Rosemary Walker is passionate about two things: canning preserves and jams and helping those who are ill tell their life stories.
This weekend, Walker will have the opportunity to do both at the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope at Royal Roads University.
Four years ago, Walker’s neighbour and friend Carol Lalonde began her journey with ovarian cancer. Lalonde was well known in her North Saanich community and joined a walking group that Walker was part of. Her battle with cancer resonated with the neighbourhood, according to Walker.
Lalonde eventually met with an oncologist and began chemotherapy, receiving the undivided attention of nurses and health care practitioners. As a way to say thank you to them, Lalonde began bringing them baked goods.
“She felt overwhelmed by the attention she was getting at the clinic,” Walker said. “[She] was not used to being pampered … Carol turned her guilt into appreciation by bringing homemade brownies and cookies to the cancer centre on a regular basis.”
Walker said people began to expect goodies from Lalonde, so when her disease progressed further and she could no longer bake, Lalonde wished she could find a way to show her appreciation.
“Carol and I were sitting in her living room after one of her drains,” Walker said. “I looked out her kitchen window at the grapes hanging from the arbour, fat and juicy, and the lovely red apples going unpicked…I said ‘how about I make some apple and grape jelly and you can give them to people when they come and care for you?’”
Walker said Lalonde loved the idea of making jams, jellies and chutneys. The community even pitched in with fruit from their gardens as well as supplies necessary for canning.
By August of last year, Lalonde was moved to Victoria Hospice where Walker has volunteered for 16 years. Lalonde’s husband brought the remaining jams to the hospice for people to take home.
“I wanted the preserves to disappear but not my soulmate, Carol,” Walker said. “If only I could preserve her too.”
Lalonde died in hospice on Aug. 21, 2018.
While Walker has been around death many times due to her volunteer position, she said losing Lalonde was difficult.
“I couldn’t believe the difference between being a family member and being a volunteer,” Walker said. “It was the most heartbreaking thing of my life I think.”
Several community members, including Walker, participated in the Ovarian Cancer Walk of hope last year, as it took place shortly after Lalonde’s death. With the help of neighbours, Walker will participate in the walk again this year but this time, she will be setting up a booth to sell the jams and donate the proceeds to the walk.
“Carol’s neighbours and friends have been so supportive, sharing the produce from their gardens, picking wild berries in the forest and hedgerows, donating jars, making labels and sharing in the cost of having everything tested,” Walker said. “It really does take a neighbourhood.”
According to Ovarian Cancer Canada, thousands of women are living with ovarian cancer in the country and an estimated 2,800 will be diagnosed this year. It is the fifth most common cancer for women and is the most serious women’s cancer.
The Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope takes place on Sept. 8 at Royal Roads University. Registration opens at 9:30 a.m. with opening ceremonies set for 10:30 a.m. After the walk, there will be free refreshments and a barbecue, live entertainment and a children’s fun area.
For more information, visit the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope Victoria website here: http://noca.convio.net/site/TR/2019WalkofHope/General?pg=entry&fr_id=1511