We are thankful for every one of our 15,000+ volunteers and couldn’t do what we do without them. Many of our volunteers have faced their own personal cancer journey that inspires them to give back. The Medal of Courage Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exceptional courage in their personal battle with cancer or as a caregiver to someone who has had cancer and in doing so serves as an inspiration and role model to others. This year, the award has gone to Barbara Tremblay of Prince George, BC. Barb has faced cancer and now helps people across Canada do the same.
Barbara Tremblay has a long history of volunteering – she started with the Society back in 1989 and over the years has taken on many roles from front desk reception to cancer community office ambassador and Relay for Life team member. She has made a positive impact in all of these roles but it is her volunteer work with CancerConnection that deserves special recognition.
After her diagnosis with esophageal cancer in 2001, Barbara had major surgery and chemotherapy. Not only did she survive but she continues to thrive 12 years beyond her diagnosis and lives a full and active life. A volunteer with CancerConnection since 2005, Barbara has provided support to people across the country, serving as source of hope and inspiration.
Because esophageal cancer is a rare cancer and can have a poor prognosis, patients seeking CancerConnection are often very frightened and feel terribly alone. Being matched with Barbara, someone who has been there, someone who can listen to their fears and share with them an example of living with grace, vigor and compassion after such a serious cancer diagnosis can be a real blessing.
It takes profound courage to willingly expose oneself to the rawest fears about the consequences of esophageal cancer when you yourself are still at risk and Barbara has chosen to do this again and again because she knows the work that she does, the work of giving hope and information from first-hand experience, is so valuable to those who receive it.
She is there for the people with cancer she is matched with for as long as they need her, sometimes until the client passes away. Often, her matches last as long as a year until the client feels they are able to manage side effects and symptoms on their own. It is not unusual for her clients and their family members to send notes and cards to show their profound appreciation for the difference Barbara has made in their lives. As one client said, “I appreciate her message that with perseverance, things will get better.”
The Society and Barbara’s CancerConnection clients are extremely fortunate that she has chosen to volunteer with us and we are so pleased to recognize her contribution with the 2014 Medal of Courage.