Does mindfulness and meditation relieve the mental fogginess of “chemo brain?” Does music therapy reduce the anxiety of hospital appointments? Does a class in ceramics renew confidence, relationships and creative expression, post-diagnosis?
Carolyn Henry, an oncology nurse and site manager at the Bow Valley Community Cancer Centre in Canmore, Alta., says that not only do these activities help with cancer-related symptoms, they improve overall patient outcome.
“The diagnosis just comes like a bomb in your life,” says Henry. “The stress and the anxiety can create so many other problems. But if you have the right tools to support you, your brain and your body are more receptive to fight the disease.”
Henry is part of the Bow Valley Community Cancer Centre’s Communities of Practice (CoP) project, which aims to pair patient needs with existing community resources. In Bow Valley, members of CoP identified a gap in awareness of — and access to — community programs. With the help of the Alberta Cancer Foundation, the Canmore & Area Health Care Foundation and community volunteers, the CoP developed and implemented programs such as music therapy, art therapy, yoga classes and meditation sessions.
The main goals of these programs are to engage patients within their local community, to reduce or manage the physical and psychosocial symptoms of a cancer diagnosis, and ultimately to improve overall patient wellness. “The programs help to reduce the anxiety of treatment, manage pain, develop a greater acceptance and find peace in times of uncertainty,” says Henry. “It’s not just about the treatment,” she adds. “It’s way more than that. We want to make sure that everybody who comes here has all the tools to help them through their journey.”