Saturday, 7 Dec 2019

How Jeffrey the sheep helps Alberta cancer survivors find their flock

Jeffrey the sheep stopped by Wellspring Edmonton to bring art supplies and smiles to about a dozen Alberta women.

The ladies use Jeffrey’s wool for felting — a form of art using soap, water, natural fibers and a lot of elbow grease.

The class is one of many non-medical support programs offered by Wellspring for people who have been diagnosed with cancer, or their caregivers.

“I always think we have a pharmacy here,” said Dr. Marilyn Hundleby, pointing to her head.

“We have the ability to produce endorphins when we do things we enjoy doing… when we laugh and when we’re distracted, when we’re immersed in something, we forget about our pain.”

The felting class started less than a year ago but Hundleby, a psychologist and Wellspring’s program director, says the participants already have a special bond.

“They’re probably women that may not normally have come together,” said Hundleby.

“They’re all very different but they have connected and meshed in a remarkable way that actually gives you shivers.”

Breast cancer survivor Sue Neumann says busy hands and a safe space helped her to open up. Early on, she found herself sharing more with fellow participants than she intended to.

“The love and support they gave me and the understanding for… my deepest darkest secrets was really enlightening and inspiring,” said Neumann.

“It’s a safe landing pad.”

Jeffrey the sheep visits guests of Wellspring Edmonton.

Sandy Lansdown lost her 23-year-old grandson, Brandon Dobinson, to osteosarcoma in 2014. Then her son, former Edmonton Oilers video coach and practice goalie, Brian Ross, died last year.

Lansdown says her felting group gives her a reason to get out of bed.

“This is a healing group. It’s just amazing,” said Lansdown.

The group created a piece for the Cross Cancer Institute which depicts some lonely sheep who finally found their flock. Lansdown says that’s their group.

“We can’t figure out what to call the bond that we have… I don’t know where I’d be without (them).”

All Wellspring programs are free. The centre is supported by community donations.

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