Giving bad news to a patient is the hardest part of my job as an oncologist.
On this particular day, the patient sitting across from me is a 73-year-old grandmother of seven. As gently as I can, I break the news that she has stage 4 breast cancer that has spread to her liver.
Thankfully, there is hope. Thanks to support from generous donors like you, we can offer an effective treatment for Eileen’s type of cancer at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital (OTMH). It won’t cure her, but, if it works, it will give Eileen precious time to be with her family.
We begin the chemotherapy treatment and the results are dramatic. The tumours in Eileen’s liver melt away. It’s wonderful and encouraging news, except for one thing: the chemotherapy is having a negative effect on Eileen’s cardiac function.
Unfortunately, this is not uncommon . We know chemotherapeutic agents can be associated with some toxicity in the cardiovascular system. It’s for this very reason that we established our Cardio-Oncology Program at OTMH with a lot of help from our most generous supporters.
Through the Program, my colleagues and I work closely with cardiologists to monitor cancer patients like Eileen and prioritize them for regular cardiovascular testing. We also refer patients with pre-existing conditions to the Program for an assessment before their cancer treatment even begins.
As a patient of our Cardio-Oncology Program, Eileen came in for regular Echocardiograms to keep tabs on her heart function. About six months into treatment, the Echo showed a massive drop in function – so dramatic that I had no choice but to immediately stop her lifesaving cancer treatment.
“It was a terrifying time. Without treatment, I wouldn’t survive more than two or three months,” says Eileen. “I’m so grateful my doctors caught my heart problem early and were able to stabilize it with medication. Thanks to their quick action, I was able to go back on my treatment.”
With you leading the way, we’ll continue to do everything in our power to ensure the cancer patients I treat today don’t become cardiology patients in the future.
My colleagues and I do a cardiovascular risk profile for every cancer patient who comes through our doors. If they have a pre-existing condition or, as in Eileen’s case, will receive treatment known to cause potential cardiovascular problems, we refer them to the Program. Timely testing and thorough monitoring are critical which is why patients are seen by a cardiologist within two weeks of referral.
All of us at OTMH want the same thing: The very best outcomes for our patients – your family, friends and neighbours. We’ll happily go the extra mile to support them on their journey, reduce their risk of irreversible heart damage and improve their quality of life.
We have this in common with generous donors like you. With your leadership, you help bring innovative ideas like our Cardio-Oncology Program to fruition. You also make it possible for the growing number of cancer patients in our community to get good quality care in their own backyard.
There wouldn’t even be a cancer program in Oakville if not for generous supporters like you.
This holiday season, I’m asking for your support once again. Your gift will ensure my colleagues and I in every department have the equipment we need to diagnose, treat and care for patients. And, it will help give patients like Eileen the priceless gift of more holidays with their loved ones.
“I love seeing the smiles on the faces of my grandkids as they open their presents on Christmas morning,” says Eileen. “To still be here to watch them this year is the greatest gift I could ever ask for.”
More than anything, I want my patients to conquer cancer. What I don’t want is for their heart to be collateral damage or stand in the way of them getting treatment that could save their life.