By Danielle Gagnon, Montreal Support Group co-leader and caregiver
We first heard of Waldenstrom’s when my husband, Robert Perrault, was diagnosed in August 2019. It is always a shock when you hear the word cancer. We started looking on the web for information about the disease and found that WMFC had support groups in every province, except in Québec. We did not waste any time and in September 2019, went to the closest support group meeting in Ottawa. We were a bit nervous about what we would find out, but it was very encouraging. The group gave us a warm welcome and patients were surprisingly healthy looking. We realized that life continues even with cancer. Some support group members were not attending because they were away. One patient was on a trip going scuba diving, another was golfing, and the last one was kayaking. We said to ourselves, that the disease was not so bad after all. We now know that some patients have more difficulties than others.
After a few months, we attended a conference at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal with Dr. Steven Treon presenting and we met Betty McPhee of the WMFC. I mentioned to Betty that it was sad that we did not have any support group in Québec. It was then that the idea of starting one came. Betty introduced me to Paul Cadrin and with their help, we finally had our first meeting in March 2020. We were supposed to meet in person, but because of Covid, our meeting had to be held via Zoom. We are still meeting on Zoom, because it is easier with people from all over the province.
We have meetings every 3 months in French with a few English members. During the first two years, we had 5 to 6 attendees. It started to grow this year with more and more members and in our last meeting, we had 14! We realize that it is very helpful to meet together and share our difficulties and successes. It is also very helpful to get information about WM and learn about upcoming events.
On a personal note, my husband has had his first chemo treatment which ended in November 2021. He is doing all the things he was doing before his treatment. We have made a few bike and skiing trips as we have always done in the past, post-pandemic, of course!