There are few things as pervasive as cancer.
Either you know someone who has had cancer, or there is a two-in-five chance that you will be diagnosed with cancer in your lifetime, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
The good news is that surviving cancer is on the rise and has been for nearly 30 years.
For those that survive, or are the surviving members of a family that has lost someone to cancer, the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre is here to help.
The centre offers educational programming and emotional, social, physical, and spiritual support that provides community for those affected by cancer.
Lorraine Moreau lost both her sister and her husband to cancer.
Now Moreau volunteers her time to raise money and help the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre complete its mission: one pumpkin, hand-knit dishcloth, and cyclist at a time.
Reflecting on how she and her husband watched the centre as it was being built, Moreau recalls Gilbert — Gily as everyone in La Fontaine called him — eventually lost his battle with cancer.
Gil, as Lorraine called him, was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 61. By the time he was 65, his prostate was removed. He was well for a year, then he had radiation, became anemic, and required blood transfusions.
“The blood transfusions were the only thing that kept him alive,” says Moreau.
At the time, the GBCSC was being built, and Moreau remembers they were watching it transform every day — they lived across the street.
“We would sometimes rush home from his transfusions to watch the cancer centre being built.”
Moreau lost Gil three years ago, which is as long as the cancer centre has been open in Penetanguishene.
She has been volunteering at the centre ever since, and her story is a reflection of why the work of the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre is so vital.
“How this all started was that I had a rough winter after Gil died. So I showed up, and I said, ‘How can I help?’”
The team at GBCSC asked Moreau to greet people as they arrived at the centre. Moreau says she started bringing in baked goods. Eventually, the executive director asked Moreau to bake for the centre regularly.
“I didn’t see it, but he said people are eating your stuff,” Moreau recalls.
The executive director explained that after she left each day, her baked goods were served with coffee and tea at the events and programs at the centre, like crafting, card-making, yoga, crochet and knit, and more.
Moreau says she agreed to bake for the centre on one condition: “I said, well my niece has to come too.”
Moreau and her niece, Anne Beauchamp, are close, and have been since Beauchamp’s mother, Moreau’s only sister Bernice succumbed to her battle with brain cancer almost a decade ago.
The aunt-niece team now bake every Monday at the centre. They like the centre to smell like baked goods when people come in.
The loving team are such a fixture that the staff and members say the kitchen really belongs to them.
Apart from baking, you’ll find Moreau and Beauchamp washing pumpkins every year for the yearly fundraising event. Hundreds of pumpkins are decorated and purchased to support the work of the centre.
Anyone can come and decorate the pumpkins, explains Moreau.
Moreau knit dishcloths to raise funds and went door-to-door selling her work. If baked goods are required at an event, she and Anne are ready with recipes in hand. The aunt-niece team help register participants every year at the Cycle for Hope fundraising event. Basically, any time there is a fundraising or community event, you’ll find Moreau and her niece lending a helping hand.
“They make us feel so much at home,” says Moreau of the GBCSC.
“They appreciate everything we do, and I appreciate everything they do for me,” she says, holding back tears.
“I just love to give back to my community. It makes me happy to be able to give my time. Anything you do for others makes you feel good.”
While Moreau was brought to the centre from the loss of her husband, she seems to have gained a place where everyone feels like family.
“It feels like home.”
Moreau can often be found visiting the bench she had engraved for Gil by the waterfront in Penetanguishene, not far from the bench her niece had installed in honour of her parents.
You may also find her collecting donations for Hospice Huronia, and generally offering her time wherever and whenever needed for those looking for friends they can call family.