BY NICK SNOW
Cancer Assistance Services – Halton Hills (CAShh) is an organization that has developed services designed to help cancer patients no matter how specific the need. CAShh is asking other citizens from towns and cities to develop their own Cancer Assistance Services to help deal with the growing population living with cancer.
CAShh started 16 years ago, with the closing of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Halton Hills location, and has grown to over 500 volunteers. Fifty-three of those volunteers are drivers that take cancer patients to their appointments all over the GTA.
Sheila Smith, Director of Operations started the organization with her husband. “It’s just a matter of getting one or two people in a community strong enough to say we can do this,” said Smith, explaining how CAShh started. CAShh has many different services providing equipment and supplies, palliative and respite care assistance and reflexology.
Smith explains how specific and personal each service is but also says her favourite service is called For Goodness Sake, a program for specific needs that a person or family might have. She talked about a dad who was losing the ability to speak because of surgery. When the family asked for help, CAShh offered him an iPad so he would still have the ability to communicate with his children.
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The rates of people in Ontario being diagnosed with cancer has increased annually since 1981. There were 88,000 people diagnosed with cancer in 2016, an increase of 196 per cent since 1981 when there were 30,000 new cases. This translates into more people needing help from organizations like CAShh.
CAShh reported a 34 per cent increase in clients in 2016 but continues to meet and exceed their client’s expectations. CAShh is asking other towns and cities to create their own Cancer Assistance Services because of the overwhelming amount of people asking for assistance outside of Halton Hills. “We get calls daily from Oakville, Burlington, Kitchener, and Brampton,” said Smith. If they were to try and grow, they fear that they would lose the ability to put the time and care into building their team and the personal services provided to their clients.
Most of the team have had cancer or have had someone close to them deal with it, so they understand the importance of for these services for cancer patients and their families. “just helping people have a better quality of life.”