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For caregivers, a loved one's cancer journey can be a lonely road

Penetanguishene resident Michael Blais credits Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre with helping after his wife Lois' diagnosis

After his wife Lois was diagnosed with three forms of cancer, Michael Blais felt the powerful sting that afflicts many caregivers.

When a loved one is diagnosed with a disease as scary as the 'Big C', the caregiver must be the strong one, the one who allays the fears for the future, but also the one who suffers in silence as their nearest and dearest tackle the deadly disease.

Such was the position Blais found himself a little over a year ago.

But that changed somewhat during a happenstance encounter with Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre executive director Eric Walter.

“I live in the area and was walking my dog by there,” Blais tells MidlandToday. “I asked what they did and met Eric. Since then, we’ve been quite involved.”

While his wife has taken part in physiotherapy and Reiki sessions offered at the centre as well as being in a support group, Blais has become involved with a caregiver support group as well as regularly attending the music therapy program.

“I’ve been learning from this,” Blais says.

And like Jerry Garcia sings in the Grateful Dead's Ripple, 'that path is for your steps alone' very much sums up the journey primary caregivers often take as close friends and family might not understand what they’re experiencing.

“You’re going to feel alone,” he says, adding the support group serves an important role because you start to realize you’re not alone and others are experiencing similar fears and anxieties.

“You’re supporting a person with cancer and that group has been great at helping me and other people.”

But despite some positives, his wife's cancer journey continues.

After having a foot-long section of her colon removed and surgery for skin cancer, she was diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia.

"Her colon cancer is gone at this point and has not come back," Blais says. "The leukemia is treatable, but not curable. But she's getting out and going for walks."

Blais says their dog Winnie, a corgi/collie mix, has been amazing throughout their shared family journey.

"When Lois was at her worst, she would bring her toys and sit with her," he says, adding he can't say enough good things about the cancer centre as well as the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie.

"People at RVH are amazing. They keep on top of her situation. The people at the cancer support centre are just fantastic and doing an amazing job."

It’s Cancer Awareness Month in April and all donations made over the month are being matched. Your donation has twice the impact. Programs like  Journey of Hope and other programs and services at the Centre depend on donations from generous supporters throughout local area. To support the GBCSC, click here.

To read another recent story profiling centre volunteer Lesley Tripp titled 'For those with cancer, Journey of Hope offers light in the darkness', click here.

As well, for a profile of Kelly Lefaive, who runs the music therapy program, click here to read the story titled 'Kelly Lefaive brings guitar, violin, positive vibes to cancer support group.'

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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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