Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis

Hope because of scientists who never gave up; who were determined to turn the tables on cancer and to create a better chance of survival, for patients like Dan Collins.

Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis

Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope. Dan had hope because of scientists who never gave up; who were determined to turn the tables on cancer and to create a better chance of survival, for patients like him. Hope that a cure is coming.

Discovery of a mass

Four years ago, Dan had been travelling for work, when he started noticing some pain when he’d lean his head back to rest on the plane. He recalls turning to his family doctor to get answers. An ultrasound revealed there was something inside the back of his head that looked like a cyst.

After an initial biopsy, Dan was referred to a surgeon at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre. Another biopsy revealed the cyst was actually a mass. It was melanoma. “I was scared. Cancer had stripped my family of so much. I lost both of my two older brothers and my father to cancer. I feared for my life,” recalls Dan.

Unfortunately, the mass starting growing – and it was growing fast. By the end of July, just two months later, the mass went from being not visible on the back of his head, to the size of a golf ball.

His surgical oncologist, Dr. Stephanie Obaseki-Johnson, initially wanted to shrink the tumour before surgery to remove it. However, the mass was growing too quickly.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong of The Ottawa Hospital in a patient room.
Dan Collins with Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong.

Time to act

On August 11, 2015, Dan had surgery that lasted most of the day. When it was over, he had 25 staples and 38 stitches in the back of his head. As he recovered, Dan was reminded of a saying that helped him through recovery, “Never be ashamed of your scars. It just means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.”

He would need that strength with the news that awaited him. Only two weeks later, the mass was back. His doctors also discovered a mass in his right lung and shadows in the lining of his belly. He had stage 4 cancer – it had metastasized. This was an aggressive cancer that left Dan thinking about the family he had already lost and what would happen to him.

The next generation of treatment

Soon, he was introduced to The Ottawa Hospital’s Dr. Michael Ong and was told about immunotherapy – the next generation of treatment, with the hope of one day eliminating traditional and sometimes harsh treatment like chemotherapy. Dr. Ong prescribed four high doses of immunotherapy. At the same time, radiation treatment began for Dan – 22 in all. His immunotherapy treatments were three weeks apart at the Cancer Centre and between each, he would have an x-ray to monitor the tumours.

“Each x-ray showed the tumours were getting smaller. That’s when the fear started shifting to hope.” – Dan Collins, patient

By December 2015, Dan finished immunotherapy treatment and the next step was to wait. “This transformational treatment was designed to train my own immune system to attack the cancer. We would have to be patient to see if my system would do just that,” says Dan.

While the shadows in Dan’s stomach lining had shrunk, the mass in his lung had not. That’s when Dr. Ong prescribed another immunotherapy drug that would require 24 treatments.

Dan learned from his oncologist that melanoma has gone from being an extremely lethal cancer, with few treatment options, to having many different effective therapies available.

“When I started as an oncologist a decade ago, melanoma was essentially untreatable. Only 25 percent would survive a year. Yet now, we can expect over three quarters of patients to be alive at one year. Many patients are cured of their metastatic cancer and come off treatment. We are now able to prevent 50 percent of high-risk melanoma from returning because of advances in immunotherapy,” says Dr. Ong.

Dan completed his last immunotherapy treatments in September 2017.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong posing with armed crossed at The Ottawa Hospital.
Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong of The Ottawa Hospital.

Today, there is no sign of cancer

When Dan thinks back to the day of his diagnosis, he remembers wondering if he was going to die. “I believe I’m here today because of research and because of those who have donated to research before me.”

He thinks back to when his older brother Rick died of cancer in 2007. “At the time he was treated, his doctor asked if he would participate in a research study. The doctor told him directly, this would not help him, but it would help somebody in the future.” Dan pauses to reflect and then continues, “I like to think, that maybe, he had a hand in helping me out today. Maybe he helped me survive. One thing I do know is that research was a game changer for me.”

The Ottawa Hospital has been a leader in bringing immunotherapy to patients. Research and life-changing treatments available at The Ottawa Hospital altered Dan’s outcome and he hopes that advancements will continue to have an impact on many more patients, not only here at home but right around the world.

To support life-saving research at The Ottawa Hospital that helps patients like Dan, please donate today.

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Minimally invasive surgery ‘perfectly’ restores hearing

After a brain tumour threatened to make Denis Paquette deaf in both ears, and traditional brain surgery deamed too risky, The Ottawa Hospital doctors were challenged to work collaboratively to find a solution.

Minimally invasive surgery ‘perfectly’ restores hearing

After a brain tumour began growing in to his ear, Denis Paquette was at risk of losing his hearing in both ears – a circumstance that would strip him of his ability to hear his wife’s voice forever. With traditional brain surgery deemed too risky, Dr. Fahad AlKherayf and Dr. Shaun Kilty were challenged to find a safer solution – removing the tumour through his nose.

A life unlike most

Since birth, Denis Paquette, now 66, has been deaf in one ear. It’s clear he has a deep-rooted understanding of the nuances of having such an impairment. After all, it’s all he’s ever known. Holding the phone to his good ear and turning his head while in conversation to better hear someone are habits he was quick to establish.

