The Women of Pink Pearl

Last year on international women’s day we shared stories about the women who shaped Carley. This year we are highlighting women who Carley’s legacy has now shaped. 

We are excited to introduce Pink Pearl, a charitable organization that supports young women facing cancer! We are also excited to announce our support of Pink Pearl through a collaboration that provides holistic cancer care for young women facing cancer at pink pearl retreats across Canada!

Today, International Women’s Day, we have the privilege of sharing Elise’s Story, she is the founder of Pink Pearl. Today is about celebrating strong and powerful women and Elise and her organization are one of the brightest and most true examples of this.

I started Pink Pearl after my own experience with ovarian cancer at the age of 21. I noticed a lack of support focused on young people that were going through a cancer experience. Your 20s and 30s are arguably the decades of greatest change in your life (finishing school, starting a career, moving out of your parents home, falling in love, having a family, etc) and a cancer diagnosis on top of this is absolutely a game-changer.

In March 2015, the Canadian Cancer Society released survey results reporting that more than half of Canadians do not feel well-equipped to support themselves, a friend, or a loved one with cancer. Pink Pearl has identified this as a prominent feeling among young female cancer patients between the age of 18 and 40. Through important discussions about their needs and fears, the organization works to identify gaps between the emotional needs of a patient and the treatment provided by the medical community. Before the age of 40, cancer is not an expected reality for anyone. Educational and professional goals and personal relationships are often put on hold. These areas are where peer support can have the greatest impact. The ongoing support of Pink Pearl provides young women with an outlet to discuss individual challenges and works to help reduce feelings of isolation. We believe that through its year-round innovative programming, annual events, and awareness initiatives, our community can band together to help bridge these gaps.

For me, I was lucky that I had the support of friends and family. BUT having someone that is going through a similar experience as you is a comfort I didn’t realize I needed. And so Pink Pearl was born with a day-long retreat in the Niagara region.

Since that first retreat over 7 years ago, Pink Pearl has grown into a charitable organization that is led by a team of dedicated women, focused on bringing together young women affected by cancer through a network of peer support and innovative programs. The organization has successfully raised over $500,000 to date through reputable fundraising events initiatives, such as the Black & White with a Touch of Pink annual springtime event in Toronto. Funds raised provide effective and fully-funded programming for young women, between the ages of 18 and 40, battling cancer of any type. Continual programming for participants currently includes: wellness retreats; support packages distributed in hospitals and cancer centres; local social gatherings; brunch and learns; family support days and post-secondary scholarships.

To date we have impacted over 2,000 affected by cancer and this year we will embark on support in new regions including: Calgary, Halifax, Vancouver, London, Kingston & Ottawa. We are looking forward to working with Carly’s Angels in some of these areas. 

If you are interested in learning more about our work, I would encourage you to visit our website. If you are in the Toronto area, we will be holding our annual benefit at the Great Hall on April 30th, tickets can be found here

I am a good decade away from my cancer treatment but there are still issues that arise in daily life. Again, I am fortunate that it doesn’t define me, but it definitely comes up. We have this statement at Pink Pearl that reads “Everyone has a story, and cancer is only one chapter.” For some, the cancer treatment/experience may go on much longer than others, but it is only one part of who we are as women. 

There is so much personal strength involved in going through a cancer experience, and there is so much strength that we can gain from our peers in the same situation. On March 8th (and everyday!) lets celebrate women and the power we hold.

Elise Gasbarrino

Founder & Executive Director of Pink Pearl Canada

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