Piecing things together

Abbey Macey shares what has helped her to piece things together, years down the line from a childhood cancer diagnosis in the family

A photo of Abbey in a forest (taken at the 2023 She Can retreat). She has her right foot on a log and her hands by her side. She's smiling at the camera. Her t shirt says "Empowered women empower women"

My name is Abbey. In 2006, my older brother was diagnosed with a childhood cancer and my family’s life changed. Even after my brother finished his treatment, we’ve stayed pretty involved with the community that comes with a childhood cancer diagnosis. We all volunteer, speak up, and stay connected in different ways. I’m currently working as an elementary school teacher and help with out with a few different youth groups


Let me tell you a little about my connection with WCK.


How I first got involved with WCK

My family and I met Shannon (WCK Executive Director) and Russell (WCK Board Member) at Camp Goodtimes. We found out about WCK through them when it was getting started in 2017.


As a family, we got involved with Smoothie Sundays, where we met families in the hospital and made nourishing smoothies for them. Mom and I also volunteered at the first City Camp in 2019.

A menu from the original 2019 WCK Smoothie Sundays. The options show "frozen mangoes, frozen berries, banana, plain yogurt, vanilla yogurt, spinach, almond milk, water, orange juice."

Why that time was special


For us, it was so important to remain involved and to support other families. We see the families who are just starting this experience and hope it can be healing for them to get to see what my family is doing 17 years later.


Smoothie Sundays mattered because my whole family could do it together. Caleb was sick before my younger brother turned a year old, so he doesn’t have memories of that time. There is no before for him. When we talk about what it was like, he can feel left out. I like that the WCK activities give him new experiences of us all doing and talking about things together.

Abbey in a group activity at City Camp, with four other volunteers visible, and the back of a child's head visible. They are sitting in a circle on the floor of a gym hall, Abbey is holding an inflatable beach ball and talking to the group.

Seeing the beginnings of a new City Camp program was so great. The biggest thing was seeing so many kids on treatment getting the experience of camp. So many things can come from diagnosis. For example, you might have to wait until your counts are up or your immune system is strong enough to join in with most things.


Because City Camp is designed to include children on active treatment, these kids didn’t have to wait. They could get that full kids being kids experience, just having fun and hanging around.

I loved seeing all the behind-the-scenes of what goes into City Camp. WCK superstar volunteer Dan making all the wood pieces, volunteers setting up, high school students doing their training, people sponsoring it.


The ratio of team members to kids was really great – it meant that you got to know your kid really well. I remember my kid I worked with so well, even to this day. 

Abbey taking part in a City Camp activity, sitting on the floor of a gym hall with two kids sitting next to her. Abbey is wearing a toy tiara on her head.

The program I joined

Abbey standing against a teal coloured cabin-style building, with her hands behind her back and one leg crossed in front of the other. She is smiling at the camera.

I first heard about the She Can program (now known as The Club) on Instagram – I saw a post about it from WCK. Then I got an email, too. As a sibling, when I see these programs being offered, I often think it’s probably not for me. 


However, my friend Simran was working as the She Can Program Assistant at that time. She and I were messaging, and I asked “Is this group for siblings too?” I got more info from her and then I knew I could sign up. When I went to fill out the registration form, there was a question about which option best describes you, and being a sibling wasn’t a listed option. I emailed someone at WCK about it – they fixed it right away, and I signed up.

Why I gave it a try


Any time I see a program that involves siblings, I want to do it. Especially in the last few years, I’ve been starting to make sense of when Caleb was sick, do some healing, and come to terms with what happened. It felt so quick at the time, so I was actively looking for things to help me with this work. 


Finding support for the challenges after treatment/remission is difficult, so when I saw the She Can program, I felt I needed to do it. As someone in my almost mid-twenties, some of the practical, everyday things they covered, like financial workshops, really spoke to me. I have an anxiety disorder, so finding wellness and coping strategies always helps. The offerings about dealing with stress hit close to home. I thought, “I need those.”

