It was in 2006 when Ingrid received her breast cancer diagnosis. At the time, she was living in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories—1,400 kms away from Edmonton. Since her treatments couldn’t be done in the North, she had to travel back and forth to Edmonton for chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. While chemo and surgery only required short stays, she would need to stay in Edmonton a total of six weeks for radiation treatments at the Cross Cancer Institute.
Without family to stay with, Ingrid began searching for a comfortable place to stay during those long six weeks. That’s when she found Sorrentino’s Compassion House.
“It was such a fantastic home away from home, and it also gave me a family away from home,” Ingrid said. “That was really therapeutic at a time where you’re going through treatment and you’re not sure about a lot of things, or how you’re going to make it through this.”
Fast-forward to summer of 2017 and sadly, Ingrid’s cancer had returned. This time, it had metastasized in her bones. “After ten years, you figure ‘I’m in the clear.’ I wasn’t in very good shape.”
At the Cross, they asked Ingrid if she would consider a clinical trial, and she agreed. This would mean that Ingrid needed to once again travel to Edmonton multiple times between 2017 and 2019.
“That clinical trial really saved my life, and Sorrentino’s Compassion House really saved me in terms of my mental wellbeing and the comradeship with the other ladies in the House. I met so many wonderful women, very inspiring and courageous women, all going through different types of treatment,” she said.
“It was a real haven for us undergoing treatment far from home.”
Now retired and living near Edmonton, Ingrid was invited to become a Compassion Network Ambassador in December of 2021, supporting women staying at the House who are going through a similar journey. “I always wanted to give back if I could,” she said. “I was really delighted to be invited and hope I can make a good contribution.”
One of those contributions included participating in last year’s first ever Walk Her Way 5K fundraiser. “I signed up with my team which was my husband, my daughter, and her fiancé. Our team was called ‘1,400 KMs From Home.’”
After sharing the fundraiser on Facebook to raise awareness, Ingrid was blown away by the generosity of others who gave to Compassion House Foundation. “I was overwhelmed by the support of family and friends. And even some people I didn’t really know that well, but who had perhaps experienced cancer in their families and understood the importance of having a home like Sorrentino’s Compassion House to help me through this journey.”
Walk Her Way 5K participants had the opportunity to say who they were walking for, and Ingrid decided she would walk for a friend she had made in the House, Joanne Gill from Cold Lake. “She was such a character, lots of energy,” she said. “I just loved being around her. Sadly she passed away last year, so I walked in her memory.”
Ingrid will be walking again for our second annual Walk Her Way 5K, once again for Joanne. “The comradeship at the House is wonderful. It’s not all sad; we actually laughed quite a lot,” she said. “Joanne certainly had a great sense of humour, and she’d wear these crazy coloured wigs. She was generous, compassionate, and a very warm person. I’m so thankful to have met her and happy to walk in her honour.”
During her time at the House, Ingrid would often walk to the Cross Cancer Institute for appointments instead of taking the shuttle van. She found it empowering. “I love walking; I find it’s very meditative. A lot of things are taken away from you in terms of your time with cancer, whereas when you’re at the House, you feel more enlivened. It was healing.”
Ingrid encourages others to join Walk Her Way 5K this year, whether it be for themselves or someone they know who has been affected by cancer. “You hear the word ‘cancer’ and it’s such a terrible thing to hear, and it’s a very hard journey to go through. To have a home like Sorrentino’s Compassion House available for women who have to leave their home and undergo treatment, it’s such a comfort.”
“It helps to ease the really hard journey that you’re on. I think it also provides relief to families to know that their loved ones have a home like this to go to.”