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Northern Wildflower: Adding pages to the Book of Hope

After being diagnosed with cancer in late 2015, Agnes Pascal knew she wanted to start a conversation that would help others who may be going through the same life-changing experiences.

After being diagnosed with cancer in late 2015, Agnes Pascal knew she wanted to start a conversation that would help others who may be going through the same life-changing experiences.

That is how she started the Inuvik Cancer Support Group where a small number of people came together in Inuvik in 2018 with the same relatable condition. Even through Covid, the group has managed to stay strong and continue on through the years.

This important circle of support has welcomed individuals who have survived cancer, those who are currently undergoing cancer treatment, and family, friends, and caregivers of those who have been affected by cancer.

The goal of the group is to provide support to those who may have less access to resources on cancer, and to encourage sharing and learning through listening to the cancer journeys of participants in storytelling circles.

This coming together has evolved into the vision of creating a Book of Hope to include stories from across the North from cancer survivors to provide strength and encouragement to others who have been impacted by a cancer diagnosis.

Agnes is now compiling personal stories through written submissions and interviews with cancer survivors and she’s looking for other survivors across the North to share in this compilation. This initiative is moving ahead with the help of partners like Hotsii Ts’eeda. It’s also the hope that through the inspiration of this book, additional cancer support groups can be started in other Northern communities as well.

A common thread that has come to the surface throughout ongoing conversations is about having to leave the territory for medical treatment and the need for more supportive medical travel for patients as it is difficult to navigate the healthcare system. Whether it be an Elderly family member having to go south for surgery, a sibling having to be medevaced for a broken limb, an infant who needs to go to a pediatric doctor or having to get your wisdom teeth removed, it’s important that Northern patients having to go south for treatment receive the best care and service available to them but this is not always the case.

This is one of the reasons why Melinda Laboucan began her business – Goba — which offers support and navigation for Northerners receiving care in Alberta. The word Goba means light on the horizon and Melinda’s practice serves as a light that can help to guide Northerners through the healthcare system when having to leave the territory for medical care.

Goba helps provide individuals, families, and communities with the support they need at a crucial time in their healthcare journeys. Melinda is from K’asho Got’ine First Nation in Fort Good Hope. She founded Goba after she and her family encountered challenges through medical travel and other healthcare-related experiences.

Melinda hopes to improve the experience of patients having to travel south for medical appointments. She says she has learned from her Elders about life, death and the importance of ceremony and traditional medicines and understands that when clients need to travel to Edmonton to receive care, there needs to be a place like Goba to support them in their journeys through the health system. Goba achieves this by advocating for wellness, community and cultural connection.

There is room for improvement when it comes to medical travel, and Goba helps by contributing to improved health and wellness outcomes to address gaps in the Western healthcare system and it’s great to see that Melinda has established this supportive program that can help alleviate stress when patients are grappling the results of a life-changing cancer diagnosis.

It is stories and programs like these that are so important to support and assist Northerners when they need it most.

We all know someone who has been impacted by a cancer diagnosis. If you are interested in sharing your cancer survivor story, please contact Agnes Pascal at