On Saturday, cancer survivors and supporters hit the track for the 12-hour Relay For Life walk, but the effort doesn’t end there.
Colleen Foran volunteers with Cancer Connections, a service by the Canadian Cancer Society that puts people who have been diagnosed with cancer in touch with cancer survivors.
“I didn’t realize it but I’ve spoken to over 24 women in the last couple years about their experience and it depends on the situation. Sometimes a match lasts for months and months while the person goes through their full treatment, sometimes it’s only a call or two. But it’s what the person needs,” Foran said.
Just last week, Foran received an email notifying her of a match, a woman in New Brunswick. The time change will be tricky with Foran in Prince Rupert.
“I accepted it anyway and I’ll figure out a way to do it because she just sounded like she was all alone and she needed somebody to talk to, I don’t think I can say ‘no’ to that,” she said.
Foran didn’t know about the program when she was going through her treatment. Instead, a friend went through a similar experience a year ahead of her, and she was able to call and ask her questions. She learned about Cancer Connections through an advertisement on the radio, and decided to help after her own experience was so positive.
In 2010, Foran was moving from Alberta to B.C. and decided before leaving her family doctors to get all her tests updated. She had a mammogram and that’s when they found the lump, small and difficult to detect.
“I would not have found it if I had been regular with doing breast exams. It was only because I went for a mammogram. Needless to say I am a really big advocate of mammograms,” she said.
She was healthy. She had no family history of breast cancer. Her oncologist told her there was nothing she could have done differently, it just happened, so it was time to get on with it.
When she moved to Vancouver, she went in for surgery to remove the lump. Doctors found more cancer activity in the lymph nodes, and they performed another surgery just in time. Foran is approaching eight years since she finished her cancer treatment. She’s healthy, active and full of smiles. Her doctors, nurses, oncologists, technicians, everyone was so helpful she wanted to give back.
“Sometimes you feel that you’re all alone going through this and even people who are close to you don’t really understand what the whole process is. They don’t have to go through the surgeries, the chemo, the radiation, all of that. So to talk to somebody who has been through it helps,” she said.
The program requires potential volunteers to have completed their cancer treatment for at least a year before they can begin the peer support work.
“It’s a listening and sharing experience and it just helps people not feel quite so alone,” Foran said.
Prince Rupert’s Relay For Life is at the Prince Rupert Middle School Track on Saturday, May 26, from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. After the relay, those looking to talk to someone about their experience can register online by visiting match.cancer.ca