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Sharing a story of strength

When Joan Aucoin of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador was diagnosed with breast cancer at 38-years-old, she felt alone.
“My mother was the only woman I knew at that time who had gone through it [breast cancer] — she was diagnosed at 52, but it wasn’t something that was talked about back then. I didn’t know anybody else who had experienced breast cancer,” Aucoin explained. “I had to make decisions about treatment, but I didn’t know anyone who could share their experience with me.”
Aucoin reached out to her local public health nurse who helped her connect with women who shared her experience. Seeing the need and an opportunity to help others, Aucoin started Sharing Our Strength (SOS), a peer support group that she continues to volunteer facilitate 15 years later.
“It is so important to have a support group — to have a place where women can come together and share. I’ve had women say to me: ‘I’ve got family, friends — lots of support. But when I am here with this group, everyone can relate to me. You guys get it.’”
 Joan Aucoin.jpeg
That sentiment rings true for women across the country that access peer support through groups in their area. Even though access to psychosocial support and information for people dealing with breast cancer has increased, face-to-face peer support remains a valuable part of many women’s journey with this disease. Starting and sustaining support groups is one of the unique contributions women with breast cancer make to one another and to their communities.
Throughout the year, the Canadian Cancer Society hosts volunteer training workshops, to provide women with the tools that they need to start and sustain community-based support groups.
Aucoin was able to attend a CCS workshop in Dartmouth early in September, which she describes as a valuable learning opportunity.
“I’m always looking for new ideas to keep my group motivated and to lead the group effectively.”
The volunteer training workshops cover important topics such as: support group guidelines; communication and facilitation skills; self-care and boundaries; strategies for dealing with common challenges; and outreach ideas to ensure women who need this type of support know that the group is available to them.
Participants also benefit from connecting with others who are doing similar work in their communities. They are able to share experiences and lessons learned and to become rejuvenated in their role by practicing self-care.
“The workshop was an excellent experience,” said Aucoin. “I left feeling refreshed, and motivated. I returned home to my group and shared everything I learned. The structure, the guidelines, the tools are all helping me to lead my group in a meaningful way.”
In addition to the peer support workshops, CCS offers peer support and information through a toll-free helpline.
The helpline is available to anyone who has had breast cancer or is at high risk for developing the disease. Callers will speak to a member of the Support Team — a woman who has had a breast cancer or high-risk diagnosis and is specially trained to provide emotional support and credible, relevant information. Those seeking support or information are encouraged to call CBCF toll-free at 1-888-778-3100 or email support@cancer.ca.
For more information about the Canadian Cancer Society's Support and Information Programs, visit cbcf.org/support.

Buy a Gift for the Cure to Build a Community Support Group

The Canadian Cancer Society's collection of Gifts for the Cure offers a way to create change for women’s health and all those affected by breast cancer.
Among our 14 impactful gifts, purchase a gift to Build a Community Support Group to help empower and support community leaders such as Joan Aucoin. We need your help to continue to maintain and grow the network of support groups across Canada for all those affected by breast cancer who are otherwise isolated.

Purchase this gift now.

More than 25,000 Canadians are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and their personal journeys are unique and deeply moving.