If you’ve been affected by cancer, there’s a place on the Sunshine Coast where you can vent, cry, laugh, learn, share and find strength — the Ruby Slipper Cancer Support Group.
The group meets every first and third Saturday of the month from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Rockwood Centre in Sechelt and it welcomes men and women in all stages of cancer and survivorship, as well as caregivers who need support.
There are no planned discussions; rather, the group sets the tone and direction of each meeting according to their needs.
“When I first found out about the group, I thought ‘holy smokes, there’s hope.’ And that’s what it gives a lot of people, hope,” said group participant Holly Lehmann, noting many people don’t know the support group exists.
“We have to change that. People have to know that we have this here because it really makes such a difference.”
The group was initiated as a pilot project through Ruby Slipper Fund in 2013 by Ashley Doyle and Kate Webb, who both had cancer and saw the need for a place to talk about what they were going through.
“We were just going to have it in our private homes, but everything changed when the Ruby Slipper Fund picked up the ball and ran with it,” Webb said.
With financial support from the Ruby Slipper Fund, a group facilitator was hired and a space was recently secured at the Rockwood Centre, where the group now meets.
Lehmann has found the twice-monthly group meetings to be a vital part of her cancer journey.
“Cancer is not an event. It is a lifetime journey. We never truly recover from the fear and anxiety we go through initially. The diagnosis of cancer is so devastating that it knocks your world off its axis,” Lehmann said.
“We are plummeted into a place where the language is different, the mores are different, the customs, routines and practices are all alien. We must learn to live in this strange and frightening land … every day can become a struggle to physical, emotional and mental good health. The healing offered by the Ruby Slipper meetings is priceless, and with love, luck and laughter, we somehow overcome and we do survive.”
Group facilitator Mary Pinniger noted the support group is a place where men and women can openly talk about their fears and frustrations without concern of judgement, as well as a place to share information about things participants have found helpful. “Like which doctors are the best ones to see or what new treatments people have tried,” Pinniger said. “I’m learning a lot myself.”
Participants are welcome to come for just one meeting or to come regularly, whatever fits their needs, Pinniger noted.
The next meeting is this Saturday, May 16 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Rock-wood Centre, 5511 Shorncliffe Ave. in Sechelt.
The cancer support group is free to attend, thanks to the support of the Ruby Slipper Fund.