Four-time cancer survivor
The first time they tell you that you have cancer, you think you’re going to die that night. You’re planning your funeral and wondering how you’re going to tell your family. It’s a scary thing to go through. I think a cancer diagnosis is probably even scarier when you live in a smaller community. There are so many other things you have to start worrying about too, like leaving home for treatment – away from your friends and family – and how you’re going to pay for it all.
I was first diagnosed with lung cancer in 1997 at age 41. I travelled to what was then the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital – Port Arthur site for surgery with Dr. Ken Gehman to remove a lobe in my right lung. Thankfully, I was able to go home after some recovery. I stayed cancer-free for 13 years.
Then, in 2010, they found a small spot on my other lung. Dr. Gehman removed the spot, but noticed another suspicious area. We monitored it for a year using the new PET scanner and sure enough, the cancer was back. So in 2011 I had third surgery followed by 16 weeks of chemotherapy. Luckily, I was able to have almost all my treatments in Terrace Bay through a chemotherapy program the Cancer Centre has at McCausland Hospital. It was so much better than travelling to Thunder Bay every week for four months, especially with the way I was feeling during treatments.
Last summer, my cancer came back a fourth time. Surgery wasn’t an option, so they prescribed 30 radiation treatments at the Cancer Centre, along with weekly chemotherapy. This time, I didn’t have any choice but to live in Thunder Bay, Monday to Friday, for six weeks of treatment.
That’s when I found out about the Tbaytel Tamarack House.
The Tbaytel Tamarack House has to be the most amazing thing about Thunder Bay. It’s a home away from home for all cancer patients in Northwestern Ontario who have to travel there for treatment. You have your own private room, your own private bathroom, and you can bring someone along with you to stay. I made many forever friends there, other people who were going through the same things I was, and that was a great support in itself. Plus the staff is just incredible. You can’t imagine how important that is to your peace of mind until you experience it yourself.
Today, I am cancer-free again. I owe it all to the world-class Cancer Centre in Thunder Bay, the Tamarack House for accommodations during treatments there, and incredible chemotherapy services at McCausland. Not just for saving my life – they did – but for giving such incredible care to make me feel as comfortable and as safe as possible through my treatments. As a four-time cancer survivor, I can tell you that I couldn’t have had better care than the care I received at the Cancer Centre in Thunder Bay – and in Terrace Bay.
The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation played a huge role in providing that cancer care. They fund many cancer care programs and services at the Cancer Centre – including the Tamarack House and chemotherapy services at McCausland – to make closer-to-home cancer care a reality for patients across Northwestern Ontario, including Terrace Bay and Schreiber.
I’m telling this story today to ask you to give to the Foundation’s Exceptional Cancer Care Campaign. With your help, we can make it even better for cancer patients to come, funding the innovative diagnosis, treatment, and research needed to help others survive their cancer. If you or a loved one has had cancer, you know how important this is. Let’s make sure we continue to have the best cancer care possible.