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Cancer House of Hope helps build memories through scrapbooks

By Lori O'Brien


Scrapbooking one's family history can be a taunting task but the Cancer House of Hope has offered a way for persons dealing with cancer to make it fun and easy.

A series of scrapbooking classes is coming to an end shortly for participants, and for cancer patients like Joanne Wilkens, the sessions have been a welcome diversion from her everyday tasks. The Cancer House of Hope offered the free program this fall to persons who have been affected by cancer.

Wilkens, of Suffield, Conn., is one of the participants who has been working with Nancy LaFlamme of Westfield, a consultant with Creative Memories, on a keepsake, photo-safe album. When Wilkens is done, the treasured heirloom will be given to her granddaughter.

"I was overwhelmed," said Wilkens during a recent interview with Reminder Publications, referring to six oversized boxes of memorabilia to categorize, "and Nancy gave me guidance to get it all together."

Wilkens' family scrapbook will span several generations with a variety of artifacts dating back to the 1840's. She added that since she is a writer by trade, her album will include historical and anecdotal snippets between the photographs and memorabilia.

Wilkens explained how she has wanted to put down on paper the photographs and stories she was told over the years, and with her diagnosis of melanoma earlier this summer, it convinced her the time was right to get started.

Currently, Wilkens attends the Melanoma Support Group at the Cancer House of Hope in Springfield which is how she heard about the scrapbooking program.

Wilkens expounded on the virtues of the Cancer House of Hope and its free services for area residents.

"It's a wonderful place," said Wilkens, adding "it is so peaceful and inviting."

Wilkens spends approximately eight to 10 hours a week on her heirloom project, as well as two hours with LaFlamme to review her progress and seek out new ideas.

LaFlamme said her scrapbooking sessions are informal and tailored to the needs of each student. Her classes have been attended by persons of all ages and added that the "simple joy that photos bring when reconnecting and celebrating the life of loved ones is truly priceless."

"I start by asking students questions about their most favorite memories or what would they like to capture in their album," said LaFlamme. "From there we discuss basic steps in getting started. Many of them enjoy having a homework assignment to do before our next visit."

LaFlamme added that participants feel a sense of accomplishment at home too. She offers three styles of album making and helps students determine which style best meets their needs.

"I share with them how they can make that happen and then let them create their works of heart," said LaFlamme.

She also offers tools, paper and sticker options for students to explore and consider for their albums. Albums are acid-free, lignin-free, buffered, bleed-resistant and generally fade-resistant. LaFlamme added that albums meet current ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and PAT (Photographic Activity Test) standards.

"Traditionally, most folks know what they'd like to do with their album, however, it is getting started that overwhelms them," said LaFlamme. "I share with them my personal experience and ask them what style or method would work best for them. Once they get started, the advice may range from how to crop a photo without taking away important artifacts of the photo to page layout and designs."

In the spring, LaFlamme hopes to run another series of scrapbooking classes through the Cancer House of Hope. Some students are cancer survivors while others may have lost a loved one due to cancer, according to LaFlamme.

The Cancer House of Hope has locations at 86 Court St., Westfield, and 946 Plumtree Road, Springfield.

For more information on the Cancer House of Hope, call (413) 562-0110 or (413) 782-5500. For details on making a tax-deductible contribution this holiday season to the Cancer House of Hope, visit

For more information on LaFlamme's workshops, visit