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My experience participating in the valuable work of the Inuit Cancer Project

By Wendy Panagopoulos, Board member of CBCN

On May 1st and 2nd I had the pleasure of representing CBCN at an Advisory Committee meeting for the Inuit Cancer Project lead by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada in Iqaluit, NU. This meeting gave those involved in the project an opportunity to meet face to face to discuss an overview of the project, how it was proceeding, along with an update of recent activities and roundtable discussions. These roundtable discussions included opportunities to speak about lessons learned, ways to build community engagement, community capacity and next steps.

The second day focused on the official launch of Inuit Cancer Projects newest resources. Unuusinni Aqqusaaqtara – My Journey is a collection of resources to help increase Inuit knowledge about cancer, encourage lifestyle changes, and provide tangible supports to those facing cancer. The resources, which are available in English and regional dialects of Inuktitut, include:

  • A booklet that helps you learn more about cancer.
  • A booklet that helps you through your diagnosis from what questions to ask, to giving you space for writing your thoughts.
  • Cancer Journey Videos from others who are facing or have faced a cancer diagnosis.
  • An interactive map that allows you to find information on where to access treatment.
  • And finally, treatment plan sheets that can help you keep track of your appointments.

You can find all of these valuable resources at the Pauktuutit website here. These resources, along with Kaggutig Inuit Cancer Glossary – the first resource to be developed from this project, are designed to ensure that Inuit, like all Canadians, will have access to accurate cancer information. The resources created as a result of this project are beautifully produced and will hopefully continue to help facilitate positive change in how Inuit people are able to access and experience cancer care – no matter where they are.

It was an incredible honour and opportunity to represent CBCN at this meeting and participate in this rich cultural experience. It feels to me that the Inuit are a strong, resilient, precious people struggling to come to terms with huge changes in their environmental and social landscapes.  Cancer is a difficult thing to deal with no matter where we are in the country, but it is especially hard when many have to leave their communities and their homes to travel south in order to access necessary treatments and supports for their illness. The importance of the work that Pauktuutit is doing in the north on many fronts is astounding.  Like so many women across the world they are involved in the important work, the hard work, of community building in the face of many social pressures and issues faced by their people.

I’m sure I met some of the most incredible people I will ever meet in my lifetime. I saw, just briefly, one of the most beautiful places in the country, even as it struggles to find it’s new place in the world and I’m hoping to pass along all of that wonder and hope to the nursing students I work with, so they can develop a deeper appreciation for the beauty and the complexity of living and working in the north.