But in 2016, these little tricks, which he has cultivated throughout his life, started to fail him. Conversations were getting harder to hear and Denis’ wife, Nicole,

Hospital around the world are looking to The Ottawa Hospital tDr. Fahad AlKherayf and Dr. Shaun Kilty standing in an operating room at The Ottawa Hospital.
Hospitals around the world are looking to The Ottawa Hospital to learn about the type of minimally invasive brain surgery performed by Dr. Fahad AlKherayf (right) and Dr. Shaun Kilty.

noticed that Denis was progressively increasing the volume on the television.

“I was beginning to be frustrated because people were talking to me, but I was just getting parts of the conversation,” said Denis.

Journey to diagnosis

Concerned about his hearing, Denis visited his family doctor. He was sent for various hearing tests, each showing that something was wrong. It was then that Denis was referred to Dr. David Schramm, a hearing specialist at The Ottawa Hospital. Dr. Schramm ordered an MRI that revealed Denis had a rare tumour growing in his skull and in to his inner ear. These weren’t the results Denis and Nicole were expecting.

“I didn’t know what to expect, so it was really shocking news,” said Denis.

Denis needed specialized surgery to remove the tumour and required the expertise of neurosurgeon Dr. Fahad AlKherayf and ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist Dr. Shaun Kilty.

Due to the complexity of Denis’ diagnosis, Dr. AlKherayf and his team were challenged to remove the tumour without jeopardizing his hearing completely.

“The tumour was growing in his skull and in to his inner ear, putting pressure on his hearing nerve on the good ear. There was a risk he would lose the rest of his hearing,” said Dr. AlKherayf.

“Despite it being a benign lesion, the impact of it was huge.” – Dr. Fahad AlKherayf

Dr. AlKherayf knew that removing the tumour through Denis’ ear could risk permanently damaging what little hearing he had left. With this in mind, Dr. AlKherayf recommended that Denis undergo the newly-available minimally invasive brain surgery. With this technique, his tumour would be removed through his nostrils instead of through his ear.

The risk was high

Traditionally, brain surgery for a case such as Denis’ would take place through the ear and require a large incision through the skull. But with only one good ear to start with, performing brain surgery in this way could permanently and completely impair his hearing.

Not only could Denis lose his hearing, the traditional method of removing such a tumour has a greater risk of complication, a higher chance of infection, and demands a longer recovery period – up to six months. It would also leave a large scar, beginning in front of his ear and extending all the way up and behind it. The thought of undergoing such a procedure alone was nerve-racking.

A new surgery technique

Over the last several years, Dr. AlKherayf has advanced new techniques for removing various types of brain tumours, known as minimally invasive surgery.

Minimally invasive surgery has transformed the way operations are performed by allowing surgeries to be carried out as keyhole procedures, a surgical procedure that provides access to parts of the body without having to make large incisions. This operation is much safer, with risk of infection and recovery time greatly reduced. In many cases, patients are discharged within just a few days of surgery.

“It’s quicker to recover for patients,” said Dr. Kilty. “Because they don’t have to recover from the extensive dissection that traditional approaches [surgeries] require.”

Performing these types of surgeries requires two physicians – a neurosurgeon to remove the tumour and an ENT to provide access to the tumour through the nose and to control the endoscope. Due to the complex nature of these surgeries, Dr. AlKherayf is among a small group willing to perform them. Many are looking to The Ottawa Hospital to learn about this innovative surgery. “We have become one of the top places in Canada for this technique,” said Dr. AlKherayf.

Denis Paquette sitting outside at a table at The Ottawa Hospital.
Denis Paquette’s hearing was restored after receiving minimally invasive brain surgery at The Ottawa Hospital.

“They did a miracle on me”

On July 20, 2016, Denis underwent a five-hour operation during which Dr. AlKherayf and Dr. Kilty were able to successfully access and remove the tumour through his nose. The insertion of a microscopic tube that would travel from the cavity of where the tumour once was to his sinuses which would prevent future buildup of fluid and prevent the chance of reoccurrence.

When he woke up, Denis was astounded that he could hear his wife’s voice. “I woke up and wow,” said Denis, “I could hear!”

Just two days after his surgery, he was discharged.

“They did a miracle on me. They did something fantastic,” said Denis, whose hearing tests have been perfect ever since.

“They did a miracle on me. They did something fantastic.” – Denis Paquette

Thanks to the care Denis received at The Ottawa Hospital and the benefits of minimally invasive surgery, he can now enjoy watching his television shows and conversing with his wife without issue. He no longer fears a life without sound.

Your support today will allow us to continue to provide the latest treatments for patients like Denis.

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Local activist donor pledges $500,000 to take on cancer

Gavin Murphy is unwavering when it comes to his desire to maintain a world-class health care system in our city. As a result, he’s willing to step forward and be an activist donor.

