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P1080371Last Spring I began receiving letters from some of my constituents expressing their deep gratitude for an organization called InspireHealth. I had never heard of InspireHealth, but based on the personal experiences that these constituents shared I could tell that the people and programs offered there had had a deep impact on their lives. Intrigued and wanting to learn more, we got in touch with the Victoria Inspire Health office, located right here in Oak Bay, and arranged for a meeting with Dr. Mimi Weldon.

P1080384Co-Founded in 1997 by two Vancouver-area doctors, Dr. Roger Rogers and Dr. Hal Gunn, InspireHealth is a not-for-profit health organization that provides free of charge, supportive clinical services to cancer patients and survivors throughout all of British Columbia. Made up of a team of doctors, nutritionists, exercise therapists, clinical counsellors and administrative staff, they provide individuals with guidance on a variety of health-related issues including diet changes, stress reduction and emotional counseling, decision making, exercise, immune system support and personal coaching. Members receive one-on-one consultations with their health professionals to support their health, answer their questions and provide them with the information they need to make decisions about their health; they are able to choose from an extensive selection of programs and services, including their signature LIFE Program; and they can attend a variety of classes which provide ongoing support and knowledge for improving their health.

P1080394InspireHealth is supported in part by the B.C. Ministry of Health, who’s annual funding covers close to two-thirds of their operational costs, and in part by private and corporate donations and grants. Currently, there are three InspireHealth locations throughout B.C, as well as an online Virtual Centre for those living in remote and rural communities. The centre here in Victoria opened its doors in October of 2011 and serves Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands with their innovative cancer care programs and services.

P1080389InspireHealth takes a non-pharmacological approach, with a focus on lifestyle factors and self-responsibility, offering cancer patients an opportunity to have a look at the ‘big picture’ of their health. Through this supportive approach patients work with their team of medical professionals as partners in their treatment, empowering them to create their own individualized plan that improves their overall health and well-being. Patients can engage with these services before, during and after their standard cancer treatments.

While InspireHealth’s model certainly sounds impressive on paper, what was even more awe-inspiring was seeing it in action. Following our meeting with Dr. Weldon, she invited us to visit the Victoria InspireHealth Centre and witness first-hand what it is they do.

P1080383Upon arrival, I was struck by how the bright, warm office, situated along Oak Bay Avenue, felt more like being in a friend’s home than a health care centre. Before beginning our tour of the site, we were invited to join the end of an interactive workshop that was taking place with a small group of patients. Led by Dr. Weldon and Clinical Counsellor Genevieve Stonebridge, we were told that the topic of the workshop that morning was passion.

P1080400The participating members shared with us the profound impact InspireHealth has had on both their recovery and their lives as a whole. By creating an environment which encompasses all aspects of their health, from the physical to the mental to the spiritual, by encouraging and empowering them to be the decision-makers in their own journeys of recovery, and by providing the resources and space necessary for their loved ones to both support these journeys and receive support themselves, InspireHealth has truly changed the lives of these individuals forever. At the end of the group workshop, Genevieve asked us all to give one word to describe how we were feeling right in that moment. As we went around the room, the word that immediately came to mind seemed an obvious choice – Inspired.

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