Having the love of your family as you battle breast cancer is a wonderful thing. But for Patti, who feels blessed to have lived at Compassion House during her radiation treatment in Edmonton, it’s all about the sisterhood.
“I had a friend who stayed at Compassion House and so I was lucky to know about it when I was diagnosed,” Patti says, her voice brimming with emotion. “My husband and I had just moved our automotive business into a bigger, new shop and he wasn’t able to leave the business to come with me. But a girlfriend gave up her life for two and a half months to come and stay with me and that made all the difference in the world.”
Having that support helped Patti get in the right frame of mind for the fight of her life, and it’s the reason why Patti continues to stay involved, visiting the house and staying in touch with the women who touched her life so profoundly.
“It’s scary at first – when I checked it out there were all these women in wigs, some were very sick from chemotherapy, but after spending a few minutes with the staff I wasn’t scared anymore,” Patti confides. “It feels so much like home and yet it’s also like staying at a resort, just without the pool and the sand. The house is beautiful; there’s a library, a music room, an exercise room to keep your body and mind focused.”
Patti describes how the kitchen at Compassion House is a centre of gravity; a place where everyone can come and socialize and share their strength.
“I met this woman in her eighties who had stayed at the house numerous times. She’s legally blind, but she was so positive – such an inspiration to us to keep on fighting no matter what. We still keep in close touch and we recently celebrated her 85th birthday.”
This idea of Compassion House as a ‘surrogate family’ comes up again and again as we talk to the women who have called the house home over the years. Patti emphasizes the spirit of Compassion House, a sense of belonging that keeps everything in perspective.
“Coming home, my friends just couldn’t believe how happy and positive I was. Compassion House gave me strength all week so that I could share it with my family on the weekends. And I would say hey, I’m still above ground. I’m still fighting and loving life.”
Like many Compassion House alumni, Patti has been thrilled to participate in the annual Fashion for Compassion event, raising awareness and much-needed funding to support this very special place.
“It feels so good to go to these shops and pick up these beautiful clothes and shoes. We get treated like queens. And to model with all these gorgeous men from New York -- it took everything I had just to keep it together on the runway. To feel the love of a thousand perfect strangers in the audience, it’s just an indescribable feeling.”
Patti reinforces the fundamental principle behind the house – “It is so important to be in a good place when you are going through such a bad thing. Women need a place to be allowed to talk about it. We need to be treated with respect and dignity. We’re still the same people, even if we’re missing a body part of two.”
It’s this kind of pride that makes Compassion House such a special place. Sisterhood, as the saying goes, is a powerful thing indeed.