Dear Fellow Budoka,
In late 2015 when I received a diagnosis of metastasized cancer, my wife Victoria and I came out of the doctor's office stunned and devastated. That night was one of the longest in our lives as we struggled to understand the implications.
The second day, after some research, we went to check out the local offices of a cancer support organization, Wellspring.
It turned out to be a visit that turned despair into hope.
When I first walked in I didn't expect much - perhaps a lot of form filling and the offer of a consultation within a week or so. Instead, we were instantly welcomed and led into a comfortable room. As Wellspring's resources were explained to us we realized we had stumbled onto just what we most desperately needed - active compassion, expressed through practical advice and support from people who had made this journey before us.
Within half an hour Victoria and I were talking with a volunteer peer support worker, a cancer survivor herself, part of a counselling team that keeps regular hours at Wellspring for both Wellspring members and for walk-ins like ourselves.
By the time we had left Wellspring's centre in downtown Toronto, I had signed up for a weekly workshop called Healing Journey, as well as a twice-weekly exercise workout session with certified trainers, had made an appointment with a financial advisor, was told I could avail myself of three reiki sessions, and had made a series of appointments with a professional counsellor, another former cancer patient. We discovered that Wellspring also has programs for the families of cancer patients. When we left, Victoria had signed up for a support group for partners and caregivers.
Later, when I was undergoing chemo, the Wellspring people knew just what I was going through and gave me support and encouragement.
And all of this was, and is, provided free.
Well, not really, because in order that Victoria and I could walk in that day and benefit from this amazing,
supportive community, Wellspring needs money, and since Wellspring receives no government funding at all, it's 40 different programs and 10 regional support centres are entirely dependent on donations and fundraising.
So when I had the opportunity to help with one of this year's major fund-raising efforts - centred on an 8-day, 24hr/day bicycle peloton relay ride from Toronto to Miami - I jumped at the chance.
This year's ride runs from the 9-16th September and will be done by five teams of cyclists, backed up by another team of support drivers, who collectively will be on the road for the entire eight days and nights needed to complete the ride to Miami. Last year's riders and drivers netted well over $300,000.
Each team is in turn supported by a cancer survivor - a "Wellspring Warrior". As one of these, my personal goal is to raise another $2,000 in addition to the amounts raised by the teams. I will be very grateful if you can help me reach that.
Here are some links for more information and if you wish to make a donation.
The Wellspring 2017 Peloton Challenge page: http://www.kintera.org/faf/home/ccp.asp?ievent=1166922&lis=1&kntae1166922=656586BC581C4164AF0823736AC60BA0&ccp=675572
For more information, Wellspring's home page: https://wellspring.ca/downtown-toronto/
And even if you feel unable to contribute, it's likely you will encounter others who are facing cancer: please let them know about Wellspring.
Onwards, Onwards, ever onwards,