After months of preparation and planning (and a short delay at the airport), the Canada Air jet touched down on an unseasonably warm summer afternoon in Toronto. I was grateful to be chauffeured from the airport by my PULSE “Buddy”, and have consistently been welcomed by friendly, helpful people who speak my language in surroundings not too dissimilar from what I’m accustomed to. In comparison to some of my PULSE volunteer colleagues who are scattered worldwide, I realize that my “culture shock” may be minimal. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t adjustments! After 20+ years at GSK, I didn’t realize just how entrenched I was in my comfort zone.
My first days at the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) consisted of a sea of new roles, faces, and names (I confess my name recognition skills are sorely lacking at the moment.) Then there are the seemingly unlimited cancer information resources internally and on the Cancer.ca website for me to learn about — the volume and depth of which are virtually boundless. Having worked from home for decades, I knew an office setting surrounded by coworkers would be an adjustment. I also anticipated a learning curve with respect to cancer and the mission of the CCS. However, as a relatively recent cancer survivor who has lost both parents to cancer, I did not anticipate the emotional jolt that would come with the content of my daily activities. Reminders are before me every step of the way. The lump in my throat and tear-filled eyes have done little to aid me in my attempts to absorb and retain information.
The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) has made cancer prevention a priority, most recently with the development of a Prevention Strategy to coordinate their cancer prevention activities across Canada. To that end, my role as a PULSE volunteer will be to provide support to effectively address the broad scope of cancer prevention with a focus on healthy living (healthy eating, physical activity, body weight, alcohol) both internally for CCS and also for external audiences such as the policy makers, the media, and the public.
Feeling both privileged and intimidated to be a part of this invaluable effort with far-reaching implications, I am certainly outside my realm. So much to learn and take in!