Local activist donor pledges $500,000 to take on cancer

Gavin Murphy is unwavering when it comes to his desire to maintain a world-class health care system in our city. He’s unwilling to settle for anything less and he doesn’t think anyone in our community should either. Gavin believes each resident needs to play an active role in giving back, and that’s why this self-described “activist” donor is sharing his story – a story he hopes will lead to a cure for cancer.

This New Edinburgh resident has committed $500,000 to support the Radiation Medicine Program at The Ottawa Hospital – it’s what he wants his lasting legacy to be.

While the Ottawa lawyer isn’t looking for public recognition, he’s not shy about sharing the news of his gift as he hopes it will inspire others to do the same. “Scarce government resources requires those in a position to give significant gifts to step forward and support The Ottawa Hospital.” Gavin adds, “By giving serious thought to my philanthropy, I am hoping to help improve discovery and care for our families, friends, and neighbours.”

Gavin’s interest in cutting-edge research is what enticed him to make this tremendous gift to Radiation Medicine Program with the hope that findings will one day be published. He’s excited about the opportunities which lie ahead and the advancements that will be made.

 

“I want to give this money while I’m still alive. It’s great that people leave money in their estates, I think that’s wonderful but I want to see the fruits of my labour, in my lifetime.” – Gavin Murphy

 

 

Gavin Murphy takes pride in describing himself an activist donor.
Gavin Murphy takes pride in describing himself an activist donor.

It’s the fruits of his labour, which will leave his fingerprints on advancements in cancer care to help others in the future. For Gavin, that’s truly exciting. “I like the idea of funding new, innovative technology. It will leave a lasting legacy and this gift is providing the building blocks for future research in this field.”

Donor support is vital to providing doctors and researchers with state-of-the-art tools. It’s also what allows The Ottawa Hospital to be a trailblazer when it comes to transformational advancements. Dr. Miller MacPherson, the Head of Medical Physics at The Ottawa Hospital says, “It’s the generosity of donors like Gavin which allows The Ottawa Hospital to be innovative with new technologies. This support will provide insight for new discoveries and will have an impact on care through research and technology advancements in the field of cancer research.”
Dr. Jason Pantarotto, Head of Radiation Oncology at The Ottawa Hospital, echoes that sentiment, noting that donations to the Radiation Medicine Program are particularly precious. “Despite radiotherapy being a key treatment for nearly 5,000 cancer patients each year in Ottawa, the amount of research dollars available to improve the science is pretty sparse. We are extremely grateful to donors, such as Gavin, who see the benefits of investing in the team and equipment that exists here at The Ottawa Hospital.”

For Gavin, his ultimate goal is to help find a cure for cancer.

“This gift will provide a foundation to greater understanding of cancer and I hope it will help obliterate cancer sometime down the road.”- Gavin Murphy

The reality is The Ottawa Hospital will touch each person in our community in some way. For Gavin, that’s a good reason for not only himself but also for others to step forward. “If people want to be well looked after in a world-class system, we have to ensure a world-class system is maintained.”

The way Gavin sees it, we’ll all need The Ottawa Hospital at some point, and there’s a way for each person in our community to support it. “You need people who are in the position to give, and those who can give smaller amounts, in greater numbers to support the hospital equally.”

To be a donor like Gavin, supporting patient-centred care and life-saving research at The Ottawa Hospital, please donate.

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From recovery room to the workshop: Carving inspires emotional healing

A small workspace, some stone and a few tools helped Saila Kipanek, a traditional Inuit carver, recover and heal after rectal cancer surgery and treatment.

Inuit carves way to mental well-being after cancer

After cancer diagnosis, Saila Kipanek, a traditional Inuit carver, couldn’t have imagined how important his life’s work would be for his recovery.

When Saila was diagnosed with rectal cancer, he knew his best chance for survival was treatment at The Ottawa Hospital. But uprooting his life in Nunavut, to be treated in Ottawa, away from his family, friends, and community would prove to be a challenge. It took a toll on his mental health.

But staff at The Ottawa Hospital would go the extra mile to make him feel at home.

A wholistic approach to healing

It was a cold February day, when Saila woke up in a post-op recovery room. He was feeling like a shell of his former self. Having spent months away from his home and his loved ones while undergoing cancer treatment, which included chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, he was suffering from extreme depression.

Not long after Saila’s surgery, Carolyn Roberts, a Registered Nurse and First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Nurse Navigator for the Indigenous Cancer Program, took Saila to Gatineau Park. As they sat by the river, Saila shared that his mental health was “in his boots” – but, he knew exactly what he needed to heal. “What I really need is to carve,” he explained to Carolyn. “Carving would help me feel like myself.”

Treating patients from Nunavut in Ottawa

The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, through an agreement with the Government of Nunavut, is the provider of cancer services to residents of Baffin Islands and eastern Nunavut. For this reason, patients like Saila travel thousands of kilometres to receive the very best treatment and care in Ottawa. However, coming to such a large city away from familiar culture, language, and food can make them feel isolated, and take a toll on their mental health.

Saila Kapinek carving his way to mental well-being at The Ottawa Hospital.
Saila Kapinek carving his way to mental well-being at The Ottawa Hospital.
The dancing bear that Saila began carving as he was receiving treatment at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre.
The dancing bear that Saila began carving as he was receiving treatment at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre.

