Judy Walton didn’t have time for cancer. With a busy blended household of five kids, a husband in poor health, and a fast-paced career, her agenda was full.
“I worked like a maniac with high-level global projects that required lots of travel. I loved my job – I had a fabulous career,” Judy reflects.
But at age 49, after losing her husband to a rare disease, and after the tough decision to leave her 25-year post as a senior HR executive for a major oil company, Judy discovered that cancer would be her next challenge.
“It was crazy, I had worked through my husband’s illness and treatments, and continued working even after he died. And wouldn’t you know it, just a few months after leaving my job, there I am without benefits and the backstop of an employer, and I’m diagnosed with breast cancer.”
This was late in 2006, before Wellspring Calgary was fully launched, but Judy found her way through the difficult days with the help of friends and Breast Cancer Supportive Care. Her medical treatment plan was swift and thorough, and thankfully, successful. “I had the full-meal deal; surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, Herceptin, and tamoxifen.”
Nearly a decade later, after returning to her career in a consulting role and adding Executive Coaching to her list of attributes, Judy found herself volunteering for a six-day Cancervive event, an annual cycling tour that raises funds for Wellspring Calgary. There she connected with the mission and vision of Wellspring and decided to join the organization as a front desk volunteer.
Today, Judy is a treasured Wellspring program leader. She facilitates Wellspring’s Returning to Work program, a perfect complement to her HR and coaching experience.
“This program is a tremendous resource for people getting back on their feet after a cancer diagnosis. There can be a lot of anxiety about your ability to return to work. I see people take this program and become empowered. They feel stronger about boundaries, clearer about taking responsibility for their well-being, better equipped with skills for negotiating what they need, both in work and in life.”
Judy also performs the role of Zoom host with Trudy Boyle for Wellspring’s Living Well program. She counts this as a surprising Covid blessing – calling the program “wonderful” and feeling lucky that while assisting, she is “getting the good stuff” for herself.
In discussing illness as a whole and zeroing in on her experience with her stepson’s battle with Multiple Sclerosis, Judy shares her vision of a broader application of the Wellspring formula.
“There are so many illnesses and diseases that would benefit from the model of care Wellspring provides,” she explains. “When I talk to people about Wellspring, how I differentiate it from medical treatment is by calling it a vital support of the human being during a cancer experience.”
Though Judy herself did not enjoy the benefits of Wellspring when she was a cancer patient, she is reaping her share now.
“You don’t miss what you don’t know about, but now that I know about Wellspring, I sure wish I had been able to take advantage of this incredible community of support. The main thing is, I’m there now and if that helps others, I’m where I should be.”