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Grant opens door to free services for cancer patients

Inspire Health in Oak Bay now offers memberships at no cost
Exercise therapist Rachel Mark

A cancer diagnosis can create any number of obstacles in a person’s life. But now thanks to a grant from the Victoria Foundation, having the finances to afford quality support will no longer be one of them.

“We have been really lucky to receive this grant from the Victoria Foundation, which is allowing us to offer memberships to new patients and their support people at no cost,” said Rachel Mark, an exercise therapist and yoga instructor at Inspire’ Health’s Victoria centre in Oak Bay’s Athlone Court.

Full memberships had cost $450 a year, with support memberships and renewals going for $95. Those memberships are now free.

“Our understanding is that the membership fee had been a barrier to some people,” said Mark. “We want to access as many people as possible and want as many people with a cancer diagnosis to be able to access the support we offer.”

That support includes clinical consultations covering nutrition, exercise and counselling, advice about sleep, healthy communication, rekindling joy and passion in living, self-responsibility and their place in the community. Members also have access to a variety of cooking and fitness classes, mind-body practices and group discussions all supporting engagement in their own health.

“Recovery from cancer can be an emotionally and physically demanding experience for patients, but there is an opportunity for self-discovery and meaning that can be beneficial,” said Dr. Mimi Weldon, clinical director at Inspire Health in Victoria. “We are looking forward to offering our services at no charge to Vancouver Island and Gulf Island residents because we believe that cost should not be a barrier to a deeper exploration of health on the levels of mind, body and spirit.”

One person who knows about the benefits of those services is Angela Aart, who has been coming to Inspire Health’s Oak Bay centre three times a week since being diagnosed with cancer in September 2013.

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer you really want to reassess almost all aspects of your life because you really don’t know – everybody says this is just bad luck that you’ve got it – and a lot of times there isn’t a cause and effect,” said Aart.

“For me, you look at all aspects of your life, and the thing that Inspire Health does is it covers that off so well, from your eating to your exercise programs, mentally how you’re doing, they provide you with the latest research on all types of cancer. A lot of times it’s not written in layman’s terms so you’re very confused.”

While Inspire Health does have specific support groups, Mark said every class turns into that support in some capacity.

“You do notice a huge difference from when they walk in at the beginning of class to when everyone leaves,” she said. “Everyone is just uplifted and positive because they’ve had that interaction and that support. I think that’s really special.”

Aart agrees that the members draw support from each other, adding they will often leave a meeting feeling as if “we’re journeying down this road together.” And while she deals with a terminal diagnosis, Aart takes comfort from the knowledge she is doing all she can to live as long as she can.

“It’s just that it helps with getting confidence back and empowering yourself to really be able to go forward and know that you’re doing all the best things that you can for your body,” said Aart.

Those wanting to learn more about Inspire Health’s services can drop into one of their fireside chats, held Mondays at 3 p.m. and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. While you don’t have to be a member to attend, it is suggested you call ahead to reserve a spot. Inspire Health is located at #212 - 2187 Oak Bay Ave. and the phone number is 250-595-7125.



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