Patient-centered health care

The role of the Nurse Navigator within the Indigenous Cancer Program is diverse and patient-centered. An important part of Carolyn’s role is to listen to the needs of each patient and work to the best of her ability to accommodate those needs. “If you just listen,” said Carolyn, “patients tell you what they need to heal.”

Carolyn did just that. After listening to Saila’s struggles, she was determined to help him. It was at that moment that Carolyn took it upon herself to find a space within the hospital for Saila to carve.

She approached Kevin Godsman, then one of the Managers of Facilities, to see if there was a room that Saila could use to carve in. With help from his colleagues, he found a room and fitted it out with furniture, tools and a vacuum.

 

Carolyn Roberts chats with Saila Kapinek at The Ottawa Hospital cancer centre.
Carolyn Roberts chats with Saila Kapinek at The Ottawa Hospital cancer centre.

A grand opening

A party was organized for the grand opening of Saila’s carving room. It was an emotional moment for him, realizing he would be able to carve again.

For the next six weeks, while he underwent his chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Saila carved.

His depression lifted, and his cancer was halted.

“Glad I got back to carving,” said Saila. “Grateful I’m doing it again. It helped in the long run.”

When he returned home to Iqaluit, he took his pieces with him and finished them. At a follow up appointment in September 2018, he brought his finished carvings back to show the team what they helped him create.

“They turned out even better than I imagined,” said Kevin. “It’s nice to know that The Ottawa Hospital has a little part in the making of them too.”

Today, Saila is feeling strong and well, and grateful for the compassionate care he received at The Ottawa Hospital.

Your support allows us to provide outstanding treatment and care to patients like Saila.

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A new era in breast health at The Ottawa Hospital

The Breast Health Centre at The Ottawa Hospital is committed to providing an exceptional level of care for our patients, approaching each case with medical excellence, practice, and compassion. Our reputation for world-leading research and patient care attracts to Ottawa some of the brightest and most capable health-care professionals in the world who help us deliver extraordinary care to patients in our community.

Making world-first discoveries and pushing the boundaries of breast cancer care and research right here at The Ottawa Hospital

In front of a buzzing crowd of more than 200 generous contributors and tireless allies, the new Rose Ages Breast Health Centre at The Ottawa Hospital officially opened its doors on September 20, 2018. The event marked a thrilling close to an ambitious $14 million fundraising campaign.

Built and equipped through the unfailing generosity of our community, the Centre now houses an impressive suite of technologies that are among the latest and most comprehensive in Canada. Many of them enable more accurate and much less invasive diagnoses and treatments.

But more than just technology, the new Centre was designed as an inviting space to enhance wellness and connection to friends and family. It also allows patients to be closer to the specialists involved in their care, from before diagnosis to after treatment, and beyond. This means, thanks to donor support, more patients can be treated with therapies that are tailored to their unique circumstance.

A comprehensive breast health program to address growing need

The Ottawa Hospital offers a comprehensive breast centre, providing expertise in breast imaging, diagnosis, risk assessment, surgical planning, and psychosocial support.

The consolidation of four breast health centres spread out across the city down to two (the Rose Ages Breast Health Centre and Hampton Park), allow for more centralized services, less travel time, improved patient care and operational efficiencies.

This year alone, another 1,000 women in our region will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Thanks to the generous donor community in the Ottawa region, The Ottawa Hospital is already tackling this growing challenge and working hard to improve every aspect of breast cancer care with innovative research and the very best treatments and techniques.

“Your generosity has improved the largest breast centre in Canada,” said Dr. Seely. “We are now poised to lead the way for excellence in breast health care.”

The creation of REaCT

The Ottawa Hospital’s commitment to innovation and research is revolutionizing clinical trials, improving patient outcomes every day. Though clinical trials offer improved treatment options, less than three percent of cancer patients in Canada are enrolled in clinical trials. Part of the reason for low enrollment is the daunting prospect of lengthy paperwork each patient must fill out before becoming involved in a trial. As well, regulatory hurdles often make opening a new trial too expensive and time consuming. In response to these challenges, in 2014, Dr. Marc Clemons, medical oncologist and scientist, in collaboration with Dr. Dean Fergusson, Director of the Clinical Epidemiology Program, and their colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital, developed the Rethinking Clinical Trials or REaCT program as a way to make the process of enrollment in clinical trials easier and more efficient for cancer patients.

This ground-breaking program conducts practical patient-focused research to ensure patients receive optimal, safe and cost-effective treatments. Since REaCT isn’t investigating a new drug or a new therapy, but rather looks at the effectiveness of an existing therapy, regulatory hurdles are not an issue and patients can consent verbally to begin treatment immediately. By the end of 2017, this program enrolled more breast cancer patients in clinical trials than all other trials in Canada combined. Currently, there are more than 2,300 participants involved in various REaCT trials.

