Thursday, February 21, 2013

a centre for "survivorship"

We're just back from a restorative week in Florida. It was truly wonderful to be with loved ones, play outside in the sun and dispense with all cold weather gear.

We arrived home at 2:30 in the morning to the snow and the cold. I'm sleep deprived and I don't wish to leave my house. But in a few short weeks, winter will be behind us and I can put my winter gear in storage (or just leave it out and in the way until I need it again). I feel very, very lucky to have escaped, even if I could use a nap this morning.

This afternoon, I have an appointment at Ottawa's "survivorship centre" with a "cancer coach". The place has been open for less than a year and offers a host of programs for people in treatment. I went to an orientation session a couple of weeks ago. I was impressed and inspired by what I saw there.

The Maplesoft Centre (the name bothers me for it's lack of descriptiveness and for other reasons, too. I started to explain and then realized I was writing so much in these parentheses, I need to save my comments for another post) is a beautiful building with a family room, sitting room for meetings, full kitchen and kitchenette, an exercise room, an infrared sauna and something called a Snoezelen room that really has to be seen to be believed. They offer a host of programs related to all aspects of physical and emotional health (nutrition, exercise are chief among them but I helped pilot the Arts for Wellness program last spring) . Some programs are drop-in and some are ongoing. All are free to cancer patients, after an initial session with a cancer coach, who helps to set goals. Participants can choose to meet with the coach twice more or simply to avail themselves of whatever programs and services appeal to them.

The centre staff are the first to admit they were initially afflicted by growing pains. I signed up while I was participating in the Arts for Wellness pilot, that was then taking place off-site. The following summer, I rode my bike to the centre and was put off by how deserted it was and the way the admin staff seemed to have no idea what to do with a visitor. I was definitely left with the impression that the place (which houses the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation) was there for fundraising and not really available to cancer patients.

I'm happy to admit that I was wrong. While I did fall through the cracks (I should have received a call after I joined, inviting me to an orientation and a meeting with a cancer coach), my experience appears to be an anomaly. The place I visited three weeks ago was a hive of activity, full of men and women of all ages. Even the lounge area, which they'd had to unlock on my earlier visit, was busy with people reading, working on their laptops or using the computer made available to members.

The centre still takes three times as long to reach by public transit than it would by car (but that's the City of Ottawa's fault) and it only has a handful of bike racks ( perhaps we can remedy that in the warmer months) but parking is free and there is a bus stop right outside the centre.  

I think the Maplesoft Centre needs to be doing better outreach to potential members. They also need a "how to get involved" tab on their website. As internet savvy as I am, I could not find anything explaining how to get involved. If the orientation and cancer coaching sessions are a requirement (and I can appreciate why they should be) then this information needs to be readily available to potential participants. I certainly would have been keener to make use of the centre if I had known this information.

My appointment is this afternoon. I'm looking forward to it. Watch this space to see how it goes.


Facing Cancer Together said...

Good luck at Maplesoft. I have been there a couple times when it first opened and felt rather . . . out of place. I think it's all in the greeting. They ought to offer tours or something to first-time visitors.

But I'm glad to hear it's come a long way. Sounds like it's a bustling place now! That's very good news.

Enjoy the coaching session :) ~Catherine

Jim's Girl said...

I originally thought it was for survivors (as in those finished treatment,) but us Stage IVs are welcome too, as are our caregivers. My coach helped me work through back to work issues and I really enjoyed the yoga -- as well as the tea afterwards. Hope you enjoy the centre, Laurie. Perhaps we will meet at a yoga session one day. ~Kate (Kate Has Cancer)

laurie said...

They do offer tours to first time visitors, you just have to book ahead. They do them once a week. Once you've done a tour and met a coach, you can hang out there and do as much as you want. I tell you, their web site sucks.
And yes, they define survivor as anyone who has been through cancer - including caregivers. Again, this should be somewhere on their web site.
Thanks for the feedback - I'm planning on writing to them.

laurie said...

And Kate - I'd love to meet you at yoga some day. At the moment, the timing doesn't line up with mine but some day...:)