Cancer Society closes office leaving resource without a home in Penticton

With the closure of the Canadian Cancer Society office in Penticton, another valuable resource was left without a home.

Co-ordinator Evelyn Markin of Mirror Image Room with some of the wigs and head coverings available for people undergoing cancer treatment. The organization is looking for a new location after the closure of the Penticton Canadian Cancer Society office.

Co-ordinator Evelyn Markin of Mirror Image Room with some of the wigs and head coverings available for people undergoing cancer treatment. The organization is looking for a new location after the closure of the Penticton Canadian Cancer Society office.

With the closure of the Canadian Cancer Society office in Penticton, another valuable resource was left without a home.

Mirror Image Room provided wigs and head coverings, free of charge, to people in the South Okanagan-Similkameen that are losing their hair while going through chemotherapy. Once located in a downtown building, now all the supplies sit unused in a storage space.

“The closure is very impactful. Wigs are expensive to begin with and for somebody on a limited income going through the stress of a cancer diagnosis, it is a horrendous thing,” said Evelyn Markin, Mirror Image co-ordinator. “While going through chemotherapy the last thing they can deal with is trying to find money for a wig or head covering.”

Undergoing re-structuring, the Canadian Cancer Society eliminated many smaller offices — considering them not financially viable. Mirror Image Room was cut, leaving the next closest office in Kelowna.

Markin said she was surprised the Penticton office closed and without it other programs and fundraising campaigns most likely will fold.

“What we won’t be seeing anymore is the big daffodil campaign with the pins and so on unless they find somebody to run it out of their house. It takes quite a few people to get organized and run smoothly,” said Markin, adding that they raised $100,000 out of the Penticton office last year. “We tried so hard to save it. We found cheaper rent at a wonderful place on Martin Street, but despite the efforts the Cancer Society decided to close.”

In a letter from Faye Wightman, interim CEO in Vancouver, Markin was told cancer cases in Canada are expected to rise 40 per cent in the next 15 years.

“The society is undertaking a review of all of our operations across the country to ensure we are a sustainable organization that can meet the rising demand for our services as well as the need to invest in research,” said Wightman in the letter.

Wightman said it was a difficult decision, but around 20 per cent of the money donated by Penticton residents was going to cover the costs of the office space.

“We believe we can better use that money and have a greater impact in the fight against cancer,” Wightman said in the letter.

Markin, who volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society for about six years, believes the office is a huge loss to the community. Not only did the Mirror Image program run out of the office, helping about 50 people a year, but she said a lot of in-memoriam donations came through there and there were several support systems to get people connected to information on dealing with their diagnosis.

“They said more people are donating online now, but doing our door-to-door campaign we certainly didn’t find that,” Markin said.

The main concern is having a comfortable and private place, accessible for those living in the South Okanagan, to use the Mirror Image services. Markin said there is currently a small wig area in the Penticton hospital but it is self-serve and in a very public area.

“The difference being that people booked a time with us and we would provide a private fitting with different styles and colours. We also made sure it fit properly,” said Markin. “I believe all of our volunteers that worked in the program have all been through a cancer diagnosis and could relate to those using the service.”

The Penticton School of Hair owner, Nancy Fletcher, also donated time so once a wig was found they could visit a stylist to have it cut to their preference.

Markin is hoping a more private space will be allocated in the new Penticton Regional Hospital patient care tower. Until then, she is pleading to the public for a 12×12 room with access to a washroom that could be donated to Mirror Image. Appointments would be one afternoon per week.

“We are very quiet tenants and can be tucked away in a back room that maybe someone isn’t using in their office. We need it to be handicap accessible,” said Markin.

If you have an office, business or building that can offer free space contact aemark@shaw.ca.