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Central Alberta women rely on Sorrentino’s Compassion House during cancer treatment in Edmonton

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Pins in a map at Sorrentino’s Compassion House in Edmonton shows all the Alberta communities where women have come from who have stayed at the facility while receiving cancer treatment. (Photo from Compassion House Foundation on Facebook)

Women in Central Alberta receiving cancer care in Edmonton say Sorrentino’s Compassion House is more than a home away from home.

Missy Foley, who stayed at Compassion House for five weeks while receiving treatment for cervical cancer at Cross Cancer Institute that wasn’t available in Red Deer, said the friendship of other women with cancer at the house was amazing.

“It’s a different kind of support. It’s irreplaceable,” said Foley, of Red Deer.

The Edmonton facility, funded by donations, provides affordable short or longer-term accommodations to women who live a minimum of 50 km outside of that city who are receiving cancer treatment or have appointments in Alberta’s capital.

She said the majority of women at the house had breast cancer while she was there, but she also met a few who had cervical cancer.

“When you’re dealing with a more rare cancer, you don’t come across a lot of people face-to-face who have experienced the same kind of treatment and side effects.”

Plus, Foley was also able to avoid highway driving when temperatures dropped below -40 C.

Over the past 20 years, Sorrentino’s Compassion House has welcomed 129 guests from 23 communities in and around Red Deer.


Jacqueline Foord, executive director of the Compassion House Foundation, said there is a real feeling of strength that develops among the women who spend time together at Compassion House which plays a role in healing.

“The real secret sauce of this place is the community that the women build themselves,” said Foord who spoke at the Women Leading Change conference organized by Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce that was held Sept. 19.

She said there is a financial burden that comes with a cancer diagnosis and she worries that sometimes women make decisions about treatment based on whether they can afford accommodations to access services.

The demand at Sorrentino’s Compassion House has increased after a lull during the pandemic and is expected to continue to grow, said Foord about the 16-unit facility that was almost full on Wednesday.

She said Cross Canada Institute is also going to substantially increase its number of clinical trials and it’s important for people outside of Edmonton to be part of those trials.

Compassion House originally opened to serve women with breast cancer, but is now available to women with any type of cancer.

“If they have to travel, then there’s a bed here for them,” Foord said.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and one in seven women in Alberta will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

“This is a chilling reality for the women in our lives – our family members, partners, mothers, friends and daughters,” said Health Minister Adriana LaGrange, in a statement.

She urged women to prioritize getting regular mammograms because it could save their lives.

“When breast cancer is detected early, there are more innovative treatments available, more choices for care and more hope for a positive outcome for you and your loved ones. Screening services are accessible provincewide and can detect cancer long before symptoms manifest.”

Red Deer’s Canadian Cancer Society CIBC Run for the Cure, held on Oct. 1, raised more than $46,000 for breast cancer research and support for those affected by breast cancer thanks to over 200 participants.

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