Mental health help for people working through tough positions in life - especially for those who want to meet like-minded people - can be difficult for those who want help in rural areas.

One community organization, Inpower, operates in Regina and is looking to hold more events to help out women dealing with cancer in rural areas such as the southeast.

They were inspired by a former participant and member, Heidi Clay.

Clay grew up in Bulyea, Sask., and was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 33.

While raising two girls, she attended Inpower retreats and other programs but faced challenges due to the fact that she lived in a rural area, as explained by Inpower committee member Tracy Gardikiotis.

"During her diagnosis and her treatment, she had to deal with the challenges of living in a rural community, in terms of extended drives to her appointments, additional financial implications of that, limited access to services in a rural community, especially at that point of time, there was just more supports and services and things available in larger centres, which has changed a little bit now."

Clay made an impression on the community that had grown around the Inpower program, and wanted to make sure they were easier to access for others looking to find support in rural areas.

"She became quite a special member of our community. Just before she passed, she really wanted to make sure that the support for rural women continued," said Gardikiotis, "We continued to work on expanding that, and helping rural women get the support and education that they need to go through that."

While COVID put a halt to those plans temporarily, the group made strides to make sure those people had programs to help them out.

"During COVID, we were not able to obviously continue in person, but we did start some initiatives to still try to deliver some of that report to rural areas," said Gardikiotis, "That came through some virtual platforms for some of our education events as well as our specialized breast cancer fitness programs."

"Now that we're back in person, we're excited to host our first rural initiative in Moosomin on January 14th from 10 to 4 o clock at the Canata hotel."

poster for event

Some of Clay's family members helped grow the program.

Her sister, Erica Hillier, says the initiative is going well.

"I'm really excited, Tracy and her group in Inpower have taken on organizing and planning these, and it's such a vibrant group of women. I'm thrilled that they've planned this next initiative, and this next retreat, and I think it'll be really good moving forward."

Gardikiotis says that the program will keep going, helping women of all ages in rural communities.

"It's important for us to use a variety of means to get that education and information and support out, and really build a connection for women that are diagnosed with breast cancer, where they can meet others who are going through a similar experience and they can help each other through it and learn from each other."