Drs Mark Clemons and Dean Fergusson developed the Rethinking Clinical Trials or REaCT program
Drs Mark Clemons and Dean Fergusson developed the Rethinking Clinical Trials or REaCT program

The Rose Ages Breast Health Centre 2018-2019 stats and facts

  • 49,288 diagnostic breast examinations and procedures
  • 2,397 breast biopsies
  • 5,129 breast clinic patient visits
  • 1,929 referrals to the Breast Clinic
  • 889 diagnosed breast cancer patients

Specialized patient care

Tanya O’Brien

Tanya O'Brien, cancer free for more than five years.

 

Five years ago, Tanya O’Brien received the news she had been afraid of all her life. Like her six family members before her, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today, Tanya is cancer-free. When she thinks back to the 16 months of treatment she received at the Rose Ages Breast Health Center at The Ottawa Hospital, Tanya credits her dedicated and skilled care team for guiding her through and out of the darkest time in her life.

“We have come so far as a community in changing the narrative of breast cancer. We have given women like me, like us, so much hope,” said Tanya.

Rita Nattkemper

When a routine mammogram identified a small tumour, Rita Nattkemper was given an innovative option to mark its location for the surgery.

 

When a routine mammogram identified a small tumour, Rita Nattkemper was given an innovative option to mark its location for the surgery. A radioactive seed, the size of a pinhead, was injected directly into the tumour in her breast.

For years, an uncomfortable wire was inserted into a woman’s breast before surgery to pinpoint the cancer tumour. Today, a tiny radioactive seed is implanted instead, making it easier for surgeons to find and fully remove the cancer, and more comfortable for patients like Rita.

“It’s a painless procedure to get this radioactive seed in, and it helps the doctor with accuracy,” said Rita.

Marilyn Erdely

At the age of 29, Marilyn had a lumpectomy after receiving a stage zero breast cancer diagnosis.

 

At the age of 29, Marilyn had a lumpectomy after receiving a stage zero breast cancer diagnosis. She was confident she would be fine. But five years later, her cancer metastasized.

“Scans would reveal the cancer was throughout my body. I had significant cancer in the bones, in my femur, in my back, in my ovaries, and in my liver. I was head-to-toe cancer,” said Marilyn.

Oncologist Dr. Stan Gertler gave her hope for recovery. Within six months of her stage four diagnosis, Marilyn required several surgeries. But then things changed. She started feeling better, stronger.

Today, she is down to just a couple of one-centimeter tumours on her liver. Everything else is resolved. The cancer is dormant.

Breast Health Centre Update 2018-2019

More inspiring stories

Annette Gibbons

Annette Gibbons after speaking at The President's Breakfast.

 

‘I walked through my darkest fears and came out the other side.’

It would be a routine mammogram, which would turn Annette Gibbons’ world upside down. The public servant would soon begin her breast cancer journey, but she put her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.

Vesna Zic-Côté

Vesna Coté imaged at her home.

 

The gift of time with family

Mom of three, Vesna, is living with terminal metastatic breast cancer. She is hoping clinical trials will continue to extend her life so she has more time with those she loves.

International research to find breast cancer sooner

The Ottawa Hospital is one of six sites in Canada participating in the Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (TMIST), a randomized breast cancer screening trial that will help researchers determine the best ways to find breast cancer in women who have no symptoms, and whether a newer 3D imaging technique decreases the rate of advanced breast cancers.

The trial compares standard digital mammography (2D) with a newer technology called tomosynthesis mammography (3D). Conventional 2D mammography creates a flat image from pictures taken from two sides of the breast. With 3D mammography a 3D image is created from images taken at different angles around the breast.

Worldwide the study is expected to enroll around 165,000 patients over five years. With the new, increased mammography capacity at the Rose Ages Breast Health Centre we expect to enroll at least 1500 patients from our region.

Your impact

The Rose Ages Breast Health Centre at The Ottawa Hospital is committed to providing an exceptional level of care for patients, approaching each case with medical excellence, practice, and compassion. The Centre’s reputation for world-leading research and patient care attracts to Ottawa some of the brightest and most capable health-care professionals in the world who help deliver extraordinary care to patients in our community.

You continue to be a critical part of our success as we strive to redraw the boundaries of breast health care. On behalf of the thousands of patients and families who need The Ottawa Hospital, we thank you for your tremendous support and for your continued involvement.

Support from donors like you will ensure that our community has access to the medical advancements that are defining patient care today.

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30 years after treatment, leukemia survivor forever grateful

Robert Noseworthy was diagnosed with a childhood leukemia at the age of 30. This was rare for someone his age and his prognosis was grim. 30 years later, he gives back to cancer research with his grown children by his side.

30 years after treatment, leukemia survivor forever grateful

The importance of cancer research is not lost on Robert Noseworthy. He’s reminded of it every time he looks in the mirror.

Robert is a cancer survivor and not a day goes by that he doesn’t appreciate each moment he’s had to share with his two children, who are now adults.

On October 21, 1988, Robert was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia—a childhood leukemia. He was living in Montreal at the time with his young family, including Julianne who was 18 months old and his infant son, David.

