Pandemic closes charity that supports Gatineau cancer patients

The pandemic has forced a charity in Gatineau, Que., that provides support services for cancer patients to close its doors for good as of December.

Charity provided massage and art therapy as part of its services

The CARMEN Centre in Gatineau, Que., has announced it will close it doors for good as of Dec. 16. (Radio-Canada)

The pandemic has forced a charity in Gatineau, Que., that provides support services for cancer patients to close its doors for good as of December.

The CARMEN Centre, which opened in 2004, said participation has "declined considerably" over the past 19 months.

"We are aware that customers are fearful due to the coronavirus and different variants of COVID-19," Nicole Boudreau, president of the board of directors of the CARMEN Centre, wrote in a French statement.

The centre offers services that help with pain management and mental health — such as massage and art therapy — free of charge. It solely operated on donations with no government subsidies.

Although attempts were made by the centre to adapt to the circumstance of the pandemic, the centre said they no longer had the staff or patients to justify staying open.

Centre tried to adapt during pandemic

Boudreau said the centre used various strategies such as teleconferencing to maintain its services, but participation did not improve.

Danielle Young said it was a "sad day" to find out the centre was closing because it was a place for her and other cancer patients to find solidarity and support.

"You are here with other people who are feeling exactly the way you feel," she said.

The art therapy was especially helpful in helping her wrap her head around her cancer diagnosis, Young said.

"It helps to navigate all the emotions and feelings that we have," she said.

Danielle Young said the CARMEN Centre was a place for cancer patients to seek solidarity and support. (Radio-Canada)

For Anna Gavazzi, the centre completely changed her perspective on her terminal cancer diagnosis.

"I wanted to live," she said. "I can do something with my life, I'm not just a sick person."

Young and Gavazzi each said no other organization offers similar services in the Gatineau area.

In her statement, Boudreau said the board of directors will meet with western Quebec's health authority, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO), to see if the centre's services could be offered by other organizations in the region.

The centre plans to remain open until Dec. 16.

With files from Laurie Trudel


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