The Chasing Rainbows Cross Canada Tour 2008
Screening & Discussion Events
in Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax
April 21 to May10, 2008
Wow! What an amazing experience! Our Chasing Rainbows Cross-Canada Tour was a huge success, thanks to the commitment and dedication shown by our hosts in each city, and by young adult cancer survivors who spoke at each of the presentations.
Personally, I am thrilled that the tour fulfilled three of my daughter Sara’s goals for the film:
1) To let young adults diagnosed with cancer know that they are not alone;
2) To spread the word that that the Chasing Rainbows DVD, produced to address the specific needs of young adults diagnosed with cancer, IS a useful resource and is available to them throughout British Columbia, across Canada (“…and the United States, and Mom, if you have time – Europe too.”); and
3) To encourage young adults with cancer to speak up for themselves, using the film as vehicle and framework for discussion and advocacy. “We are the experts!” said Sara.
Words cannot adequately express the pure joy and inspiration co-producer/performer Michael Booth Palmer and I felt, as we met and worked with the 13 young adults who spoke at the screenings. Some had never told their personal stories in front of a public audience before. All were confident, articulate and generous, and each offered a unique perspective on the issues that arise from diagnosis and continue throughout treatment and the ongoing physical, emotional and financial aftermath.
In-house promotion for all of the screenings was terrific – thanks to everyone who forwarded e-mails, put up posters, invited friends and colleagues and generally helped us get the word out! We also managed to get some media exposure: in Calgary and Winnipeg we were delighted to do live interviews on CTV, and local and university newspapers also covered us in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal (links to articles on our website: www.chasingrainbowsproduction.com). Finally, at CAPO (Canadian Association of Pediatric Oncologists)’s annual conference in Halifax, we shamelessly self promoted our screening and were pleased to have 30 attend…quite a good number for CAPO, I have been told. Overall, audiences varied in size at each venue, but the enthusiasm was consistent. One or one hundred and one…it was all worthwhile!
In the course of the screenings and the discussions with young adults, other audience members and support people that accompanied each presentation, Michael and I made several observations (many of which, I’m sure, will be familiar to those who work on behalf of young adults with cancer across Canada).
Overall, it was clear to us that the concerns of young adults with cancer are the same across the country: isolation, infertility, sexuality, independence, finances, family and intimate relationships, physical and emotional scars, fear, faith, hope and the future. More specifically, the following issues and questions were brought up consistently:
o Being robbed of the years to “work up a resume” creates challenges for both young adult cancer survivors and childhood cancer young adult survivors. Questions of self disclosure were brought up, with respect to both personal and professional situations. When do you tell someone you have or had cancer? How do you deal with finding and/or holding a job while dealing with treatment and recovery? What happens if you face a change in your long term career choices due to on going treatment or physical or cognitive impairments?
o Young adults ages 18 to 35 expressed their desire to have the right or option to freeze eggs/sperm in case treatment led to fertility problems.
o Childhood cancer survivors highlighted the physical challenges that they face as they move into adulthood: their shorter stature and often young-sounding voices place them in a state of adolescent limbo.
o Earlier detection is needed: how can we educate our general practitioners/ family doctors and clinic doctors about young adult cancer symptoms and treatments?
o Financial and health insurance issues are of ongoing concern.
o Young mothers and fathers want childcare options at treatment centres.
o Young adults, their families, friends and medical teams need more resources to help them understand how to support those they love. All of the young adult speakers were grateful for the support groups that already exist. How do we get the word out more effectively that these groups are available? High schools, colleges, universities?
o Creating and maintaining support groups at Wellness Centres and Hospitals for young adults is an ongoing challenge. I cannot speak on the funding issues surrounding young adult support groups in the various cities, but I can say our hosts have done incredible work in addressing this concern and continue to come up with creative and innovative plans to provide the support that the young adults need now, and the long term care they will need in the future.
Michael and I were so pleased to note that Chasing Rainbows was equally well received by young adult cancer survivors and childhood cancer young adult survivors. Both groups felt the film highlighted most of their major concerns.
The Chasing Rainbows 2008 Cross-Canada Tour was made possible by the wonderful hosts who invited us to come to their Hospitals and/or Wellness Centres in Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax (Vancouver, Victoria, Surrey and Kelowna, B.C. were hosts in Spring 2007), and who – in spite of their own incredibly busy work schedules – welcomed us warmly and facilitated all of our logistical, technical and emotional needs to make the screenings successful. These people are committed to raising awareness of the unique needs of young adults living with cancer, not only among young adult patients themselves but also among families, friends, the medical professionals who treat and support young adult cancer patients, and the general public. In order of the Tour dates, Michael and I thank you all…those front and centre and those behind the scenes…family, friends, young adults, and staff:
Wellspring Calgary: Patti Harris (host), Andrea Palmer (young adult speaker), Ian White (CTV reporter), Robyn Reed (CTV producer)
Cancer Care Manitoba: Megan McLeod (host), Jill Cannon and Karalee Grant (young adult speakers), Ashlyn Vandenberghe (CTV young adult interviewee), Young Adults Kick Cancer
Wellspring Toronto: Ayala Beck (host)
1) Odette House: Claire Edmonds (host), Grace Wright (young adult speaker)
2) Sunnybrook House: Dawn Wasylow (host), Grace Wright (young adult speaker)
3) Oakville, Halton Peel: Gabrielle Pitt (host), Audience guests (speakers)
Princess Margaret Hospital: Norma D’Agostino (host), Lisa Kramer and Jessica Riesz (young adult speakers)
Gilda’s Club – STEP : Amy Plaint and Norma (hosts), Peter Mazereeuw (young adult speaker)
Ottawa Hospital Care Centre: Linda Corsini (host), Serge Carriere, Laura Hinsperger and Mari Newman (young adult speakers), Connextions 18-35
The Jewish Hospital Hope and Cope Wellness Centre: Suzanne O’Brien (host), Kira Barrett (young adult speaker)
CAPO 2008 Conference: Shali Manuel (host)
We have more provinces to visit here in Canada, and next we are on to the United States. Please stay in touch via our web site and blog, and let us know how your own journeys are going!
Forever Chasing Rainbows,