When Rachel Braga was told she had cancer at the age of 35, with a daughter only eight, and twin five-year-old boys, she was shocked. Treated successfully, she then began to experience panic attacks. At Trillium Health Partners (THP), she was referred to the coping clinic at the Carlo Fidani Regional Cancer Centre. For Rachel it was huge and, out of gratitude for the help she received, she and her daughter sold scrunchies to raise funds for the clinic.
Brash, funny and outspoken, Rachel is a health and wellness coach with a large social media following. She committed to living healthier several years ago, losing weight she had put on after the birth of her twins. When she began to feel poorly again, she knew something was wrong, which led to the diagnosis.
Although her cancer had been removed, she was haunted by the fear of leaving her children without a mother. These powerful emotions were diminished by those who discounted the seriousness of her cancer. It made her feel like an imposter.
“I was ready for the physical battle, but not for the mental toll it would take on me,” Rachel says. The panic attacks were random, some so severe she wanted to call 911. Rachel shared her mental health struggles with her THP oncologist, who connected her to a social worker. “I owe the social worker so much. She got me to open up about things I didn’t know I was struggling with.”
The social worker suggested the coping clinic, which offers group cognitive behavioral therapy over a three month period. Although she almost didn’t go, she’s so glad she did. She was surprised that she wasn’t the youngest, with participants from their 20s up into their 70s. “It was a safe space where we could talk about all these weird feelings we were having about cancer. They became like family. We still talk every day.”
As Christmas approached, Rachel and her daughter decided to make scrunchies to raise funds to support the coping clinic. They bought fabric in a variety of colours and went to work over the next month, making 550 scrunchies. Rachel talked up the project on social media, and they sold out within two hours and raised $860, with many buyers paying more than the asking price.
Rachel comments, “It was a way to thank the team, to let them know that they make an impact on our physical health, on our hearts, on our mental health. Now I’m equipped to be a survivor. Thank you!
Raising funds in support of Trillium Health Partners can be personalized— whether you’re an individual creating a virtual event or a business coming together to raise funds. Together we can ensure everyone in our community is as healthy as can be, inside the hospital and beyond our walls. We invite you to help us build a new kind of health care for a healthier community!