In January 2018 just days after celebrating her son’s first birthday, Rhea Sengupta was diagnosed at Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) with an aggressive form of breast cancer that would require over a year-and-half of rigorous treatment.
After having surgery to remove a fist-sized tumor from her breast, she began chemotherapy at MSH’s The Shakir Rehmatullah Cancer Clinic. As a 39-year-old mother of two young children, she was determined to fight for her life. However, she was not prepared for the feelings of isolation and powerlessness that would soon wash over her.
“Cancer cost me my health, my freedom, my financial stability and had fractured my connections with my husband, family and friends,” Rhea said. “The grief was all encompassing.”
During her 18-month cancer treatment, Rhea experienced a mental health crisis. She was referred to MSH’s outpatient mental health team where she was supported by crisis worker, Len Pierce and social worker and psychotherapist, Jennifer Muir. Subsequently, she sought more long-term support through a 20-week interpersonal psychotherapy women’s group and continued trauma therapy.
“Every single team member at MSH taught me ways to cope with the uncertain and I am so grateful to them,” Rhea said. “Each one of them and so many others have played a role in saving my life.”
Group therapy is offered through MSH’s Women’s Wellness Clinic which is supported by the Run for Women, brought to you by the LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ program. Now more than ever, these services are needed to ensure that women struggling with their mental health are supported, especially during these unprecedented times.
This fall, the Run for Women Unionville returns, but with a twist, for the first-ever virtual event on September 27. The virtual run supports women like Rhea, ensuring that every woman cared for at MSH – where women comprise more than half the patients seeking mental health care – receives the care and help they need to lead them down the path to mental wellness.
“Enjoy the moments you have because nothing is guaranteed,” is the advice Rhea shares with her family and friends. “Help people when you can, ask for help when you need it. Be vulnerable. Listen carefully. And above all, love. Love. Always love.”