Alone no more
'Meryl from the North' takes a break

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 09/00) - Meryl Falconer can remember a time when she felt like the only volunteer working with breast cancer patients in the North.

"In 1993, I went to the National Forum on Breast Cancer. I met people who survived breast cancer, doctors, nurses and health professionals," she said.

"But I was the only person who attended from the Northwest Territories. People would meet me and say, 'Oh, you're Meryl from the North.'"

'Meryl from the North' will soon be taking a well-earned break from her breast health advocacy. Now that the NWT Breast Cancer/ Breast Health Action Group is thriving, she can take a step back.

"The committee is doing an excellent job in the areas of breast cancer and breast health," she said.

"I think it's a good time for me to step back and let them go on."

There was a point when the long-time Yellowknifer was the sole breast cancer support volunteer in town. She took Reach to Recovery, a breast cancer support training program, in Edmonton about five years after she lost a breast due to cancer. Being the only volunteer soon became overwhelming, Falconer said.

"I went away to the UK and four women had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the month I was away," Falconer said.

"That made me realize many more people needed to become involved in support."

That's when the NWT Council on the Status of Women stepped into the picture and the action group began to form, Falconer said.

"I think I stopped being Meryl of the North when Status of Women began to be involved in 1995," she said.

"One thing we started to do was get people at the national conferences and working in support."

Falconer was honoured for her dedication to supporting breast cancer patients and survivors Saturday by the action group.

"She has planted the seed we are nurturing today and which we hope will grow and thrive for the future health and well-being of Northern women," said action group member Judy Williams.

Falconer said the group will do good work.

"There are several women who have had breast cancer and survived it (in the group)," she said.

"Their experience will help them understand other women who have breast cancer."