“Without a doubt this is the most rewarding experience I have been involved in throughout my volunteer years.” – Connie Gray
Nestled in a quiet corner of the Buhler Cancer Centre, away from the daily commotion of the Victoria Hospital corridors, is the Solarium. With a cozy fireplace and large windows overlooking lush gardens, this tranquil space invites patients to reflect and unwind. It’s also where volunteers like Connie Gray give their time to enhance the lives of others.
Although many groups use this beautiful room, Connie’s time in the Solarium is spent as a part of the Look Good Feel Better® program. Look Good Feel Better is a national initiative that helps women living with cancer manage the appearance-related side effects of their treatment through free workshops on skin care, makeup, wigs and head-covering techniques.
“The Solarium offers an opportunity for the Look Good Feel Better program to host its workshops in a comfortable, warm and inviting environment,” says Connie. “These workshops give participants an opportunity to visit with each other and share their experiences. This is a very difficult time for cancer patient participants and being in a welcoming and intimate place helps to make their experience a positive one.”
Having been with the program for many years, Connie truly appreciates the importance of having a space where women can share their challenges and take difficult steps together.
“Cancer patients must deal with tremendous obstacles and the ability to take control of some portion of their treatment is important,” says Connie. “The Solarium provides a comfortable, safe and private environment to help cancer patients deal with the often traumatic appearance related effects of treatment.”
Originally born out of the generous support of Dr. and Mrs. Chandulal Shah, East India Company, the Mehra Family and the Guild of the Victoria Hospital, the Solarium is now redeveloped to meet the expanding needs of patients. These needs include a safe, reflective space for quiet, respite or connection.
“I have experienced first-hand the gratitude from patients utilizing the Solarium,” says Connie. “Everyone leaves a workshop with a smile on their face and often a hug on the way out. Participants appreciate the connection they have with other women experiencing many of the same treatments and side effects, so friendships are often formed.”
For many cancer patients taking this difficult step in a private and welcoming room is a very important benefit during their treatment.
“Without a doubt this is the most rewarding experience I have been involved in throughout my volunteer years,” says Connie. “After a cancer diagnosis doctors, nurses and health care providers offer the essential next steps for recovery, so being able to take charge of some of the appearance-related effects of treatment is powerful and provides an opportunity for participants to step away from any sadness for a couple of hours. I have met the most incredibly strong, brave, resilient and inspiring women. Many patients have been able to maintain their sense of humour despite the toll illness has taken on their bodies. So often a laugh is shared with volunteers and participants, and the beautiful Solarium allows it all to happen.”