Thanks to a substantial grant from the Victoria Foundation, Inspire Health in Oak Bay is now able to offer memberships free of charge to anyone with a past or present diagnosis of cancer — and an unlimited number of their support people as well.
The only centre of its kind on the Island, Inspire Health offers unlimited consultations with medical doctors, clinical counsellors, exercise therapists and nutritionists, as well as cooking classes, group meditation sessions, yoga, support groups, acupressure and acupuncture. And though the centre is located in Oak Bay, it sees patients coming in from all over the Island, including the Saanich Peninsula.
“It’s just so fantastic,” says North Saanich’s Karen Kafka, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last November. “It’s just the most supportive, caring and loving environment. They’re really knowledgable about assisting people to be as well as they can be.”
Kafka, 54, was introduced to the centre through a cancer specialist who had gone through cancer herself, and signed up immediately. Her diagnosis and the support from Inspire Health helped her revamp her entire life, she says.
“For me personally, it made me look at my life, my choices differently. It’s about making sure to take time to exercise every day, and taking time to eat well, and being good to my body in terms of my thoughts.
“It’s an incredibly traumatic, tumultuous time when you receive a cancer diagnosis,” she says, and at Inspire, “you feel supported, cared for. You feel like you’re not alone, because you’re going through this with lots of other people.”
Before the grant, Inspire Health had to charge $450 for the first year’s membership, and $95 for renewals thereafter, says lead exercise therapist Rachel Mark.
“With the membership fee, there’s always the chance of financial barriers, which I think is quite common for people who have been diagnosed, because they often have to go on disability or leave their jobs,” she says.
The unlimited accessibility to Inspire Health’s programs has prompted a fivefold increase in new patients each month, in part due to other medical practitioners feeling more comfortable in referring patients.
“There’s been hesitation in referring patients to a service that has a fee,” says Mark. “Since we’ve been able to lift that fee, we’re seeing a lot more referrals. It’s definitely increased the number of people coming through our doors.”
The most important thing to the centre, says Mark, is increasing awareness in the Greater Victoria area and across the entire Island, ensuring that all people living with a cancer diagnosis know there is support ready and waiting for them.
Kafka, whose cancer is in remission, has gone back to work on a modified schedule. She says she still makes a point of visiting Inspire Health when she can.
“Whenever I have time, I look on the calendar and see what I can go to,” she says. “It’s a little ways to go to Oak Bay, but it’s well worth it.”
For more information, visit inspirehealth.ca or call 250-595-7125.