“I can’t stress enough the difference a loving community makes,” says Gail McIlroy of Hawkestone, who also values the staff at RVH and OSMH.
The following is a personal account of living with cancer, written by Gail McIlroy of Hawkestone.
As a young grandmother with seven grandchildren, I wanted to share some of my experiences on the road to battling cancer, going through chemotherapy, and the incredible journey of recovery.
The journey continues: lots of imaging, oncological follow-ups and now I could (almost) run a pharmacy from home.
It’s quite amazing how the mind can wander if we dare to allow it. Being isolated because your immune system is at zero and the country is still in the midst of a pandemic, texting and social media become your new friends.
The treatment journey must be done by oneself due to the state of our wonderful wonderful country due to the increasing number of COVID cases; you quickly learn to handle things on your own, ever so respectful of your frontline workers.
Family members check in and out every day which is such a bonus. Community friends continue to prepare and provide food daily, delivered to the porch, and my dog and companion, Bentley, happily announces their arrival.
I cannot stress enough the difference a loving community makes. Even though right now I’m not seeing anyone, just knowing they’re there makes a huge difference in my mental attitude. It should be noted that our community has really bonded.
Thanks to Judy and Becky for setting up a meal train. Also popular are Guy and Heike and William (who rides Bentley), Cindy and Jay, Warren and Barb, Marilyn and Bob, Wanda and Don, Mark and Ricki, Ralph and Sandra, Betty Ann and Terry, Debbie, Irene and John, Michelle and Peter.
Having friends so generously prepared to eat really made such a difference in recovery; I would never be this good without their dedicated influence and delicious meals.
Thanks to neighbor Scott who voluntarily moves the snow off the trails so the nurses can find their way to the front door.
Luckily, another neighbor has volunteered to turn over the trash cans and recycling bins every week. Thanks Kirk!
Part of organizing your trip is making trips to and from the hospital. In my case, my son Brad from Toronto took the time to stay with me after the surgery; my sister Nancy (from Thunder Bay) and my son Jamie (from Calgary) each took a ride, not only to drive, but stayed with me after the surgery.
Helping Hands drivers drive on days when no one else can. Then there’s loyal and dedicated friend Sharon who’s been driving every week since the family left. Thanks Sharon.
Yes, it takes a village! Dedicated neighbors and friends made many parts of this trip possible.
Admittedly, the treatments can be grueling; some days are more stressful than others, and as mentioned earlier, in some cases it’s hard to get off the pillow. Therefore, I cannot stress enough the importance of reaching out. Friends like to help!.
Keeping everything as normal as possible is another goal! Thanks Sue for getting me a dog walker and thanks Rob for coming anytime. .
Hydration and rest are essential to your well-being during your recovery. Filled with painkillers and whatever else you’re recommended to get through the day, some of us walk sideways because of the drugs. Perhaps, as cancer patients, we should form our own full choir line with IV poles.
Hope some of the stuff was helpful to those new to this journey, a journey you didn’t ask for, but a journey you will earn!
Humor should always be a priority. One evening without glasses, I decided to taste one of the treats that had been delivered to me. It was separate from other food items so I thought it was a delicious little dessert.
After tasting I thought it might be another type of fig or maybe a bacon flavored oat bar. Hmm… Then I thought to look at the neatly labeled item: it was a generous and thoughtful treat for Bentley. Lesson learned: wear your glasses and laugh.
I go to the Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital of Orillia (OSMH) for my chemo treatments and to the Royal Victoria Hospital for radiation therapy. Once again, I can’t say enough good things about the OSMH’s small cancer centre.
Being small is an asset. The nursing staff knows all the patients and welcomes you gently and kindly as soon as you arrive. It takes a special type of nurse to work in this field, knowing that some of us will be successful and some will not. Friendly, yet professional, I consider him another bonus on this trip.
Thank you to the caring staff at Soldiers’. They care and take the time to show it; a small group of engaging professionals who consider us almost like family.
Everyone at Soldiers Cancer Center goes out of their way to keep you comfortable during chemo treatments, and yes we laugh a lot together Thank you.
I mentioned Bentley, my four-legged partner in crime – a four-year-old Golden Doodle rescue. I got a great gift from Scott and Lauren (one of my three sons and his wife): a Furbo (furbodogcameras.com), which is a dog camera that allows you to interact with your pet when you are absent.
I can watch Bentley’s antics, talk to him through a speakerphone from my iPhone, and feed him a treat from the unit with a single touch from the phone. All from the hospital and my chemo chair.
A fun fact: the Furbo also has a motion sensor that triggers preset responses. One night when I was up to take some meds, he quietly flipped me a piece of kibble and then sent an alert to my phone that he had detected someone in the house. Needless to say, after a brief moment of panic, I did the adjustment the next day.
So in closing, be strong, be loyal and honest with your loved ones, and be true to your commitment to healing, and most importantly, to love yourself. Stay strong, laugh a lot, and let your body heal by resting.
Chemo tires the body, so now is not the time to be heroic, but rather to relax, rebuild, reach out and be grateful!