Estimating from available statistics, 25 or more women in Yellowknife are diagnosed with cancer each year. Based on the Action Group’s peer support group meetings in 2016, more than 20 women will likely attend the cancer peer support group in 2017 (an average of 7-8 women per meeting) and even more may attend the proposed workshops.

Peer support group and workshop participants benefit greatly from the shared experiences and mutual support of the group. In a 2016 evaluation, Yellowknife peer support group participants highlighted feeling: uplifted; liberated; confident; understood; supported; calmed; comfort and belonging. “I feel like there is a level of understanding that I do not get anywhere else.”

Healthy nutrition for cancer recovery will directly benefit health outcomes for each person. An experienced local nutritionist will facilitate a workshop on food preparation and nutrition for women dealing with cancer.

The Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) workshops empower women to deal with appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment and reclaim their sense of self at such a difficult time. LGFB has proven to be effective in helping women face cancer with greater confidence. We will invite a facilitator from the LGFB national charitable organization to facilitate two workshop sessions for a total of up to 18 participants, plus presentations for aestheticians, health care providers and others, to build local expertise to benefit other cancer survivors in the future. The LGFB workshop is strictly brand-neutral – no brands, products, salons or services are endorsed – and does not interfere with medical treatments.

There are changes in sexuality that can occur during and after cancer treatment. They can encompass many aspects of an intimate relationship. We will invite a recognized educator, author and counselor on cancer and sexuality to Yellowknife to facilitate a workshop with survivors and do presentations/in-service sessions with health care providers and others. This will also build local capacity to respond to the concerns of cancer survivors.