In March 1996, I was a healthy, fit 50-year-old man enjoying life with a young family. A month later, I was in an induced coma fighting for my life against acute septic shock accompanied by severe adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and multi-joint and -organ dysfunction which frequently accompanies sepsis. My sepsis was brought on by Group A Streptococcus (Strep A) in my bloodstream which compromised almost all my joints.
My trajectory which led to acute sepsis is not unusual. On Day 1, I had a very severe, but short-lived, bout of extremely high fever (40.5 degrees Celsius), followed by excruciating hip pain the following day.
By Day 3, the hip pain had become unbearable. That evening, we called my family doctor’s on-call service and a doctor came to the house at midnight. The physician felt my condition was osteoarthritis and prescribed anti-inflammatories.
On Day 4, my wife became so concerned that she called a doctor who was a family friend. ...continue reading →
I changed jobs this week. On Monday, my first day, when I should have been primarily concerned with learning the office microwave-cleaning rota and orienting myself to a new Xerox print centre, I was a little preoccupied. At 8 pm on Sunday, I found out that my father had fallen, broken his hip, undergone emergency surgery, and was in isolation in a hospital in southwestern Ontario. Details were fuzzy. Hospital staff would not share much with my aunt, my father’s sister. He had managed to call her on Sunday morning, 24 hours after his fall, once he had come round after anaesthesia. He needed her to go to his house to make sure my mom was okay. My mom wasn’t answering the phone.
Unanswered phone calls are not uncommon at my parents’ house. My father is quite hard of hearing, after spending 37 years as an infantry officer. My mother tends not to answer the phone because she is self-conscious. She has a severe cognitive disability ...continue reading →
This story is about my family’s experience with PAD (Physician Assisted Dying). Our hope is that it will be of some help to others following, or contemplating following, the same path.
In the fall of 2015 my brother, Curt, age 62, was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer. He had been overseas for a number of years and by the time he came to us he was skin and bones, couldn’t walk, suffered from hallucinations and vision issues as well as bone and joint pain. The hospital doctors got him stabilized and resolved the hallucination and visions issues but held out no hope for curing the cancer. We were very lucky to secure him a bed at a hospice facility in a state in which PAD is legal. I cannot say enough about how wonderful and supportive they were to Curt and the rest of his family and we all feel a huge debt of gratitude for their efforts. I am not naming this facility or state because, although everything they did was perfectly legal and above board, the staff expressed a desire to fly under the radar regarding their participation in the process. This position reinforces the reality that PAD is still a very controversial endeavor ...continue reading →
Dawn Richards provides project management consultant services to the Canadian organization Network of Networks (N2). She also works as a patient consultant for other organizations.
Have you ever wondered what clinical trials are? How they work? What the potential benefits and risks are? If a clinical trial is an option for you or someone you know we hope that a new website called Itstartswithme.ca(Cacommenceavecmoi.ca) will answer a number of these questions for you, and help you make an informed decision about clinical trials. The website also includes some questions to ask if you’re interested in becoming a participant as well as what to expect, and a large glossary of terms.
Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete. This is her last blog, a year on from her diagnosis of lung cancer.
My last CMAJ blog was written and posted in April, 2015, when I was anxiously waiting the results from a CT scan of my lungs, following surgical and oncology treatment for non-smokers’ lung cancer. I’m overjoyed and relieved to write that the CT scan shows that my lungs are clear, that there is no evidence of disease. Now, I am emotionally free to get on with my life, to try to overcome the residual side effects of chemotherapy, and to regain some of the strength and fitness that I have lost.
I wish it were just that easy! As happened thirty years ago, following treatment for breast cancer, I now find myself asking, “Why me?’ not the unanswerable Why Me? that one asks when first diagnosed, but the Why Me? that follows successful treatment ...continue reading →
At six months and counting, life has mostly returned to normal, although persistent heaviness in dependent parts still creates intermittent discomfort. A long bicycle ride with insufficient padding had me worrying about Fournier’s gangrene for days. Wearing old lycra with my new contours, I did a brutal number on one upper thigh and side of scrotum. ...continue reading →
Janet Whitehead works and lives in Vancouver, BC. She is the mother of 3 children and has a granddaughter.
Five years ago I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I had most of my left lung and lymph nodes removed in my first surgery and tumours removed from my right lung in a second surgery three months later. I’ve never smoked.
It was a huge shock. Like most people, I thought only people who smoked got lung cancer. But that’s not the case.
Through my husband’s work, I am aware of radon gas and the fact that it is a leading cause of lung cancer. We sent radon detectors to the two homes where we had lived in eastern Canada. One of the homes, located in the heart of Ottawa, tested a staggering 16 times above the Health Canada radon guideline ...continue reading →
I was 16 years old when Sadness and Joy first went AWOL in my brain for a protracted period. I was an angry, scared, self-loathing teenager. Typical, many might say, but the anger and fear ran deeper and longer than my teenaged psyche could endure. I started taking anti-depressants when I was in university, and I have alternated between diagnoses of anxiety and depression for much of my adult life. I am fighting hard to keep the black dogs at bay. Finally, at the age of 36, I feel like I am making some head way.
Inside Outbrings to life five of the small voices in our heads, each of which represents a universal emotion: Happiness, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. (Surprise is absent.) We learn how these five emotions interact with each other in 11-year-old Riley’s head to keep her safe, drive her passions, connect with others and form her personality. ...continue reading →
Patricia Lightfoot is Associate Director, Online Physician Learning, at the new CMA subsidiary "8872147 Canada Inc."
I read Girl in the Dark a few months after escaping from a darkened room, where I had lain blind-folded and ear-plugged, the prisoner of an implacable captor, with whom no negotiation was possible. My time spent in darkness was the consequence of a concussion, sustained following a severe fall when cycling down a hill on my regular Saturday ride. A full recovery eluded me for months, in spite of my intense desire to be well and active. Once I had served my sentence ...continue reading →
Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete. She is now post-surgery and post-chemotherapy.
The waiting room for my Thoracic Surgeon is much like any other. The unspoken, unwritten ‘Waiting Room Rules’ seem to apply: No Eye Contact, No Conversation, Appear Calm. With unfocused eyes, patients flip through outdated, uninteresting magazines, or scroll through previously read emails on smart phones. Outwardly, all is calm, quiet and relaxed. However, a rapidly pulsing crossed leg says otherwise....
In a few weeks, it will be my turn to deal with my stress in this waiting room. I will be trying to follow the rules, but the reality is that my anxiety levels will be off the chart. My appointment will be to receive feedback/results/information from my most recent CT scan. ...continue reading →