Covenant Health partners with Wellspring to host Healing Connections group
February 6, 2024
By Peter Rybar, social media advisor
Kim Duke remembers the overwhelming uncertainty that clouded her life seven years ago when she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. After enduring a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and a year of treatment with Herceptin, she found solace in Covenant Health’s Healing Connections Peer Support Group.
"It was such a reassuring thing for me, seeing women who had battled cancer 10-20 years ago still alive and thriving,” says Kim.
Healing Connections, a program for adults undergoing breast cancer treatment, has now embarked on a transformative journey through a new partnership with Wellspring, a Canada-wide non-profit organization that supports cancer patients. The collaboration marks a significant shift from the group's original location at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton to Wellspring's Edmonton facility.
The Healing Connections group, which had to pivot to virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic, found a new beginning at Wellspring through in-person meetings in June 2023. The move not only offered a change of scenery but also a deeper sense of community and connection away from the clinical environment of hospitals, says Nancy Maykut, Healing Connections unit manager.
Wellspring operates a network of community-based centres that provide referral-free support to anyone at any stage of their cancer journey free of charge. “Our core mission is to make sure that no one faces cancer alone,” says Ryan Olfert, Wellspring member experience director. “We’re not here to fix people. We’re here to be the hug, hear the story and help them take the next step.”
Wellspring's Edmonton centre includes a kitchen, free parking and a café area. These amenities contribute to a nurturing environment for the group, says Kim, who is now a Healing Connections volunteer. “It feels like a soft place to land, where there’s no medical stuff going on. You get to be yourself, your imperfectly perfect self,” she says.
“The women who have come through so far are loving it. You can see the relief on their face when they see all of us women who have had breast cancer and are still here.”
For Sarah Kaup, a young volunteer diagnosed with breast cancer at age 24, the group represents a unique support system. “Unless you’ve actually been through it, you have no idea what it’s like to hear the news, go through the treatment and manage the emotions and reactions of family members,” she says.
Sarah’s a big fan of the new location for Healing Connections’ gatherings, especially the parking. “The free parking is honestly huge. After going through treatment, no one is looking to pay for more parking.”
The partnership is still in its early stages, and promoting the group in the community is a top priority for the Covenant Health team. “Right now, we’re really focused on spreading the awareness of this group,” says Nancy.
As the Healing Connections group continues to grow and evolve, the volunteers extend a heartfelt invitation to those navigating breast cancer treatment.
“You’re going to feel so welcomed the moment you open the door,” says Kim. “There’s no pressure. It’s just a safe place to have conversations.”