Gabrielle Fecteau knows first-hand how hard it is to live with cancer, especially in a rural community like Timmins.

Soon, cancer patients in Timmins will have access to new resources through the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation’s first ever Virtual Cancer Coaching pilot project.

Gabrielle Fecteau, Lead Volunteer Coordinator on the project for Timmins, and a Cancer Coach at the Ottawa Cancer Foundation, is no stranger to needing resources and support for cancer treatment. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma three years ago when she was just 19.

“I went through my chemo therapy, or most of my chemotherapy, in Timmins,” Gabrielle said, “at the Timmins and District Hospital before returning back to Timmins to finish my schooling and radiation.”

Gabrielle now works as a Cancer Coach in Ottawa. These healthcare professionals sit with patients and discuss where the patient is most comfortable and where they’re at in their treatment. They build on what is the most important thing to the patient at that moment.

“We basically create a plan with a person for them to meet their most important goals, cancer-related,” Gabrielle said. “That can be everything from cancer-related fatigue and managing that, to spending more time with family and friends. It can be managing stress that comes with a cancer diagnosis, getting a list of questions ready for your doctors visits or specialist visits. So really, the goals are very varied, that we see. And we help those individuals meet those goals.”

Cancer Coaching has been a service available in Ottawa for seven years now, and Gabrielle says the benefits have been huge for participants. The service in Ottawa is in-person, but the service coming to Timmins will be the first-ever virtual pilot of the project.

“That means that clients will be meeting with their coach through an online secure platform, through video chats. And we’ll be helping them with that if that’s something they’re more worried about, is that technological side of things.”

Patients will be able to meet with their coaches for up to five hours of complimentary cancer coaching with a licensed health care professional.

“Cancer coaching is great,” said Gabrielle. “Overall, it has the power to empower individuals to give them back some control over their cancer experience.”

Cancer patients in Timmins don’t always have the same resources available as some of the bigger cities, like Sudbury, which has a Cancer Centre. Gabrielle says Timmins does have access to some amazing healthcare professionals who do make a huge difference in cancer survivor’s lives.

That being said, connecting patients with a Cancer Coach can help them access the resources that are not present in rural areas like Timmins. The service also connects them with more national organizations that can offer different services.

“It’s about connecting everyone together and making that experience a little easier on the person, or the caregiver. Because we do see caregivers also.”

The range of services that will be available to patients through this virtual service won’t just be for their physical symptoms.

“Cancer is an experience that doesn’t necessarily always just affect the physical,” said Gabrielle. “There’s the psychological, emotional effects of cancer on someone and their caregivers.”

It’s in those other crucial services that rural communities like Timmins lack resources. There is also a barrier for patients who might not be healthy enough to travel to Cancer Centres, like the one in Sudbury. The trip can be three hours or more, depending on what rural area the patient is coming from. That can be a huge challenge for individuals, especially if they aren’t healthy enough for a long trip on the road.

Gabrielle has some advice for cancer patients who are battling the disease in rural areas:

“You don’t lose all your strengths and abilities when you receive a cancer diagnosis, or when a loved one does. Amidst this difficult situation, you might just need a little help using them again. And it’s really important to ask for help.”


The Virtual Cancer Coaching pilot project will launch in Timmins at TADH in January, 2019.

To learn more about Cancer Coaching, visit the Ottawa Cancer Foundation website. 

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