2018 Fall Appeal



Dear Reader,

My name is Pierre, I am 66 years old and I have been living with kidney cancer since 1990. The cancer spread to the left lung in 2010, causing me to suffer from chronic pain. The prognosis wasn't good. My oncologist didn't seem to offer any solutions for my chronic problems or to treat my cancer. If she hadn't mentioned the new protocol available within the framework of a clinical trial at the Jewish General Hospital, I wouldn't have met hematologist-oncologist Dr. François Patenaude and I would probably not be in a position to write to you today.

Dr. Patenaude had me undergo some medical tests and, just one month later, in May of 2015, I started a new immunotherapy treatment. Simply being part of this clinical trial renewed my hope for a cure, or at least for an improved quality of life.

Claire_et_Pierre.jpgAt this time I noticed a scab on top of the right shoulder of my wife, Claire. This scab would not heal. I phoned Dr. Patenaude who told me to take pictures and bring them with me at my next appointment with him a few days later. I showed him the pictures on Friday and he immediately contacted Dr. Robin Billick, Chief of the JGH Division of Dermatology, to set an appointment for the next Monday. The results came in the same week: it was definitely melanoma.

Belanger_solo.jpg Claire had to undergo surgery twice. Dr. Patenaude then indicated that she should get a preventive treatment and, as all protocols were filled at the JGH, he took the trouble to call a colleague of his now working in another hospital so that Claire could benefit from said treatment protocol as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, Claire's cancer metastasized between treatments five and eight. Her treating oncologist informed us that there was damage to the liver and bones, adding that a biopsy would be difficult to do because the lesions were very small. The next day, while consulting with Dr. Patenaude, I asked him if he could take over Claire's case. The very same day, Claire had blood tests and met Dr. André Constantin, a radiologist in the Division of Hematology-Oncology, who was to perform a short time later the biopsy confirming the presence of stage IV melanoma where the tumor has spread to the liver and bones.

Dr. Patenaude then suggested Claire participate in another protocol involving two inhibitors. Treatments began in June 2017, with very encouraging results. However, Claire also had intestinal problems. On February 1, 2018, Claire was rushed to the Emergency Room where an exam revealed that she needed surgery of the colon and small intestine without delay. Unfortunately, as her immune system was very weak, Claire succumbed to her illness and died with dignity in her room in Palliative Care surrounded by her family.

I have only good things to say about the JGH and its staff. The atmosphere at this hospital is simply unique! From my very first visit, I could see how different the JGH is. I was having a hard time finding my way and a member of the medical staff did not hesitate to guide me personally. Another time, I had completed my x-ray scan, but the orderly was not there. The Radiology Department's receptionist recognized me and brought me back to my room herself. These two individuals did not hesitate to go beyond the scope of their duties to help a patient. I have never seen that elsewhere and I have been at many hospitals!

Belanger_et_Patenaude_2.jpg For me, there are two hospitals in Montreal: the Jewish and the others. It would have been much harder for Claire and I to cope with and work through the hardships that faced us without the quality of intervention as well as the understanding and empathy shown by all staff members. There is no doubt in my mind that my wife would not have benefited from such a high quality of care but for Dr. Patenaude and his team.

Dr. Patenaude is not only a competent and dynamic hematologist-oncologist. He is an exceptional human being. Claire's physical as well as mental well-being were equally important to him. Several times, he took Claire in his arms when sharing with her some good news and, now and then, not so good news. He displayed a reassuring professionalism even when we knew he was emotionally affected. He continues to show the same empathy for me and a feeling of genuine affection has developed between us. I could add to this but all of the foregoing shows what Dr. Patenaude means to me and to many other patients and families. I would never go to another hospital or doctor.

I'm already a patient of the JGH in the areas of oncology, pneumology and endocrinology. I want to transfer all my medical files to the JGH. The Jewish is my hospital and it is with great joy that I made a donation in support of Dr. Patenaude's research recently. It is my small contribution to the advancement of medicine and a way for me to give back a little of all that I have so generously received from Dr. Patenaude and his team. In addition, even though I have limited means, I am currently considering making a monthly contribution to provide additional support.

The Jewish is an excellent hospital and the Segal Cancer Centre is recognized as a leader in oncology. The Maria Saputo Monticiollo Clinical Research Unit, the creation of which was made possible thanks to the support of people like you and me, provides access to a very wide range of treatment options and novel treatment protocols. This could mean the difference between life and death for all those patients who, like me, have advanced cancer or for whom the standard treatments are not working. With your renewed support, the JGH will be able to provide more of these patients with prompt access to the latest life-saving medical treatments and procedures and – most importantly – hope.

Similarly, it is important to help JGH staff members who put their heart and soul in providing patients with the attention and quality care they deserve on a daily basis. Basic pieces of equipment, such as blood pressure monitors, portable ultrasound machines or blood sampling carts, don't seem like much and don't cost a lot, but make a world of difference in terms of alleviating their workload and allowing them to excel.

We cannot depend only on government funding to ensure that the JGH is able to provide the best quality patient care possible and pursue vital medical research. The generous support of committed donors and volunteers like you and me is critical to its success. This is why I accepted to share my personal story with you and why I am appealing to you today to renew and extend your support of the JGH.

Yours very truly,

Pierre Bélanger

P.S. It's important to give in support of what we use every day or of that which we know we'll need one day, and not only for emergencies. We must continue to support this wonderful hospital in the best way we can, so that the life-saving and life-enhancing services will be there for us and our loved ones when we need them. Please take a moment right now to make a donation and give as generously as you can in support of the Jewish General Hospital.


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