Cedars CanSupport provides free bilingual emotional, physical and educational support to patients and their families, as a complement to traditional medical treatment

“Until Cedars CanSupport services are offered to every new cancer patient at the MUHC, thereby ensuring a true model of supportive cancer care, my work is not finished,” says Cedars CanSupport founder Gwen Nacos. “Cancer treatment is so much more than just surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.”

Cedars CanSupport

(left) Dr. Virginia Lee, Director of Cedars CanSupport with Founder Gwen Nacos

To fully understand why Gwen is so passionate about Cedars CanSupport, we need to go back to 1984, when an impromptu ten-minute meeting with a cancer patient changed her life and affected the lives of countless others.

Gwen, who had undergone surgery just three weeks earlier to remove a cancerous tumour from her bladder, was asked by a nurse to meet with a woman who was about to undergo the same procedure. She agreed, without hesitation. The two women connected instantly. Gwen showed her wounds and shared some stories. Later, the nurse thanked Gwen profusely for what she had done. While Gwen insisted she hadn’t done anything special, the nurse replied, “You cared enough to be there, and you shared something that was very critical to her.”

It was at that moment that Nacos learned the power of simply being there for someone, and so was born the initial concept for Cedars CanSupport.

At the time of her own treatment, Gwen wasn’t aware of any services that existed to help patients through the process. While she was fortunate to have support from family and friends, she saw firsthand that many others weren’t as lucky.

Jaimie Auger

Jaimie Auger, FL Fuller Landau partner & Honourary Co-Chair

“I became aware that many patients lacked the resources and support that I was privileged to have,” she said. “People are very vulnerable when they’ve been diagnosed with cancer. They don’t necessarily know what questions to ask or what kind of help is available.”

So, she decided to take action. Cedars CanSupport started off with Gwen distributing pamphlets from a desk at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Soon after, the program began pairing patients with volunteers, to help them deal with the emotional, psychological and spiritual issues that can arise after a cancer diagnosis.

Today, Cedars CanSupport is made up of a large and dedicated team of professional staff and volunteers who, in collaboration with the healthcare team at the Cedars Cancer Centre of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), provide a wide range of programs and services that improve the quality of life of both patients and their loved ones. These include emotional support services, educational services, complementary therapies (like yoga and massage), social activities, beauty tips and free wigs, as well as practical resources. The activities calendar includes a variety of workshops and support groups that help patients cope with cancer and with the strain it can cause on one’s emotional and financial situations. All of CanSupport’s programs and services are offered free of charge, and in both English and French.

Ernie Furt

Ernie Furt, FL Fuller Landau partner & Honourary Co-Chair

“After a patient receives a diagnosis, we contact them to explain what we offer and to let them know there will be someone there for them at any time, at every step of the way,” explains Dr. Virginia Lee, Director of Cedars CanSupport.

Cedars CanSupport is funded by the Cedars Cancer Foundation (Cedars). In 2006, Cedars established a unique fundraising event for CanSupport: a dragon boat race. The event offers Montrealers the opportunity to actively participate in a fundraiser that, at its core, is about a group of people coming together and working as a team. The challenge of dragon boat racing lies in the synchronization of the team members’ strokes, not in the individual paddlers’ strength.

The event had humble beginnings, with just six boats and a few dozen participants. Thanks to the ongoing support of FL Fuller Landau, which has been the event’s title sponsor since 2007, it has grown considerably. The FL Fuller Landau Cedars CanSupport Dragon Boat Race now attracts up to 500 participants every year and has raised over $6 million for Cedars CanSupport.

Cedars CanSupport Dragon Boat Race

Ted Kalil & Stephanie Taylor Kalil, Event Co-Chairs

“Cedars is profoundly grateful to FL Fuller Landau, whose unwavering generosity and dedication have contributed to the success of this event and have made a tangible difference in the lives of thousands of cancer patients and their families,” says Cedars Cancer Foundation CEO, Jeff Shamie.

Each year, teams made of up to 20 paddlers and one motivational drummer descend on Promenade Père-Marquette in Lachine for a day of camaraderie in a festival-like atmosphere. From the moving speeches to the poignant flower ceremony that honours cancer patients and those we have lost, it’s an event that needs to be experienced in-person to fully understand the lasting impact that one can have just by being part of the solution. Participants are encouraged to use a peer-to-peer fundraising platform, which allows them to share their journey and ask their friends and family to join in their philanthropic endeavour. 22Dragons dragon boat racing club members steer the boats and help ensure that the races are professionally run.

Cedars CanSupport Dragon Boat Race

Claudia & David Aboud, Event Co-Chairs

The FL Fuller Landau Cedars CanSupport Dragon Boat Race is open to anyone who wants to try their hand at dragon boating and raise money for Cedars CanSupport. There is no “typical” profile of a dragon boat racer. As such, this one-day event brings together the young and young-at-heart, friends, families, cancer patients and advocates, medical professionals, local celebrities, co-workers, corporate sponsors, civic leaders, experienced paddlers, and rookies – all in the spirit of fun and fundraising for an important cause. Some paddlers are competitive, while  others are just there for the bonding experience. And, wherever your boat places, your inclusion in the race puts you on the front line of support for people who are at their most vulnerable.

To take part in the event or find out more about Cedars CanSupport, visit www.cedarsdragons.ca.

The Cedars Cancer Foundation is a mission-focused, hospital-based foundation with a vision to cover all cancer patients’ needs, from every angle, for every cancer type, regardless of the patient’s age.  What started 50 years ago as an initiative launched by individuals from a community who dared to dream big is now the funding arm of the MUHC’s fight against cancer.

The Foundation supports the hospital’s Cedars Cancer Centre at the MUHC as well as the Cancer Research Program of the Research Institute of the MUHC. It is also a founding partner of the Rossy Cancer Network, which brings together McGill University and its teaching hospitals to improve the quality of every patient’s experience and care outcome.