Marilyn Ostryznik

Peer Support – a calling with heart

This month marks my seventh year as a Wellspring Calgary volunteer. As a 20-year breast cancer survivor, this work is especially meaningful to me as I feel deeply connected to Wellspring’s vision to ensure no one has to face cancer alone.

Since COVID temporarily closed our centres, I have been spending between eight and 13 hours a week calling our members to check in and find out how they are doing.

While I view my Peer Support role as an honour, some days it is difficult making the calls, knowing there will be a full range of responses. I might hear about the highs of someone who has just finished treatment, to the lows of an individual who has just heard the words, “you have cancer.”

As I listen with an open heart, and do my best to remain calm, kind and empathetic, sometimes I cannot help but say, “I have no words. I am so sorry. That is crappy.” Often times the best response is no response at all. To just listen and let it all pour out.

I am grateful that my experience as a survivor brings hope to some, and I encourage people to take advantage of all that Wellspring has to offer online. The sense of community is huge and the social benefits are enormous. I tell this to new people, and I hear it from those who are already engaged and taking programs.

Truly, the rewards of this work are immeasurable. It has prompted me to start a Gratitude Journal – to give thanks for all I can give, and to express the ways this role lifts my spirits.

Just the other day I heard, “You called at just the right time. You are an angel.” I don’t know about that, but I do know I am a grateful cancer survivor, and am guided to do all I can to make things just a little bit brighter for others on this difficult path.

How to get peer support?

Living with cancer as a patient or caregiver can be isolating and COVID-19 has created another barrier by isolating us even more. If you feel the need or the desire to connect with one of our trained Wellspring Peer Support volunteers, please become a Wellspring Calgary member, then register for Peer Support or call 1-866-682-3135 and a volunteer will help you register.

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