I was also looking for more opportunities to be with others in a group space, and including people who are non-binary was special. It checked off a lot of boxes that I was looking for. Out of everything, including siblings was the biggest thing for me. 


We didn’t talk much about cancer in the workshops, so I didn’t know if other siblings were present. I knew of one other sibling at the retreat, but they were there with their sibling who had a diagnosis. I felt some imposter syndrome because of that. 


Whenever I feel that imposter syndrome, the thing that helps the most is talking to my brother about it. We talk very openly about when he was sick, and he’s so good at validating my experience. Him and my mom.

A group photo of She Can participants and facilitators in front of the Camp Capilano building where they stayed.

What stuck with me


I remember this activity where we wrote from the perspective of our inner critic – the worst thing you think about yourself. For me, a big thing is when people say “You’ve got to fight that critic,” but I don’t know how to because it’s really loud. We learned to break it down one piece at a time. Rather than taking it all down at once, we focused on “Ok, let’s look at this first, and then go onto the next part.” It became much easier to challenge the thoughts. 


I still think about that activity a lot. A couple of days ago, I found what I wrote for that activity. I remembered how I felt while I was writing it, and I could see how far I’ve come from then.

Abbey standing with her arms round two other She Can participants. A forest is visible in the background.

The retreat was amazing. It was so nice to meet new people and revive old connections. We were only there for two days, but everybody got very close. It was such a mix of people, but there was never any sense of expectation. If you needed to go take a nap, that wasn’t a problem.


I still talk to a bunch of people who were there. People who have been through something like we have are so in tune with other people and how they feel, at least in my experience. They understand when you’re tired and you need an hour alone.

What had the most impact


For me, the biggest thing was unpacking the time Caleb had been sick. Being with a group of people who understand cancer was healing. I relish any opportunity I have to be in those spaces. Usually it just happens in the summer with camps, but this was a chance to do it in the middle of the year. It lined up with being exactly what I needed at that point in time. 


The monthly online meetings were easy to fit into my schedule. They spaced everything out so we could exist in that space together, but we didn’t have to wait too long for the next chance to connect.


What I want donors to know

These sorts of programs that combine people actively on treatment and people post-treatment are pretty rare. The Zoom option makes it so accessible if you’re not able to be around other people. These programs are the most valuable because when we were going through it, being able to see people who were out of treatment was so helpful. 


Having spaces where there’s no need to explain yourself makes a difference. I’m not labelled as “the sister of the kid who had cancer.” For some in the group, being a girl who had cancer was such an isolating experience, and this program brought much-needed connection. Please keep funding this!

Abbey with family and WCK friends, holding up a large cheque for WCK. They are at Hasting Racecourse for a community day event.

How I see WCK learning and growing

Abbey helping to deliver PJs to WCK families. She's holding up two carrier bags full of PJs and wearing a long coat. She is wearing a face mask. She is in the WCK office surrounded by packaged PJs with WCK stickers on the packages.
Abbey helping to deliver PJs to WCK families.

WCK talks to families about what they need. It’s also one of the best places I’ve ever seen for taking and applying feedback. When I sent the email about adding a sibling option to the signup form for my group, they fixed it right away.  


At the end of every day at City Camp, we would review anything that needed to be adjusted for the next day. The WCK team has always been open to hearing my thoughts. They always encourage us to do the surveys and tell them what we really think. So don’t be afraid to say it!

What I want others to know about the club


Take advantage of it! Go to as many workshops as you can, even if you think you won’t be interested in the topic. Something will stick out for you. Listening to others talk was really great, and hearing from knowledgeable speakers was helpful. 


Especially for siblings, this is a space where you are wanted. Know that. You are not impeding on anybody. This is a program that is made for you to be included.


Here for the whole family

Abbey benefited from a WCK program as a sibling, and many years after her brother's cancer treatment. Family members can experience challenges at different points in the journey, and in different ways. That's why our support isn't only for those on treatment. Find out more about who WCK supports.