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Kathy Torunski’s Story

Kathy Torunski’s Story

I recently had the distinct pleasure of attending the Brice Tiamuh Blue Ribbon Gala in Ottawa at which time I was given the opportunity to share my involvement with Colorectal Cancer Canada. Although I could regale you with the details of this wonderful evening, I want to share with you how CCC has impacted my life. My story is one of awareness, support, and compassion at its very best.

I first heard about CCC during my challenge with colorectal cancer. During one of the many appointments at the Cancer Centre, I flipped through the brochures in the clinic and I noticed there was a CCC support group in the area.

The support group idea piqued my interest, but I did not have the energy to go to the group and I felt that my network of family and friends was enough to get me through this extreme challenge. Besides, I was not the first to have a cancer diagnosis. My mom, my sister and my Grandpa all had been there too.

As fate would have it, in March of 2013, I called CCC while planning a colorectal cancer-themed staff information session for the community health centre where I work. Enter Frank Pitman, who is responsible for awareness and patient/caregiver support. On behalf of CCC, Frank educated about 70 of my colleagues about colorectal cancer screening, its signs, symptoms, and prevention. That Thursday morning, he truly fulfilled the Awareness, Education and Advocacy components of CCC’s mission, and my colleagues gained important knowledge about the disease, the impact of which was felt immediately.

During a more intimate conversation, while Frank and I shared our cancer experiences, I was reminded that I am not alone to survive this terrible disease that has senselessly taken so many. He introduced me to the concept of peer support. Peer support is a supportive relationship between people who have a lived experience in common. It was one that resonated strongly with me and my personal beliefs.

Six months later, the third component of the CCC’s mission, that of Patient Support, was realized. Frank linked me with a woman who was around the same age (49) as me, with a similar diagnosis (Stage 4) and treatment plan. She was terrified! After I communicated with her, although exhausted, I felt strongly that my fight with colorectal cancer would be of practical use and I could empower another human being and provide hope with my own insights and lived experience. I thought that support couldn’t get much better than that.

In the ensuing years, I observed Frank and other CCC representatives at a variety of events. Their compassion, empathy and knowledge were all too evident, and I now know firsthand how CCC can empower the many individuals and families they touch.

Two years ago, at one such event, I received an invaluable gift: Frank introduced me to Chantal, the woman who until that time I had only supported via emails and long phone conversations; a woman I had thought about often. The gift was two-fold; first, she was in good health and second, she told me that speaking to me had changed her whole outlook and that I was instrumental in her coping with the disease. We laughed and cried and felt an instant connection.

It is evident to me that support is a circular notion and I felt the empathy and connectedness that comes from sharing similar life experiences with someone else. Chantal became a very special friend and we will continue CCC’s mission by supporting other individuals and families who face the daily challenges as cancer patients, caregivers and survivors, including those living with an ostomy.

I have been forever changed by CCC’s help, knowledge and empathy. I plan to continue to embody the key messages of their support program in a variety of ways as I move forward, cancer free. I hope that you too can help CCC support other patients and their families as they are faced with cancer.

Together we can make a difference!

Thank you so much for caring and for your generosity,

Kathy Torunski

Posted on Facebook December 18, 2019

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