For some, talking about themselves is difficult, at the best of times. But, imagine describing a personal battle you’ve had after being diagnosed with a disease like cancer.
Thankfully, a small group of brave individuals from Pincher Creek and the surrounding area are sharing those experiences with Alberta Health Services. The intent: to learn what is working in our region and what might need to be fixed when it comes to cancer care moving forward.
“I think one of things we are trying to do more of is really understand, not only the challenges they [cancer patients] face when it comes to their diagnosis but also the strengths that they have,” says Angela Torry, a senior consultant with the Cancer Strategic Clinical Network of AHS.
“This project is a little more unique because it tries to focus in on the strengths, and the resources, the assets that exist in a rural community like Pincher.”
Torry believes, by understanding the strengths, AHS can better understand, build on, and improve access, especially from a diagnostic perspective, as it relates to other rural communities in the province.
“What we really want to do is find ways to improve access to care, to support earlier cancer diagnosis, and look at ways where we can support residents, to understand what they need during their time period [of treatment] and what resources they seek out. If we can understand that, we can build a better health system,” she adds.
“It’s a very personal story. Originally, we thought to do more group-led conservations, but there really wasn’t an appetite for it. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense. It’s personal. It’s a time where a person might realize they are facing a really huge hill. So, we do honour and respect when someone is willing to share their story with us.”
While each journey is different, one underlying theme seems to be at the forefront — humanity.
“People know they can count on their neighbours, even as they go through this process, it’s really scary, they might have cancer, they’re overwhelmed, they have intense emotions, and they don’t know what’s going to happen next. But, they also know they have a community to lean on,” she says.
One of Torry’s goals, once the study is complete, is to see what supports are in place for a person in the very early stages of a diagnosis, where the disease has yet to even be identified, and whether more can be done to support that person.