Sudharshini Balasubramaniam, Sudha Balan, has been a volunteer at the Cross Cancer Institute for over two years. The Albertan was inspired to volunteer after witnessing the kindness and care provided to her husband while he was undergoing treatment at the Cross.


In 1979 Sudha Balan immigrated from the tropical rolling plains and mountains of Sri Lanka to the golden prairies and snowcapped mountains of Alberta and found her new home to be the perfect size: small and welcoming, yet abundant with opportunities. As a newcomer to Alberta, she felt as though she belonged.


Fast forward several years, and Sudha’s husband, Tom Balasubramaniam, was the first in his family to be diagnosed with cancer. He underwent treatment at the Cross Cancer Institute but sadly passed away in February 2019, leaving behind his wife, children and grandchildren.


Sudha’s experience with her husband’s cancer journey opened her eyes to the stark reality that many Albertans (almost 60 every day) face. But she also learned about the incredible research, treatment and care the doctors, nurses, and volunteers provide at the Cross Cancer Institute.


After her husband’s passing, Sudha wanted to do what she could to give back to the Cross Cancer Institute. If asked to volunteer a couple of years back, she would have had no desire to be in or around a hospital. But after having been to the Cross, to her, thanks to the staff and volunteers, it didn’t feel like a hospital but a healing centre. She remembered one of the volunteers who once so impressed her husband as he journeyed through his cancer treatment at Cross Cancer. The care they showed him made an impact, so she wanted to do the same for others.


As a testament to the healing environment that Cross Cancer Institute exudes, she notes that often people who volunteer at the Cross are former or current patients. One might think that having undergone treatment at a cancer centre would disincline someone from ever visiting again, and yet, they return, “For people to go back there says a lot about Cross Cancer and what they do.”


And so since 2020, Sudha Balan has volunteered every Thursday at the Cross Cancer Institute’s gift shop. She offers help to those searching for head coverings, clothing, or gifts for friends and family members.


“The time that I spend there is the most purposeful and the most valuable to me. It feels like I gain more value than I give back,”


And so every Thursday at the gift shop, Sudha is a part of what makes the Cross Cancer Institute so special to many Albertans.


Sudha is thrilled about the new renovations coming to the Cross, thanks to the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s We Cross Cancer Campaign, which is raising $30 million in support of the Cross. Sudha believes that this campaign will bring much-needed awareness to the general public about the beloved hospital and how they can help support it.

Written by Jenna Kardal


Share with us stories or anecdotes of how you were supported by a fellow Albertan during your cancer journey – it could be a loved one, friend, your neighbour, a health care worker or even a stranger! Click here to share your story.
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Robin Hairsine from Edmonton had completed nine and a half months of cancer treatments on February 4th, 2020 when the city went into lockdown a month later for COVID-19.

Robin Hairsine at the Cross Cancer Institute in December 2019.

“After I completed my treatments, I thought things were finally over and that it would go back to how they used to be. I was looking forward to recovery, going back to work and seeing the people I love more often.” recalls Robin.

In September of 2020, during a routine six months post-treatment mammogram, Robin was diagnosed with breast cancer again, this time in the other breast.

“This was a crushing diagnosis for me. I didn’t think I would be back at the Cross Cancer Institute, 7 months post-treatments, getting treatments for cancer, again,” says Robin.

As someone who is underwent cancer treatment during a pandemic, we asked her how she felt supported by her community and she shared an inspiring experience she had with a local business in Sherwood Park, Alberta.

“I was scrolling through Facebook one evening when I couldn’t sleep and I noticed that Funky Petals in Sherwood Park was honouring those impacted by breast cancer during the month of October. I commented on their post thanking them as a cancer warrior myself and received a message from them saying that they were touched by my story.

A few days later I received a beautiful flower arrangement from them in the mail and it nearly brought me to tears.

For a complete stranger to honour someone like me and my struggles showed me that you are truly never alone.

Living in such a large city and province with such a huge population of people who are living with cancer, it is easy to sometimes see yourself as a number in the system. It was wonderful to see such a great company in the community who sees everyone as a person. Like the card I received from them that stated, “together we can”, I believe that together (as a community) we really can overcome cancer!” says Robin.

Share with us stories or anecdotes of how you were supported by a fellow Albertan during your cancer journey – it could be a loved one, friend, your neighbour, a health care worker or even a stranger! Click here to share your story.

Reposted from the Alberta Cancer Foundation blog.