Should you or a family member get injured or face a devastating illness, where would you turn to? If you're like most in our community, you would go to the Jewish General Hospital. Why? Because you know you will be in good hands and receive the best medical care possible. You also know that you'll be treated by dedicated, compassionate staff who will go over and beyond to help you get better. And you know this because your commitment and generosity have helped make the JGH the go-to hospital that it is.
I was only 30 years old and a single mother of two young girls, Shannon and Arielle, aged 7 and 3 respectively, when I was first diagnosed with cancer in 1994 and referred to the JGH.
Everything happened so quickly. JGH Oncologist Dr. François Patenaude started me on a structured plan comprising surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I felt I was being guided and trusted him right away.
Through it all, I maintained the upbeat attitude and spirited approach to life that has always served me so well. Talking with doctors and nurses, and with other patients, became my therapy. Everything seems worse when you're alone. When you talk with other people, you soon realize that you're not the only one to go through this and that you're not the worse off either. I began helping others by sharing my story.
I was asked by Hope & Cope, a unique volunteer-based organization that provides support to cancer patients and their families and is entirely funded by private donors, to join its Young Adult Cancer Support Group. I started meeting and talking to more and more young people battling cancer. I was very busy volunteering and I was thrilled when my cancer went into remission.
As my cancer was oestrogen positive, I began hormone therapy to stop oestrogen production. I was told that by following that care plan for five years, the chance of the cancer coming back would be much lower. I didn't make it. Four years into the plan, an annual mammogram detected the same tumour in the same breast.
The news that my cancer was back devastated me. In the following weeks, I felt that I was going to die, that I would never see my daughters grow. I became convinced that my cancer was so strong that it would keep coming back in spite of everything.
Dr. Patenaude and his team told me that the best solution was to remove the breast. The operation was performed by Dr. Jacob Garzon, and the breast reconstruction was done by Dr. Tassos Dionisopoulos. The result was simply fantastic. I was in full remission and so happy.
Unfortunately, my battle with cancer was not over. In the following years, my cancer metastasized three more times.
In 2007, the cancer returned in my brachial Plexus causing immense nerve pain and requiring five more weeks of radiation.
In 2013, it returned in my chest wall. It was detected early because Dr. Patenaude had arranged for me to undergo 3 PET-scans per year. I am proud to say that the results arrived much quicker than in previous years because of the new technology that was acquired thanks to the funds raised by committed individuals like you, and from events such as the Bust-A-Move for Breast Health – in which I participated fully.
It was my first contact with the Segal Cancer Centre and the Radiation Oncology Division's new premises near the main entrance of the hospital, both of which are great examples of what we, as individuals, can help to accomplish through our support. I underwent brachytherapy, a highly targeted form of radiotherapy in which the JGH is a forerunner, and things stabilized… But only for a while.
In 2015, I started having problems with my left arm again, and the scans showed that more tumours had destroyed the nerves in my arm. It was inoperable and radiation therapy was also not possible because I had already had too much.
At that point, I feared that I was running out of treatment options. Every treatment worked, but was effective for only so long. When I shared my concerns with Dr. Patenaude, he replied that there are so many other treatments we can still try. That gave me such confidence. It also made me realize how much cancer care has progressed since I was first diagnosed over 20 years ago – again thanks in no small part to the help you and other thoughtful members of the community provide through your continued support of the JGH.
I started a new chemotherapy regimen involving the taking of pills, which is not as drastic as conventional chemotherapy and has much less side effects. And last week, I am happy to say, PET scan results showed that my cancer is dormant.
Today, I am well and extremely grateful to the staff and supporters of this marvelous hospital. The medical team at the Segal Cancer Centre extended my life by 23 years and Hope & Cope has been my lifeline by helping me to live well in the face of cancer. I trust the JGH and its staff immensely. My cancer could reappear at anytime, but it will never get the better of me as long as the JGH is there for me. I am driven to help others facing similar challenges by sharing my story and raising vital funds to help the JGH get better and better, like I'm doing now with this letter.
Please renew and extend your support for the JGH today. You will be helping each and every member of our community to benefit from superior, humane care when it is needed the most. Thank you.
Yours very truly,
P.S. As your hospital, the JGH wants to provide the best care for those you care about. Your gift, whether it's $25, $50 or whatever you can afford, will help the JGH staff to help you when it counts the most. It will translate into more treatment options, new drugs, innovative therapies, new patient support programs, better equipment and many other improvements that will prove essential in saving or extending the life of someone down the line. It continues to make a huge difference in my life! Please take a moment right now to make a donation and give as generously as you can in support of the Jewish General Hospital.