A grim prognosis

“I was given a 13% chance of survival with 6 months to live. My doctor said it was very unusual for a 30-year-old to have a childhood leukemia,” says Robert.

And so, the cancer journey began for this father of two. It would include numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which put him into remission, but the journey didn’t end there. “In March 1989, I received a bone marrow transplant from my sister, who was a six-on-six match.”

Thanks to that match, Robert beat the odds. He gives full credit to cancer research as the reason he is alive today. It’s what has driven Robert and his family to become dedicated supporters of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital. “That is my why. I do my small part and to raise funds for cancer research,” he says.

Robert Noseworthy with his daughter Julianne after they cycled 109 kms during THE RIDE on September 8, 2019.
Robert Noseworthy with his daughter Julianne after they cycled 109 kms during THE RIDE on September 8, 2019.

Time to give back

Giving back has been important to Robert. Each year, his family comes together to cycle and raise funds through THE RIDE, a cycling fundraiser. It’s also been important to him to instill that in his children as they grew up. “I received all this help but now it’s time to give back.”

For Julianne, giving back as a family to The Ottawa Hospital and advancing research has become just as important to her.

“If it wasn’t for cancer research and everything my dad had been through, we wouldn’t be the family that we are today,” says Julianne.

Glancing over at her father, with a smile, Julianne says, “My why is you.”

The way Robert sees it; he is alive because of the investment of others who came before him and he wants to be that hope for someone else battle cancer. “60 years ago someone invested in cancer research. 30 later, I was the beneficiary of that generosity and that’s why I’m here today.”

Your support will provide crucial funding to improve the care of patients in the future, just like Robert.

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A race against the clock – Rare familial ALS gene triggers uncertain future
Karen Lawrence is walking with a target on her back. She carries the ALS gene – a disease that has killed 14 members of her family, including her father.

Immunotherapy eradicates cop’s melanoma

Despite years of treatment to prevent recurrence of skin cancer, Ian McDonell’s melanoma –a disease that killed his brother– spread to his brain and body. In 2017, he started an innovative immunotherapy treatment. A year later, all scans showed his cancer was gone.

A melanoma diagnosis

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, Ian McDonell
Ian McDonell received immunotherapy in 2017, which erased any trace of his melanoma.

Several years ago, Ian McDonell, a Staff Sergeant with the Ottawa Police and father of three had just lost his father to cancer and his brother was dying of melanoma. Ian’s wife insisted he see his physician to check out a mole on his back. It turned out to be an ulcerated nodular malignant melanoma – an aggressive form of skin cancer.

Ian had surgery to remove it along with a lymph node from his left groin. Several weeks later, he had a lymph node removed from his armpit. Following these surgeries, he had no signs of cancer, but due to his family’s history, Ian was at high risk for relapse.

Sobering news

Ian was feeling well, but during a standard monitoring visit in June 2017, his CT and MRI scans showed sobering news. He had half a dozen tumours in his groin and abdomen, and three more tumours metastasized to his brain. Ian’s cancer was stage 4.

Given the severity of the findings, Dr. Michel Ong at The Ottawa Hospital suggested an aggressive approach – a recently approved immunotherapy treatment.

Unmasking cancer

Scientists have tried for decades to stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells. But the game-changer was the discovery that cancer cells make key molecules, called immune checkpoint proteins, that suppress immune cells and prevent them from attacking the cancer. These immune checkpoint proteins cloak the cancer from the immune system. New drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors remove this cloak and allow immune cells called T-cells to naturally attack and destroy the cancer.

“The idea of chemotherapy is to kill off cancer directly,” said Dr. Ong. “There are potential side effects, because chemotherapy tries to poison the cancer.

“Immunotherapy does not directly affect the cancer itself. Instead, immunotherapy unmasks the cancer to your immune system by flipping some switches on T-cells, and the body’s own immune system does the rest.” – Dr. Michael Ong

Ian McDonell with his wife Michelle (left), and their daughters Kendra, Macy, and Ainsley, hiking in the Adirondack Mountains in 2019.
Ian McDonell with his wife Michelle (left), and their daughters, hiking in the Adirondack Mountains in 2019.

CyberKnife treatment

Ian started on a combination of two immunotherapies given intravenously in the chemotherapy unit at The Ottawa Hospital’s Cancer Centre. He also underwent CyberKnife radiotherapy treatment where high doses of radiation were directed at his brain tumours. He bravely continued with the second round of immunotherapy, but was so sick, he had to be taken off the treatment and started on steroid medications to slow down the immune system. Ian felt better, but his immunotherapy was on hold.

Shrinking tumours

When Ian began to develop weakness in his face, he worried his cancer was getting worse. It wasn’t. Scans showed one tumour had shrunk from 25 to 10 mm, and another had shrunk from eight to four mm.

Dr. Ong recommended trying a single immunotherapy rather than two, and while the treatment made Ian very sick, it did the trick.

Two months later, the results of a PET scan, MRI, and a CT scan showed that he was tumour-free. All trace of his cancer was gone.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong said recent immunotherapies are hugely successful for treating melanoma.
Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong said recent immunotherapies are hugely successful for treating melanoma.

