Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka: Making a Difference in the Community

All photos courtesy Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka

LuxuryHuntsville is pleased to provide news and information related to groups and individuals making a difference in our community. Read how Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka is making a difference.


To enliven means to make lively; to infuse life. And that is exactly what was intended when Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka was created, reducing the social isolation that comes with a diagnosis of cancer.

This charitable organization’s mission is to support everyone in Muskoka affected by cancer to live well with, and beyond, a diagnosis. The vision is that EVERYONE affected by cancer in Muskoka has access to services to enhance their quality of life. Programs are free of charge and available to people with a diagnosis, survivors, thrivers, family members, children, and caregivers.


How Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka Came To Be


Nine years ago, Joanne McLean was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent various treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, and she was told that she was clear of any evidence of the disease.

However, a few months after this news, she was re-diagnosed with advanced metastatic breast cancer when it was discovered that she had tumours in her liver. For the next few years that followed, she underwent many additional treatments, including being involved in clinical trials at Princess Margaret Hospital getting therapies not yet on the market.


Allie Chisholm-Smith (left) with Joanne McLean Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka
Enliven’s Co-Founders Allie Chisholm-Smith (left) with Joanne McLean 


During this time, she felt increasingly like her community saw her only as a patient, someone with a serious diagnosis and not someone who was funny, articulate, intelligent, curious, and creative, and certainly not someone who wanted to live a full life engaged with her community.


Normalizing the Journey


Joanne was also hungry for information, so sought out places where she could get additional information and “normalize” her journey with cancer. None were to be found, so she, along with Allie Chisholm-Smith, co-founded Enliven Cancer Care to do just that.

Depending on the person, “normalizing the journey” could look quite different, so Enliven offers information, a supportive community, and a variety of programs including journaling, yoga, exercise, Nia, birdwatching, guided nature walks and art classes.  

Programs that enable those with a cancer diagnosis to reintegrate into the community to live fuller lives in a way that contemplates their physical limits. Enliven attempts to remove barriers to engagement so all programs are offered to those with a diagnosis, their families, and caregivers, free of charge. Programs are offered in varying locations as well as online and can be found on Enliven’s website at www.enlivenmuskoka.ca.


The Impact of Enliven: Suzanne’s Story


Suzanne Riverin, PhD, is an Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka Board Member, and breast cancer survivor. Her story illustrates the very positive impact groups like Enliven have not only on individuals but their families and, ultimately, the community.

Here’s Suzanne’s story:


Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. I was lucky enough to be able to have most of my chemotherapy appointments in Huntsville Hospital with the wonderful staff here, but my radiation appointments were in Barrie at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre which required a daily drive for 25 days in a row in January.

 At the time there were no support services or programs here in Muskoka and the experience was very isolating and lonely. The only option was Gilda’s Club Simcoe Muskoka in Barrie, but I was so tired by the treatment that all I really wanted to do was return home to familiar surroundings. I have a very supportive family and that made the challenge much easier.  

 Enliven has provided an alternative that is so badly needed here. The idea of a community where cancer could be openly discussed and where programs would be developed to support everyone affected by cancer was incredibly appealing. I have therefore been part of the Enliven community as a Board member and participant in programs for many years and have watched it grow into something truly magical.

 There is nothing like knowing that when you walk into an Enliven program you are surrounded by people who have shared the terror of a cancer diagnosis whether as a victim or a caregiver and it feels incredibly sustaining. It has grown from just a kernel of an idea to a vibrant and energetic community always looking for ways to create new ways to help anyone affected by cancer.


How You Can Support the Mission of Enliven


Enliven Cancer Care is a registered charity and is 100 per cent funded by philanthropy. It is very important for the organization to be able to offer programming and services at no cost to all participants. Enliven is intentionally striving to eliminate all barriers to participation and wishes to grow its offerings throughout the entire Muskoka Region.

One way that the public can assist is to consider attending Enliven’s annual fundraising event, Ballroom Blitz; Art Walk & Gathering taking place at Grandview Golf Club in Huntsville on Sunday August 20 from 2-4pm.  Local artisans are graciously donating pieces that will be available for purchase through both a silent and live auction.

Sponsorship opportunities and tickets are available at  www.enlivenmuskoka.ca.

Enliven is also hopeful to create synergistic partnerships with Muskoka’s community clubs, service groups, businesses, and individuals to see what is possible through third party fundraisers. If you have any ideas the Team at Enliven would love to hear them.


The Soapstones Challenge


Soapstones Natural Skincare, located in downtown Huntsville, is the founding sponsor of Enliven. This year, Soapstones has generously donated $10,000 to Enliven and have proposed a challenge to other businesses: all business donations to Enliven will be matched up to an additional $10,000.


 Carrie Campbell (left) Chair of Board of Directors for Enliven with David McLean, owner of Soapstones
Carrie Campbell (left), Chair of Enliven’s Board of Directors, with David McLean, owner of Soapstones


If you are a business owner or know of one who aligns with the mission of Enliven, please share information about the Soapstones Challenge and help this organization raise an additional $20,000 for future programming.


Fifth Annual Wellness Fair & Hydro One Recognition Event


Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka’s Wellness Fair is taking place at the Active Living Centre in Huntsville on Wednesday, May 3, from 2-6pm, and is an opportunity to gather together, share information, knowledge, and experience. It is also a wonderful way to network and support the cancer community in Muskoka.

In addition, the first 50 attendees will receive a gift from Soapstones Natural Skincare. The first in-person Wellness Fair offered since the Covid-19 pandemic, it is expected to be a welcome opportunity for the community to come together, share wisdom, and learn.

In conjunction with this event, Enliven will celebrate the recent receipt of Hydro One’s Movement Matters Grant of $25,000 which is allowing them to offer Yoga, Nia, and exercise classes in both Huntsville and Bracebridge.


A Final Thought…


In July of 2018, the world lost the bright light of Enliven’s Co-Founder, Joanne Mclean.  Her son, Spencer, said that cancer didn’t beat his mum. It may have taken her body, but it never took her spirit. Her spirit will live on in Enliven.

Cancer is so prevalent, and everyone is impacted in some capacity by this disease. Please consider being part of the Enliven movement to support one another through the journey. Self-care is so vitally important for each and every one of us to live well. Together, let’s eliminate the isolation that may result from receiving a cancer diagnosis. 


The Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka eam
The Enliven Team: From left to right, Board of Directors Angie Paulson & Deanna Lavigne, staff member Andrea Johnston, Board Directors Bryan Knappett & Alison Madley, staff member Blair Douglas, Board Director Suzanne Riverin, Chair of the Board Carrie Campbell, Board Director David McLean


For more information regarding this important community group, check out their website at www.enlivenmuskoka.ca and sign up for the newsletter to stay informed of upcoming offerings and events. You can also follow Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka on Facebook and Instagram.

For more information on how to donate or volunteer with Enliven, you can email [email protected]or call (705) 571-9787.

Also, Members of the Enliven Team will be present at the Lake of Bays Association’s AGM this July in Dwight to answer questions and provide information. 




The LuxuryHuntsville team wholeheartedly believes we can all play a role in helping groups like Enliven succeed and thrive. Do you know of a deserving group or individual (or group of individuals!) whose stories, like those of the good folks at Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka, needs to be shared? If so, drop us a line and we’d be happy to play a part in sharing their story. 

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