Items on table ready for the beginning of the ceremony

'Beating Heart of the Community': Indigenous Cancer Program gifts drum to Michael Garron Hospital Oncology Unit

MGH was the first of nine hospital cancer care sites to humbly receive a drum for its oncology unit – a gift from the Toronto Central Region Indigenous Cancer Program to support culturally inclusive cancer care for First Nation, Inuit and Métis community members.

Drums are more than a musical instrument; they represent lifelong connections with all living things and the Creator. The circle represents balance, equality, wholeness and connection. Drums are given as gifts in thanks for good work or to acknowledge an important relationship or time in someone’s life.

For First Nations Peoples, the drum represents the universal heartbeat of Mother Earth. This special rhythm facilitates healing and realignment of the four realms of human existence (mental, spiritual, emotional and physical) as the Creator revolves around the rhythm. The drum, when combined with voice, creates a hum that rests between the voice and the drum and is thought to be the spirits of the Ancestors.

“The drum is considered medicine because the heartbeat calms people,” explains Leonard Benoit, Indigenous Patient Navigator and Program Lead.

MGH’s oncology program – comprised of an inter-disciplinary team of oncologists, haematologists, nurses, pharmacists, a social worker and clerical navigators – provides diagnosis and treatment for a wide-range of cancers such as lung, breast and colon, in addition to blood disorders. The team provides highly specialized, compassionate and individualized care for each community member. 

“This drum will be utilized proudly. It symbolizes the patient being at the heart of what we do and represents the care team and patients’ hearts beating as one. It serves as a reminder to us all of the need to attend to our mental, spiritual, emotional and physical wellness,” says Lindsay Martinek, Director, Professional Practice, Renal, Oncology, Nursing Resource Team & Academic Partnerships at MGH.

“This tremendous gift will bring a sense of calm, equality, balance and hope to our team, our patients and our families as we walk the cancer journey together. When we hear the beat of the drum, we will be reminded of the lifelong connections it represents to Mother Earth.”  

Thank you to the Indigenous Cancer Program for their generous gift of the drum and to all who participated in the ceremony. A special thank you to MGH’s remarkable oncology team who will use the drum to care and comfort community members.

For more information on the Indigenous Cancer Program, please scan the QR code below or contact Leonard Benoit, Indigenous Patient Navigator of Toronto Central Region at:

Email: @email
Phone Number: 647-309-1794

Scannable qr code for Indigenous cancer program
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