Luncheon of Hope returns to the region

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Following four years of absence, the Rainy River District Breast Health Network’s Luncheon of Hope returned in full swing to La Place Rendez-Vous on Saturday, October 28, 2023, offering women from across the district an afternoon of warmth, togetherness and learning.

Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the once biennial event has been missing in action since the last event held in 2019. However, the return of the event was well-attended in the upstairs dining room at La Place Rendez-Vous, with upwards of 100 attendees.

Elizabeth Leishman-Fortes, who serves as chair of the Rainy River District Breast Health Network, welcomed the attendees to the event and gave a brief overview of the Network’s history, noting that it was initiated 38 years ago in 1985 with the foundation of the breast health program at Riverside Health Care, though the official Rainy River District Breast Health Network didn’t form until 1995.

“The breast clinic was developed 38 years ago, when Anna Bush, who was the Director of Nursing at the time, participated in a national study in Winnipeg, regarding breast self exam and mammography,” Leishman-Fortes said.

“Upon her return, she was adamant that the women of Fort Frances have access to a clinic that they could come to have breast exams and mammography. As a result… the Riverside breast health program as we know it today was initiated in 1985. In 1987, the first mammography machine was purchased for the hospital with the generous support of the hospital auxiliary, the Catholic Women’s League and the Legion. After only 18 months, the program had 1,000 women.”

Leishman-Fortes noted the goal of the network is to bring awareness to the district on breast health, prevention and detection of breast cancer.

The event featured many of the regular offerings of the Luncheon of Hope, including a quilt draw supported by the Cabin Country Quilt Guild and the Tamarack Shack, as well as draws and penny table offerings. Attendees also had a moment to remember June Keddie, a longtime supporter of the Breast Health Network who passed away in 2022.

Also part of the afternoon’s event was speaker Annabelle Reimer, a nurse practitioner who is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Reimer delivered a speech where she helped attendees understand the impacts of menopause, its many, many symptoms, and how hormone therapies could be of assistance to women of certain age who qualify. Hormone therapy can be effective, Reimer said, because as women enter the menopause phases of their lives, many of the symptoms brought about by fluctuating hormone levels in their bodies can present as issues that are generally treated in other ways, thus not getting to the true underlying causes of the problem. However, hormone therapy, she warned, is not a panacea.

“[There are] lots of different types of hormones, Reimer said.

“You want to make sure that you go to a provider, so a prescriber, who is knowledgeable, who can tell you about the different types that are available for you, or not. They have to understand if it’s a good option for you or not, it’s not for everybody. And someone who tells you that it’s the key, it’s the magic answer, that’s not the provider that you want to go to, because it may or may not be.”