Looking for a cure

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Dealing with cancer is a devastating situation all on its own. After being diagnosed you’re given a sudden shock that will change your life in a dramatic and serious way. Many people are pushing you to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, while keeping a low-level of stress in between numerous appointments with doctors and other health specialists or chemotherapy treatments. But on top of this you’re also expected to remain on top of your daily obligations such as paying bills and cleaning your house. However dealing with cancer, while living in a low-income, brings a whole new set of challenges to an already difficult situation.

Anna (whose name has been changed for confidentiality) recently told me about the struggles she’s been facing since she was diagnosed with cancer. She’s here today for a food hamper to help address one of the many struggles she’s facing as a single mother of two teenaged children: food. Though her children are able to help out with various tasks around the house, she doesn’t want to burden them or depend on them too much as she’s scared that this may hinder them from following their own personal dreams. Therefore she’s doing her best to stay strong and be a positive role model for her children.

While life continues to throw curve balls at her, she continues working hard to find a way to overcome her many challenges. For example: after learning she had breast cancer last year and undergoing various treatments, she soon realized that it would not be possible to continue working based on her current health and energy levels. Because of this new change in her life, she was directed to apply for social assistance (also known as Ontario Works).

Unfortunately Anna was declined social assistance. But there is a reason why. After the caseworkers at the Region of Waterloo began processing her application they discovered that she had a small amount of money in a savings account from a settlement from a few years back. Therefore Anna’s application was declined because, in their opinion, she was not in an immediate need of money to pay for basics such as food and shelter.

In the mean time Anna has been working to live off her savings. However various social workers and other professionals that she’s been working with over the last few months suggested that Anna submit an application for a disability pension (CCP-D).

On that advice she submitted an application in November. About a month ago she learned that they rejected her application. (To read about some of the reasons people are rejected, click here.) Therefore now in between all her many medical appointments and raising her children, she’s going to work with her oncologist, professionals with the Hospice of Waterloo Region and legal aid counselors to file an appeal. But until then she’ll continue to live on $600 a month from the child support of her ex-husband.

Living in such a modest income, food assistance makes a big difference to her family. However it’s challenging for her to try to carry all this food, with her struggling health concerns. Also bus drivers typically discourage people from bringing on carts, wagons or strollers on the route near her house because she’s on a school bus route, so the bus is easily and quickly filled with passengers alone.

An example hamper for a family of three people.

Thankfully someone was able to provide her with a ride today. Though it involved her planning ahead a few days in advance, it’ll make a world of difference to her – especially since our hampers tend to have more fruits and vegetables than other food assistance programs. We’re also aware of some other alterations we can make, based on her special diet needs, to improve the assistance that this hamper can provide to her overall diet and health. (To read about an example of one of the special diets we accommodate, click here.)

Overall she’s doing her best to find any other alternative to avoid coming to our program, because she doesn’t want us to feel like she’s over-using or abusing our service. But today with some convincing I tried to explain that this is the reason food banks still exist today. Because sometimes beyond your best control and best efforts, people will face an unexpected or difficult life situation and as a society we’ve agreed to stand behind them to make sure they didn’t get left behind. Everyone deserves to access to food, and when you can’t buy it yourself, we’ll try to make ourselves as accessible as possible. Anna is no exception, and hopefully soon her situation will soon improve.

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