Sooke resident Rachelle Sankey, right, prepared this 1000 paper crane display for fellow resident Sarah Galbraith-Bonella who is battling breast cancer. The project was a community effort, as Sankey reached out to Sooke people via social media to help make the cranes. (Rachelle Sankey - Facebook)

Sooke makes 1,000 paper cranes for resident battling cancer

Receiving the cranes, Sarah Galbraith-Bonella says she is ‘eternally grateful’ for the Sooke community

Sometimes an act of kindness can be just the cure we need.

Sooke resident Rachelle Sankey initiated a 1,000 paper crane project to show support for fellow resident, Sarah Galbraith-Bonella, who is battling cancer.

Sankey said the project is a Japanese tradition, which allows one wish to be granted if you give someone 1,000 paper cranes. Sankey works at the B.C. cancer clinic, and originally got the idea when she saw a different patient have something similar gifted to them.

“I wasn’t aware of the tradition, or its correlation to cancer. I just remember someone going through treatment years ago, and thought, ‘Hey, I could do that,’” said Sankey.

When Sankey heard about Galbraith-Bonella’s diagnosis, she reached out to offer support. She was sad to think that Galbraith-Bonella was having to go through treatment alone during the pandemic.

“This whole pandemic has been extremely difficult for a lot of people, and so isolating. I can’t even imagine going through treatment and not having my partner or my daughter by my side,” said Sankey. “So that’s where it came from for me. I didn’t want her to be lonely, and I wanted her to know that her community is behind her.”

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Sankey said the response to the project was overwhelming, and people have helped create hundreds of cranes.

“I am so blown away by how involved people have wanted to be with this. It has made me tear up,” said Sankey.

“Sooke is a community that loves to do things where everyone is involved. The response was amazing – people are going paper crane crazy.”

After weeks of preparation, Sankey assembled the cranes into a beautiful rainbow display and delivered them to Galbraith-Bonella at her treatment session on June 24.

With a trembling voice, Galbraith-Bonella expressed her heartfelt gratitude for the gift and for the people of Sooke.

“I was extremely overwhelmed to walk out of treatment to see that – absolutely speechless,” said Galbraith-Bonella. “This community is very special.”

Galbraith-Bonella was first diagnosed with breast cancer on Dec. 10. She had a mammogram on Oct. 30, and got a call in November saying there were some suspicious areas.

After further testing, a couple of biopsies and a double mastectomy, a 21-millimetre tumour was discovered, which had was not visible on tests.

The type of cancer is called HER2-positive, and is “a tricky little bugger,” as it clones easily and attaches to cells throughout the body.

Galbraith-Bonella has gone through three out of four treatments of chemotherapy, and afterwards will continue with a year of drug injection, which should lessen the chance of the cancer reoccurring by 93 per cent over the next 10 years.

“Surprisingly, I’m OK. I have my bad days, I get tired. But I try not to let it get to me or consume me, otherwise it will,” said Galbraith-Bonella.

She added that going through treatments alone due to the pandemic has been a little strange and challenging, but staff at the cancer clinic have been wonderful, and she has received a lot of support from her family, friends and the people of Sooke.

“I am so proud to live here and be a part Sooke. This community has to be the single greatest place on Earth,” said Galbraith-Bonella.

“I have never in my life, seen a place that so fully embodies the term community. Anytime anyone needs something, or someone, this community rallies. I am so eternally grateful.”

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Sooke resident Rachelle Sankey prepared this 1,000 paper crane display for fellow resident Sarah Galbraith-Bonella who is battling breast cancer. The project was a community effort, as Sankey reached out to Sooke people via social media to help make the cranes. (Rachelle Sankey - Facebook)

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