A Lasting Wellspring Gift

By Jean Disturnal – Wellspring Calgary volunteer, Board member and Program Committee Chair


My husband and I attended the celebration of life for Monica, who died March 2018. Her husband John met everyone coming into the event and handed them a pamphlet containing a page with a picture of Monica and a quote that read:

“There is no such thing as false hope; I prefer to see hope as the conviction that things will make sense no matter how they turn out. Hope is contagious so I will surround myself with hopeful people and continue to tell my story; that I have done this before and I can do it again with the support of family and friends.” – Monica, Jan. 2016

John described how that quote and many other quotes we were going to hear at the celebration were derived from a journal Monica began as part of a program she took at Wellspring Calgary back in 2015. He also described how Wellspring was hugely important to Monica in that it challenged her to organize her thoughts and to spend time to understand her experiences with her cancer. Monica was diagnosed in 1998 and lived 20 years with a prognosis that fluctuated dramatically, at one point being given less than a year to live. She took her first program in the very early days of Wellspring and connected with a group of “terminal” members. She later took an expressive arts program called “Telling our Stories – This is Who We Are.” This began her journal writing. 

When I emailed John later to ask if I could share Monica’s story with the Wellspring community, he offered this:

“Monica was very inspired by her time at Wellspring and a lot of how we coordinated her final wishes came from her journals when she was in the program. It was a gift she left behind for us. I would be happy to support you sharing ‎any of her stories. I believe she outlived her entire Wellspring group and felt at times awkward on where she would fit in with the program going forward. As someone read out at her celebration, she went from being a “terminal” cancer patient to being a “chronic” cancer patient. Even at the end, she thought she would be kicked out of hospice for not dying. That was truly living a hopeful life with cancer.”

Monica’s long and difficult “disagreement” (as Monica put it) with adenoid cystic carcinoma articulated in John’s email describe the challenges of a metastatic diagnosis that an increasing number of cancer patients and their families are enduring for long periods of time. As you will hear later, our Program Committee is working to better understand and support these members.

Two of Monica’s longstanding physicians are also connected to Wellspring. John spoke with great admiration and gratitude about Dr Lau, a radiation oncologist from TBCC and a very strong advocate for his head and neck cancer patients. Dr Lau has worked with Wellspring to provide trained peer support for head and neck patients and spoke at Monica’s celebration. And Dr Sean McFadden from Wellspring’s Board. 

Monica had minimal contact with Wellspring over the many years of her cancer journey but the impact of her time here was immense. As we can see just from this one beautiful quote, Wellspring helped Monica to improve her quality of life through tremendous struggles. Wellspring also gave her the means to provide a profound legacy for her family and friends. This story of Monica and her relationship with Wellspring, once again, underlies the importance of this extraordinary community.

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