Advances in immunotherapy

When Dr. Ong first met Ian in 2013, options for immunotherapy or targeted chemotherapy weren’t available. Thanks to incredible advances in immunotherapy, there is now hope.

“In the last few years, we’ve gone from having very poor options to having many effective options for melanoma. That’s because cancer therapy continues to develop at a very rapid pace,” said Dr. Ong. “We, at The Ottawa Hospital, are constantly participating in practice-changing clinical trials. The standard of care is constantly changing, as it should. We are continually trying to push the limits of cancer treatment.”

The Ottawa Hospital is a leader in cancer immunotherapy research, both in terms of developing new therapies and in offering experimental treatments to patients. Currently, there are approximately 70 active cancer immunotherapy clinical trials being conducted at the hospital involving nearly 700 patients. The hospital also hosts a national network for immunotherapy research and has developed a number of unique immunotherapies made directly of cells and viruses.

Hope for the future

Because of successful immunotherapy treatments, patients like Ian are now planning a future of living cancer-free.

“When the provincial exams for police services came up, I said, ‘I’m gonna write it, because I’ve got a bit of hope now.’” said Ian.

More importantly, in addition to his career plans, immunotherapy has allowed Ian to plan for the future with his family and a chance to watch his daughters grow up.

Hear more about oncologist Dr. Michael Ong’s work with immunotherapy.

To support life-saving research at The Ottawa Hospital that helps patients like Ian, please donate.

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New brain surgery technique ‘perfectly’ restores patient Denis Paquette’s quality of life after a rare benign tumour threatens hearing.
A race against the clock – Rare familial ALS gene triggers uncertain future
Karen Lawrence is walking with a target on her back. She carries the ALS gene – a disease that has killed 14 members of her family, including her father.

Unexpected breast cancer diagnosis leads patient down an uncertain path

“I walked through my darkest fears and came out the other side.”

It was a routine mammogram that turned Annette Gibbons’ world upside down. An unexpected breast cancer diagnosis sent her on a journey of treatment and uncertainty that required she place her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.

An unexpected breast cancer diagnosis leads patient down an uncertain path

In July 2016, Annette Gibbons had a routine mammogram. She didn’t expect that day would become a pivotal moment in her life and lead to a breast cancer diagnosis. This unexpected news sent her on a journey of treatment, surgery, and uncertainty that required she place her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital for both her physical and emotional well-being.

Following the mammogram, Annette was told that she had dense tissue, which made it difficult to read the results. She wasn’t worried at all when she received a call to schedule another mammogram and ultrasound. But that all changed when her radiologist, Dr. Susan Peddle, gently told her that she thought it was cancer.

Annette, visibly emotional, recalls that fateful day. “Just like that, my life changed and I began my journey.”

The challenges of chemotherapy set in

Annette began chemotherapy treatment under the watchful eye of medical oncologist and scientist Dr. Mark Clemons. “He specializes in the type of cancer I had and is very active in clinical trials and research on leading-edge treatments and practices,” said Annette.

During these early days, she focussed solely on getting through the wear and tear of chemotherapy. She recalls that “it’s not anything you can truly prepare for, or understand, until you’re the patient…There was the depressing hair loss, the constant nausea, the searing bone pain and the mind-numbing fatigue. Despite all that, I still tried to keep my spirits up with exercise, a support group, and lots of old movies.”

 

 

 

Annette ringing the bell of hope following her final cancer treatment.
Annette ringing the bell of hope following her final cancer treatment.

Trusting her medical team

She also put her complete trust in her medical team and was determined to stay positive. “I knew the stats for survivability were fairly good and I looked forward to resuming my ‘normal life’.”

Little did she know that the next steps – mastectomy and radiation – would be tougher than chemotherapy. The surgery itself and healing had gone well. She credits her amazing surgeon, Dr. Erin Cordeiro, for her compassion and skill.

“She held my hand as I lay in the operating room preparing for the operation to begin.” – Annette Gibbons

“In the end,” Annette says with a little smile on her face, “she gave me, dare I say, the nicest, straightest surgery scar I have ever seen on anyone.”

Sobering news

Annette wouldn’t have the full picture of her cancer prognosis until pathology results came back on her tumour. Several weeks later she received alarming results from Dr. Cordeiro. It was devastating news. “She told me that my tumour was much bigger than first thought. They had found cancer in many of the lymph nodes they removed. I was not expecting that, it was a huge blow.”

As she tried to absorb this news, she sat down with Dr. Clemons a few days later and was dealt another blow. “He gave it to me straight: because of the tumour size and number of lymph nodes affected, my risk of recurrence was high.”

Compassionate care during a dark time

That’s when Annette’s world came crumbling down. She recalls spiralling down into a dark place. “It was very hard to crawl out of this place. But my medical team saw the signs and knew how to help me. My dedicated radiation oncologist, Dr. Jean-Michel Caudrelier, spotted my despair and referred me to the psychosocial oncology program. With the amazing help of Dr. Mamta Gautam, I walked through my deepest fears and came out the other side.”

