Tag Archives: patient journey

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Ray Schachter is a lawyer in Vancouver. He is on the Executive Committee of the Global Sepsis Alliance and Canadian Sepsis Foundation

 

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

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PeggyPeggy 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

Girl in the DarkPatricia 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

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Peggy_newPeggy 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 recovering from thoracic surgery and undergoing chemotherapy.

 

My kind and generous friend, Gary, lives on the bank of the Gatineau River, looking half a kilometre across the water to the rolling Gatineau Hills on the other side. All summer he welcomes me to paddle his boats, especially his Outrigger Canoe (OC). On land, this boat looks cumbersome and awkward, but once launched, its pencil-like hull makes it a sleek and responsive craft. Last July, on the day that I was diagnosed with ‘highly suspicious tumours’, Gary helped me put the OC in the river and I paddled downstream to where the river widens even more, and in the vast solitude of open water and endless sky I wailed and raged at the universe, seeking guidance, grace and the courage to begin the next cancer detour in my life.

Now, nearing the end of February, I am half way through my chemo. The Chemotherapy Treatment Centre at ...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy 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 recovering from thoracic surgery and undergoing chemotherapy.

 

For years, I have proudly worn my swim club team T-shirt. The slogan on the front reads:

You don’t stop swimming because you get old,

You get old because you stop swimming!

In early January, as I was pulling into the Ottawa Y parking lot for swim practice, the radio announcer said, “For your morning commute, the time is 6:15, and the temperature is -27.”

I wasn’t alone in the pool that morning – there were 15 of us, and another twenty at the later practice. As usual, we moaned to our coach about a kick-set that is too long, and groaned about too many 100 IMs. But the brief bantering is part of the culture, part of the fun, and the coach takes it with a smile. Four mornings a week, for 22 years, I have been going to the National Capital Region Y Masters Swim Practice to start my day. Some of the swimmers who founded the club 34 years ago are still swimming; others devotees have joined more recently. One is an octogenarian. ...continue reading

Peggy_newPeggy 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 recovering from thoracic surgery.
 

In 2003, I was on my way to the Kansai Airport, in Osaka, Japan. I'd been visiting my daughter in Fukui, Japan. I was alone in this city of 19 million, loaded down with my luggage, some of her luggage (she was soon to return to Canada), and her snowboard. Through the whim of the Travel Gods, I found myself totally and completely lost in Osaka’s underground, helplessly rooted to the foreign soil, and the clock was ticking on my flight departure. I was crushed with the bustle of professionals scurrying to their jobs, engulfed by the sound of the loudspeaker blaring train arrivals (in Japanese, of course), and blinded by the parade of lights scheduling departures, which were unreadable to me.

I could taste my fear and dreaded a personal, international meltdown. Desperately, I tried to make eye contact ...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy 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, currently in training for major surgery

 

The quiet “little deaths”
of everyday existence
are mourned as much as those
of resounding magnitude,
for grief makes no comparisons nor judgements
and has no understanding
of degree.

These words are the foreword to a small book called To Heal Again: towards serenity and the resolution of grief, by poet and family counselor, Rusty Berkus. The paperback cover, mystical pictures and vivid colours would lead you, perhaps, to think it is a child’s picture book, but it is not. It is a book to help adults along the road to emotional healing.

I don’t remember when I first got this book, but I remember well that I have used it many times. I have cried at each page as I grieved over my parents’ gentle deaths, both age appropriate in their nineties, and over the untimely deaths of cherished friends in their fifties.

In my life, I find that grief is not restricted to the death of loved ones. ...continue reading

Domhnall MacAuleyDomhnall MacAuley is a CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, UK

 

“Unbreakable” is the life story of Mark Pollock, an athlete, adventurer and patient. This is no American schmaltzy reconstructed movie. Don’t expect a Hollywood ending. A university contemporary of Mark's, a filmmaker, had been making a documentary of his life. Neither of them could have anticipated what lay ahead.

Mark was born very short sighted and had a severe retinal detachment as a child.  A second unrepairable detachment as a university student left him blind. This is where the documentary begins.

...continue reading

Peggy_newPeggy 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.

 

As a member of the Busting Out dragon boat team for nine years, I made many breast cancer ‘thrivor’, friends. Most of our paddlers were living healthy ‘after cancer’ lives, but there was always the ongoing anxiety of recurrences, and too many of the women did have them.

Ten years after her original diagnosis and treatment, my very close friend, 50 year old Chris, had some symptoms, and was put through a battery of tests. Chris asked me to go with her for the follow up appointment with her Oncologist, to receive test results. With extreme gentleness and kindness, her oncologist explained some medical terms, but we both knew he meant that her breast cancer had metastasized and spread to several parts of her body. Chris wanted to be told the truth, and reluctantly the doctor said, “The rest of your life will be counted in years, not in decades,” and the three of us cried together. After living life to the fullest for two more years, Chris died at age 52, and I gave the eulogy at her funeral ...continue reading