Cancer Pays Toll With Appreciation

Last summer I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent a radical orchiectomy at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to have the tumour removed. When a follow-up CT scan showed inflammation in my abdomen, I was referred to the PEI Cancer Centre for chemotherapy.  After a month of treatment, the prognosis is good and I am unofficially labeled cancer free. Officially, I am thankful and appreciative.

There are many reasons to be happy and proud to be Canadian, but free access to health care is something to be cherished. Having visited a local health clinic which led to an ultrasound, specialist appointment, and surgery within 10 days, I considered myself lucky to have my biggest concern limited to recovery rather than having to worry about access to treatment and/or how to afford it. Cancer took its’ toll and left my scarred, but it didn’t cost me my life or my financial future and I have my Country to thank for that.

I am also very happy to be a P.E. Islander. Living in the smallest province can easily lend to looking toward larger population centres and wondering if the grass is greener on the other side. I will attest that there are arguments to be made based on job options, entertainment, and lifestyle depending on personal preference; but, when it comes to health care, the bedside manner in PEI can’t be beat.

In PEI there are no true strangers – everyone smiles at each other; and with our small populace there’s little to no anonymity. There is a common familiarity amongst residents through all sectors of business and society, as well as health care. Unlike larger population centers where caregiver and patient are otherwise strangers, in PEI caregiver/patient relationships are paralleled by family and community ties. The resulting level of care can’t help but be enhanced.

While I’ve long held this opinion, my experience with the PEI Cancer Centre really drove it home. The doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers are all nothing short of amazing. Every day they treat, care for, and assist people with varying forms of deadly disease, and somehow do so cheerfully. Most patients have never been sicker in their lives, many are weak and frail, lots are in pain, and everyone’s scared. It would be easy to assume there would be no more depressing place on Earth and yet it’s completely the opposite. The administrative assistants are always smiling and friendly. The facilities are bright and inviting. Volunteers bustle through the waiting rooms offering snacks and drinks, quick to bring a blanket to anyone shivering. A social worker and nutritionist make regular rounds offering assistance and guidance. The doctors are calming, the nurses are warm, assuring, and caring, and everyone is constantly upbeat. In a centre for the treatment of cancer, hope abounds.

I have always been proud to be Canadian, but as a cancer survivor I’m even more grateful for all I’m afforded in life simply because of my nationality. Furthermore I’ve developed a deeper level of affection for my native province – while economics may pull me away, the tightness of the community and society will always draw me home.

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