An Open Letter of Thanks to the BC Cancer Agency

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. Traditionally, our family goes around the table and says what we are thankful for before we have our Thanksgiving feast. In addition to having a wonderful life, I’m grateful every day for the care and expertise and compassion given to me and thousands of other cancer patients in British Columbia. Today seems like a perfect opportunity to express that more broadly.

To radiologists who first saw something suspicious, and ordered a biopsy – thank you! It’s hard to tell someone there’s something not right on the screen in front of you, and to a person you were amazingly compassionate.

Strange as it may seem, I am deeply grateful to the BC Cancer Agency pathologists who not only diagnosed my cancer, but also saw the tiny, infintisimal cell that was hanging outside of a lymph node that could have gotten into my lymph system and led to metastasis if left unseen. It meant I had to have chemo, not so great. But it also means I’m alive today because of their vigilence. Thank you.

Here’s to the chemotherapy nurses who were so very caring at every chemo treatment. They eased my fears, respected my concerns, shared their tips on how to manage all of the nasty side effects and, often, made me laugh. They watched me carefully during each infusion, and made sure I was ok, not just physically but mentally. They are special people. Thank you!

And here’s to the booking clerks and unit clerks and all the behind the scenes people who worked tirelessly to make sure that my treatment appointments and care schedules all got booked. They always had a smile at check-in, or a friendly voice at the other end of the phone. When things didn’t quite match, or a last minute change had to be made, they did it on the spot without complaint. I know this is an immense juggling act, and I’m grateful for their dedication. Thank you.

The surgical team who looked after me at the beginning of my journey was exceptional. The pre-op team are specialists in putting you at ease. The OR nurses held my hand right through falling asleep – thank you! They were smart and funny, and incredibly compassionate. The aenesthetist was hilarious, and made me laugh out loud – and that’s saying something when you’re lying there waiting for the team to cut the cancer out of you. He was a special person, and I’m especially grateful for his expertise in not only keeping me asleep and alive during the operation, but making sure the formula he used did not make me nauseous when I woke up. (Make that grateful with a capital G.) And the post-op nurse who made sure I came out of my aenesthetic fog well, and got me ready to discharge (and warned me about the blue pee) – what a treat she was! My incredibly talented surgeon – who delayed her vacation by one day so she could do my surgery – ensured that the tumour was removed, the margins clean and my wounds stitched so perfectly they healed without issue. The care given me by this talented team was exceptional – thank you!

To the radiology team who gave me my daily zaps – thank you for your dedication to precision and your unfailing compassion. Every day you aligned the machine to the exact angles and doses. And you always asked how I was, what my day was like, and put me at ease. You made lying alone in that lead-lined room with a massive machine a little less scary, and I’m grateful.

My radiation oncologist deserves a special thanks, not only for his skill and professionalism, but also for his patience as I struggled to make life-impacting decisions about the course of my treatment. They were big decisions, and he took the time to carefully walk through the options with me, not once but several times. I’m deeply grateful for his caring approach to help me figure out what I wanted to do. Thank you!

I’ve saved the best for last. My medical oncologist is a saint. Her skill, wisdom and careful explanations of my options and what lay ahead are the reason I am alive today. Grateful doesn’t begin to cover it. She had my back every step of the way. Like my radiation oncologist, she has endless patience. She carefully listened to all my concerns, and walked through everything step by step in language I could understand. She has that unique blend of compassion and firmness – caring and empathy for the times I needed support, and no hesitation to put her foot down on the no side when necessary. Thank you seems inadequate to express how grateful I am.

It takes a village, they say. My village totally rocks. Thank you to the incredible team at the BC Cancer Agency!

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