Back in 2007, Sophie discovered she had breast cancer. The news terrified her. Sophie’s first question was, “Why me? Why do I have to have it?” She broke down in tears and called her husband with the news. Not long after, Sophie made the long journey from Northern Québec to Montreal where she would receive chemotherapy.
“The most difficult part when you are diagnosed with disease is you have to travel many miles from the North to the Southern regions to be cared for,” Sophie explained. There are no oncologists or other specialists where Sophie lives. She and many other Inuit living in Northern regions of Canada have no other choice but to travel hundreds of miles from home to receive care when dealing with cancer.
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The distance is always hard on Inuit going for cancer treatment. But after all the miles travelled, more obstacles await Sophie and others. In major cities across Canada, it’s nearly impossible to find healthcare providers who speak Inuktut.
“It can be very scary for Inuit with cancer going for treatment,” said Rebecca Kudloo, the president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. “It can also be a very isolating experience.”
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That’s why the Canadian Cancer Society has collaborated with Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. Together, we’ve created Inuusinni Aqqusaaqtara – My Journey, an online and printed resource to help support Inuit like Sophie at every stage of their journey with cancer.
The booklets are available in English and 3 Inuit dialects spoken in Arctic Canada. They will help Inuit living with cancer during their diagnosis, all the way through to treatment. The resources also include a cancer glossary in all 5 dialects, which can be used by people with cancer, families, doctors and oncologists.
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada have also produced a series of cancer journey videos like Sophie’s, geared toward Inuit with cancer and their families. These are recorded by survivors, specialists and doctors to offer hope, guidance and support along the journey. And as Sophie explains, she was more than willing to share her story about breast cancer with others who may be facing a similar situation.
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Unfortunately, Inuit have a higher death rate from cancer than other Canadians. Many factors contribute to these high rates, like limited access to cancer-related information that is culturally appropriate. Resources like Inuusinni Aqqusaaqtara – My Journey are meant to spread awareness among Inuit and to keep the conversation growing.
Just over 47,000 people living in 51 communities in Inuvialuit (NWT), Nunavut, Nunavik (Northern Québec) and Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador) will benefit from this project.