Pandemic closes charity supporting Gatineau cancer patients

The pandemic has forced a charity in Gatineau, Que., Which provides support services to cancer patients, to close its doors forever from December.

The CARMEN Center, which opened in 2004, said attendance has “dropped significantly” over the past 19 months.

“We are aware that customers are scared due to coronavirus and various variants of COVID-19,” Nicole Boudreau, Chair of the Board of the CARMEN Center, wrote in a French statement.

The center offers services that help with pain management and mental health – such as massage and art therapy – for free. It worked exclusively on donations without state support.

Although the center has tried to adapt to the circumstances of the pandemic, the center said they no longer had staff or patients to justify staying open.

Center tried to adapt during pandemic

Boudreau said the center 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 that the center was closing because it was a place for her and other cancer patients to find solidarity and support.

“You’re here with other people who feel exactly the way you do,” 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 we have,” she said.

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

For Anna Gavazzi, the center 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 that no other organization offers similar services in the Gatineau area.

In his statement, Boudreau said the board will meet with Western Quebec Health Authority, Outaouais Integrated Health and Social Services Center (CISSSO), to see if the Center’s services could be offered by other organizations in the region.

The center plans to stay open until December 16th.

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