Camille G.: Using her cancer experience to help others
Jul 22, 2019
In 2012, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was 19 years old at the time, just days into my second year of university.
In the beginning, no one explicitly told me, “You have cancer.” The doctor said, “We found a tumour” and “You have Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” I was in shock and confused, but I had little time to process what any of it meant. The same day I was diagnosed, I was sent to a hospital six hours from home for further assessment and treatment.
Over the course of the next six months, I underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 radiation treatments.
Cancer took a massive toll on my mental health and wellbeing. As my appearance changed and I faced the reality of my situation, I started to grieve the life I once knew and no longer had. While my friends were pursuing their education, meeting new people and going on adventures, all I had to look forward to was my next chemo treatment.
When I finally finished treatment the following spring, I assumed I could resume the life I had put on hold. I quickly found out that my journey with cancer did not end with remission. Healing, both physically and mentally, took a very long time.
While I will never “get over” my cancer experience, I have learned to expand my life around it. I wanted to use my experience help others, so I switched academic direction to pursue a career in oncology social work. I am now a graduate student on placement with a busy intensive care unit within a major general hospital that includes large cancer services.
I also became a volunteer patient advisor with Ontario Health (Cancer Care Ontario). I am currently working on a joint initiative with the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario to improve transitions through the cancer system for adolescents and young adults.
One issue I am passionate about is the need to recognize the importance and impact of clinician wellbeing on patient care. As a patient, I always evaluated the quality of my care based on the interactions and relationships I had with medical professionals. If we want to provide the best possible person-centred care for patients, we need to support the people providing that care. I am encouraged to see concern for safety and wellbeing in the work place and especially care for caregivers and healthcare professionals reflected in the Ontario Cancer Plan.
I am thankful to say that I have been in remission since 2013. I am living a very rewarding life, one that has been shaped by my experience with cancer and my relationships with the healthcare world. I am enthusiastic about the progress we continue to make towards enhancing the cancer system and the experiences of everyone involved with it.
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