Cancer survivor knows the importance of support and advice

Published: April 17, 2014

Pictured here are the 2013 facilitators of the Team Salama Women’s Cancer Support Group. Submitted photo.

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 52, Burnaby’s Leila Dawood-Munier considers herself fortunate to have had such a strong support network.

“Lots of family and friends were very good to me,” she told Vancouver Desi, recalling her battle with cancer 15 years ago.

Though she was diagnosed in the fall of 1998, it wasn’t until she completed her radiation and chemotherapy in the summer of 1999 that she finally went to a support group.

“When I did find a support group and started going, it was quite a revelation,” she said. “You make friends, you learn new things every time.”

“So I somehow felt that I needed to give back.”

She immediately got involved with the Canadian Cancer Society as a peer counsellor, which ultimately led to the creation of a cancer support group for Ismaili women, the Team Salama Women’s Cancer Support Group, which she founded with four other cancer survivors.

Although Dawood-Munier had a solid support network during her treatment, she admits the experience was still “pretty horrendous.”

“It’s very overwhelming because you go to the doctor thinking everything is fine,” she said.

“You don’t understand what they’re telling you, there’s all these new names for the disease and things that are going to happen to you.

“People are telling you different things … you lose the sense of reality and you don’t realize what’s going on.”

As a result, she felt “very lost and alone,” which is why going to a support group is so important, she said.

Team Salama Women’s Cancer Support Group meets with about 25 women once a month in Burnaby.

At the meetings Dawood-Munier and the other founders help counsel cancer patients, survivors and their families, and also offer a range of resources from how to travel to and from appointments to where to purchase wigs or get fitted for a bra.

Over the past 13 years, Team Salama has raised more than $275,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society through Relay for Life and fundraising galas.

The group will hold its fifth annual gala dinner at Surrey’s Crown Royal Banquet Hall on April 26, with all funds going towards cancer research and Camp Good Times, a camp that provides a relaxing atmosphere for young cancer patients and their families. Although the gala dinner is sold out, Team Salama is still accepting donations at teamsalama.com.

lcahute@vancouverdesi.com

twitter.com/larissacahute

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