During this time of uncertainty and apprehension with the global pandemic upon us, we share with you a story of hope and inspiration, and the mission of a young teen whose message during adversity was contagious, powerful and inspiring:
On this 31st day of March, in honour of Carley Allison, the Carley’s Angels Foundation celebrates “Always Smile” day.
Carley Allison was an accomplished figure skater and singer, and just 17 years old when she was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of esophageal cancer. Her family sought out support from Toronto’s outstanding medical community, including traditional and holistic practitioners who worked hard to bring the very best care to Carley. Carley’s daily mantra was to keep smiling, to keep pursuing and to keep on inspiring. She documented and shared her journey with her thousands of followers on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and through her blog.
While Carley’s courageous battle with cancer sadly ended on March 31, 2015, her beautiful spirit and vivacious persona lives on. Through her blog, Always Smile, and her family’s mission to spread awareness for integrated cancer care for all cancer patients through the Carley’s Angels Foundation, Carley continues to inspire globally. The Netflix film ‘Kiss and Cry’ beautifully tells the real-life story of Carley Allison.
The Carley’s Angels Foundation & Holistic Cancer Care
The Allison family founded the ‘Carley’s Angels’ Foundation with the mission to help sick children and their families, and unite traditional and holistic cancer care in hospitals. Through their hard work and fundraising efforts, they were able to fund a first-of-its-kind, Psychosocial Oncology program at SickKids Hospital with Shawna Markowitz. This program will aim to work with families and patients at the Garron Family Cancer Centre, focusing on providing holistic care through addressing the unique social and psychosocial needs faced by a family going through cancer, and creating a workshop series to support caregivers in this chronic phase of illness.
When we first spoke with Riley Allison, one of Carley’s loving sisters and the foundation’s Executive Director, we were struck by the family’s truly inspiring story.
How was your family first introduced to Holistic care?
Our mother (May Allison) has always been attuned to the world of wellness. She was an olympic athlete (Atlanta 1996 Marathon), so she always valued nutrition, exercise and natural remedies as a regular part of her wellness. And when Carley got sick that was no different. She found it challenging that when we were in the hospital, that kind of wellness support was not embedded in parts of Carley’s Cancer Care. So that’s when she took it upon herself, of course while consulting our GP and Carley’s Oncologist, to research holistic methods of cancer care.
Our first stop was Kimberly, our amazing Naturopathic Doctor. She started Carley on Vitamin C injections, natural nausea control and essentially helped our mom, with the approval of our oncologist, create a combination of traditional and holistic treatments that would work best for Carley.
Do you have any must-visit resources for families that yours found particularly helpful?
We found that reaching out to an ND with experience in Oncology was a huge benefit for Carley. Our parents actually found out about an ND/MD in North York, who became a major asset to Carley during her second battle. He practiced and preached the line that we believe is so important today, that the answer for treatment is found in the combination of traditional and holistic medicine, not one or the other, or one without the other.
Some other great resources for my family was connecting with other families who had dealt with a similar situation. They were able to direct us to their tried and true sources of holistic cancer care providers. Some of these included hypobaric chambers, craniosacral therapy, hippocrates, etc. Although not all of these are right for each person, bringing these options to your team of cancer care providers is always a good start!
How have families responded to the Psychosocial Oncology Program so far?
Shawna has shared with us some amazing moments that truly reflect how large of a difference her work and her colleagues’ work is making! The support groups for parents and siblings of cancer patients that Shawna, along with some amazing colleagues have put together as a result of the Carley’s Angels funding, are helping the entire family feel supported so they an best support the cancer patient in their family. Stronger families = better outcomes.
For you and your loved one
If you or a loved one is looking for integrative cancer support, we encourage you to visit the resources below. There are many excellent and qualified integrative practitioners who can help you navigate this journey.
In Ontario, the Integrative Cancer Centre (ICC) and the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre (OICC) provide support to patients of all ages, seeking a holistic approach to cancer care, at each stage of the journey – primary prevention, prevention of recurrence, as well as support during and after conventional treatment. Naturopathic Doctors at these clinics have additional training in integrative cancer as well as Fellowship with the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (FABNO).
The American Board of Naturopathic Oncology is a wonderful resource for individuals looking for a trained and licensed Naturopathic Doctor with additional training in Integrative Cancer Care in Canada and the United States.
Carley’s Angels Foundation has put a wonderful resource together with ways you can support a loved one battling cancer during this unprecedented and uncertain time that has found many hospitalized cancer patients unable to receive their beloved visitors. To learn more, please visit https://carleysangels.ca/covid19/