Journey of Hope, Love, Caring and Spirituality.
Our Vision of Support for All Women:
The Olive Branch of Hope's vision is to create and provide an environment in which women feel supported and empowered after a diagnosis of breast cancer, and to provide cultural resources, information and healing techniques to help families cope after the diagnosis and throughout the treatment period.
How the Journey Began
During her diagnosis of breast cancer in 1999 Leila Springer searched unsuccessfully for a place where she could not only get information about the disease but get adequate support to help her through the most difficult time of her life.
Like so many women before, she thought it would never happen to her. But it did! Most importantly being a Christian she looked for a place that would allow her to be free to express herself, her spirituality and share and receive spiritual support that she believed would strengthen her faith in God. This was an important part of her healing and it had to be provided for. Not being able to find that place…
Leila made a vow to God that if he would save her life she would make finding a place of spiritual serenity and hope her life mission.
That place would not only provide spiritual help but emotional, and social support for women diagnosed with breast cancer and their family members and friends.
Leila survived, and met with Winsome Johnson also a breast cancer survivor who would join her to pursue what she believed to be her life's purpose and destiny. They began with a support group that would help women including women of faith cope with life during and after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
A Special Need…
In addition, being a woman of colour, she soon learned that while support services may be available broadly to all or most breast cancer patients, many women of color found that the available support groups, counseling and other formats do not address the particular cultural, racial and socioeconomic factors that shape their lives.
For instance, the discussion of breast cancer in some groups still remains taboo, making it difficult to speak openly about the disease and contributing to a sense of shame and isolation. Encounters with health professionals and supportive care workers can also be influenced by discriminatory attitudes that, even when not blatant, can affect the comfort level of breast cancer patients of color. Lower socioeconomic status, a reality for many women of color and immigrant women in Canada, also plays a role in a women's ability to access care and information.
Leila's journey with breast cancer forced her to look beyond what she knew, to another source for strength and courage to face the diagnosis and prognosis that was given to her. For her it meant a strong reliance on God for healing even if it meant using the conventional methods provided by the local hospital and health care system made available to her.
Led to the Founding of a Special Place
Finally in 2001 Leila Springer and Winsome Johnson, two breast cancer survivors, launched and established The Olive Branch of Hope a charitable organization to provide support, and education to our diverse community, to help identify and remove the barriers that prevent these groups from accessing the available health care. We also place a strong emphasis on spirituality which we believe is an essential component to our healing process and journey.
With help from the Burlington Breast Cancer Support Services (now the Breast Cancer Support Services) they embarked on the journey which presented many challenges. After making the decision to cross each bridge one at a time they were on their way to establishing The Olive Branch of Hope.
It has been an interesting journey for the founders in which they often shared of the faithfulness of God who has led them every step of the way. Each time they reached what seemed like an impasse, they just watched as God made the impossibilities possible.
Many women of all races and backgrounds now benefit from attending events and sharing at the support groups to learn how best to cope with this dreadful disease that threatens the lives of women all over the world. Just knowing that others can find strength and hope by our existence makes the journey worthwhile.