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History of Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre

Sandy Cornell from GBCSC on Vimeo.

The Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre (GBCSC) was founded by Sandy Cornell, a cancer survivor.

Sandy Cornell was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in May 2008. At that time, she was an active and committed community volunteer, drawing on her background as a both a registered nurse and interior designer. A love of her work and her nurturing nature led her to projects with Hospice Huronia and Physicians Recruitment, to name but two.

When cancer struck, Sandy was determined to fight – to live and to have a full and meaningful life. She also felt if she did not survive that her fight would not be without a purpose. Sandy had the complete and devoted support of her husband, George, her children, Lindsay and Matthew, her extended family and her network of friends.

But something was missing. Not being well enough to travel outside the community for help, Sandy lacked the opportunity to connect with and learn from those who were going through the same fight. And there came the seed that grew into the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre.

After her third treatment, Sandy began the work. It started with informal inquiries of people in her community. Each and every person she approached strongly agreed that there was a need for an organization designed to deliver cancer support services in the community. Strengthened by these responses, Sandy resolved to create just such a centre in North Simcoe.

After allowing herself one year to heal after treatment, and with the help of a friend and donor, Sandy gathered a group of skilled community leaders who could contribute to the development of her vision.

An informal board was struck in January 2010 and, later in that same year, a formal board was formed. A name was chosen that would clearly tell the community what we are and who we support –the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre.

The Centre was registered as a not-for-profit in 2010 and became a registered charity in 2011. In March of 2011, the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre welcomed its first members in the former convent quarters at the Georgian Bay General Hospital Penetanguishene site.

Sandy got sick and a whole community got better.

How it all began…

Sandy and George in the BoatI have always thrived on making life better for others, as a mother, wife, nurse and friend.  I am not afraid to fight for what I believe in and stand up for those that can’t stand on their own.  I spent a lifetime worrying for and taking care of others.  When I found my tumour and soon after was diagnosed with cancer, suddenly, the nurse became the patient and the mother needed to be cared for.  I was scared beyond description and could hardly breathe, but I looked across at my husband, George, and had hope that we would make it through this.

Immediately, my family became my rock, especially George.  They built me a deck at our home that faced out to Georgian Bay and called it the “recovery deck”.  During my treatment I would sit and enjoy sunsets on this deck and pray for the strength and courage I needed to continue on.  I would hope for the day I would watch my children get married and meet my first grandchild.  George would often come out to remind me that I would survive, that he loved me, and that I was beautiful (I loved him for his poker face).  My children would call me and cry with me, which I was always relieved to hear, because tears were healthy and I needed to know they were dealing with this crisis and the scars would be minimal.

Both my mother and older sister are cancer survivors and when I looked at them I saw hope.  I realized how powerful it was to be able to share my fears with those who had been through what I was experiencing.  I was also blessed with a loving and devoted group of friends whose laughter gave me hope when it was slipping away.  It was at this point that I realized part of my survival plan was to make this challenge count for something.  I craved information on the impacts of cancer because the more I learned the stronger I was emotionally.  Before treatment ended I decided I was going to start a local cancer support centre.

Today, I am blessed.  With the help of many of my angels, including Reinhart Weber and Nicola and Andrew Combes, I have founded the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre and I just passed my 5 year cancer free mark.  I am full of hope every time I walk into the Centre and see members leaning on one another and sharing their strength when someone needs it.  A cancer diagnosis can take so much from you, I am proud to have been given the strength from my family and friends, to forge on and fight for what I believe in.

Sandy Cornell

Charitable Reg. # 840027205 RC 0001