Annette completed her radiation treatment and then slowly reclaimed her life. But as all cancer patients know, the fear of recurrence can be a constant companion. “I don’t know if that will ever change. But I decided to make it my friend who reminds me to think, not about dying, but about the importance of living while I am alive,” said Annette.

She’s grateful to know the best medical professionals were right here in her hometown when she was diagnosed. As a self-proclaimed “frequent flyer at the hospital”, Annette is proud to say she’s reclaimed her life — including her return to work. “I am myself again, and life is strangely somehow better than it was before.”

Your support will provide crucial funding to improve the care of patients, like Annette during their time of need.

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Remember Mary

Mark Lawrenson, in a touching tribute to his late wife Mary, is kicking off a 6,000km cycling tour across Canada and the United States to raise funds for breast cancer research.

Event Date: June 24, 2019
Location: Across Ontario and the United States. Starting in Perth, Ontario at the corner of John Street and Rogers Road. Summer 2019 Tour encompassing Ontario. Fall/Winter 2019 Tour Florida, United States
Website: https://www.remembermary.com/
Contact: Mark Lawrenson, [email protected]

Remember Mary is a cycling tour that will cover over 6,000 km to raise funds for breast cancer research. The cycling tour is being completed by Mark Lawrenson, in remembrance of his late wife Mary Lawrenson. The cycling tour will be encompassing Ontario for Summer 2019, and then moving down to the US-Florida for Fall/Winter 2019.

For more information, click here.

You can help support Mark Lawrenson raise money for breast cancer research today.

Because of You

Thousands of patients in Ottawa, and beyond, are receiving the latest treatment options. Powered by state-of-the-art technology and backed up by the very best medical expertise, your generous support allowed us to build three impressive new health centres at The Ottawa Hospital. Your generosity has improved care and changed patients’ lives.

Because of you

Thousands of patients in Ottawa, and beyond, are receiving the latest treatment options. Powered by state-of-the-art technology and backed up by the very best medical expertise, your generous support allowed us to build three impressive new health centres at The Ottawa Hospital. Your generosity has improved care and changed patients’ lives.

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

 

Rose Ages Breast Health Centre

When the doors opened at the Rose Ages Breast Health Centre in September, it marked the wonderful close of an ambitious $14 million fundraising campaign. Thanks to our community’s outstanding generosity, the new centre houses an impressive suite of advanced technology, enabling less invasive and more accurate diagnoses and treatments.

The new centre’s inviting space will enhance wellness and connection to family and friends with open, naturally lit areas and private, gowned waiting rooms. This new, larger centre at the General Campus is now ready to provide the best treatment and care to the thousands of patients in our region who need it most—thanks to you.

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation
Rose Ages Breast Health Centre

 

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation
The Logue children, Kevin, Shaun, Christine, Cathy, and Elizabeth, at the opening of the Dermatology Centre.

Charlie and Claudette Logue Dermatology Centre

There is no example more concrete about how community support can advance health care than the building of the Charlie and Claudette Logue Dermatology Centre. Local businessman Charlie Logue saw the need for a dermatology centre that would provide faster assessments, shorter wait times, and increased access to dermatology services. After he passed away in August 2013, Charlie’s friends and colleagues in the Ottawa business community, along with his own children, fundraised $3.7 million for a new dermatology centre. This bright, new, state-of-the-art centre opened in April to provide the latest dermatology treatments now and for future generations.

Neuromuscular Centre

In 2016, Dr. Jodi Warman Chardon and senior scientist Dr. Robin Parks dreamt of building a centre where neuromuscular experts—clinicians and basic scientists—could collaborate to develop treatments for neuromuscular diseases. More than 10,000 people in eastern Ontario are affected by neuromuscular diseases, which weaken the muscles. These patients had no options to participate in clinical trials in Ottawa, so Drs. Warman Chardon and Parks decided to change that. Thanks to generous donor support, their dream became reality when The Ottawa Hospital NeuroMuscular Centre—the largest in Canada—opened its doors to patients in May.

 

No Donation too small, no fundraiser too young

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation
Six 11-year-old fundraisers (left to right): Isla, Lucy, Alice, Parker, Jackie, and Tess

“I know it’s a hospital, but this is beautiful!” said 11-year-old Parker when the elevator doors opened into the Rose Ages Breast Health Centre.

Parker and five friends arrived on October 24 with a plastic sandwich bag containing their donation of $247.95 in coins for breast cancer research. They worked hard to raise the money: raking leaves, cutting grass, selling lemonade, and shoveling snow.

The generosity of these six children is a shining example that no donation is too small and no fundraiser too young.

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

Thanks to generous support from donors like you, The Ottawa Hospital is providing advanced treatment with state-of-the-art technology.

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Through their gift in a will to The Ottawa Hospital, Jim and Pat’s love will continue by providing care and attention to patients in years to come.
Mid-surgery decision to leave abdomen open for two days saves woman’s life
Phyllis’ life was on the line. A twist in her small intestine was causing it to die. But a surgical technique to leave her abdomen open saved her life.
Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis
Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope.