Stories / Patient stories

Joanne’s story: Patient support programs

Joanne’s story: Patient support programs GRHF story Joanne’s story: Patient support programs GRHF story

When diagnosed with cancer, life gets turned upside down.  Suddenly faced with appointments and medical information, patients become overwhelmed and it affects their wellbeing.

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Joanne, a wife and mother of three, has lived through the nightmare of a cancer diagnosis twice. She knows firsthand how important a comprehensive cancer program is to patients and their loved ones and the difference it can make.

Joanne was first diagnosed with cancer in 1993. At the time, cancer patients were referred to a small chemotherapy clinic with only a few staff. Six months of treatment turned into nine months, with many delays and complications. She struggled with mental health challenges, including four suicide attempts. When the treatments were complete, Joanne felt alone.

In 2008, the cancer came back. But this time, the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre had opened, giving her a full oncology team and a range of programs to help her and her family cope with the experience. Immediately she felt more empowered in her own care.

“When I met my oncology team after my second diagnosis, they were like angels at the end of a very dark tunnel,” explains Joanne. “For the first time, I was asked my opinion on what they were doing and whether I understood. My radiologist even showed me my scans and what they meant.  I was a part of my oncology team.”

The other important service that the GRRCC had added to our community since Joanne’s first experience was a suite of patient support programs. From the J. Wesley Graham Patient and Family Resource Centre, to the lymphedema program, to the UW WELL-FIT fitness program, to patient accommodation, the place where care is delivered became the place to feel better.

For Joanne, she sought extra help for the lymphedema she was experiencing since radiation treatment. The appointments she had with the physiotherapist on-site taught her how to manage the swelling and pain. Most of all, it was a place to ask questions and feel comforted.

“I’m a person first and a patient second. I’m not just a patient with a tumour,” explains Joanne. “That’s why supportive services are so important. More patients are living with cancer now and they need help with the side effects and emotional pain that lasts after the last treatment.  There is a great need for patients .”

Joanne’s summary of her experience through her second cancer treatment says it all, “As I left the hospital I had this smile on my face and tears in my eyes. Patients are at the core of what Grand River Regional Cancer Centre does and I am an important part of my team.”

The number of cancer cases is growing and it is causing financial strain on patient support programs, just like the lymphedema program that helped Joanne. The GRRCC team wants to be able to treat these patients and give them the support they need.

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