A double-life — living with kidney disease

June Jones lives a double life. During the day, she is busy, making cookies with her two granddaughters, working in her garden, and enjoying life. During the night, she sleeps hooked up to a dialysis machine. June needs a new kidney.

June Jones lives a double life. During the day, she is busy, making cookies with her two granddaughters, working in her garden, and enjoying life. During the night, she sleeps hooked up to a dialysis machine. June needs a new kidney.

June making cookies after Christmas with her granddaughter Leah.
June making cookies after Christmas with her granddaughter Leah.

The 58-year-old has been living with kidney disease for 30 years — over half her life.

In April 1989, not long after her second child was born, June felt extremely run down. Her physician was concerned she had too much blood in her urine and sent her to a nephrologist.

He diagnosed her with IgA nephropathy, disease caused by her body’s immune system attacking her kidneys.

June started on various medications after being diagnosed, but within nine years her disease had progressed, and her kidneys stopped working completely. She started dialysis in 1998.

“There is no cure for renal disease,” said June. “Once your kidneys fail, you’re put on dialysis or have a transplant. Your life is never normal.”

What kidneys do

The function of the kidneys is to remove waste and extra water from the blood to make urine. When kidneys stop working and no longer clean the blood, toxins accumulate in the body, and this can be fatal. Dialysis is an artificial method of cleaning the blood. It sustains a person’s life but is not a cure.

There are two different forms of dialysis. Hemodialysis removes waste products and extra water from the blood by circulating and filtering it through a machine. This is the most common form of dialysis that is often provided to patients at the hospital. Peritoneal dialysis circulates a fluid through the lining of your abdomen, or peritoneum, and the waste products from the blood pass into this fluid.

There are almost 1,000 patients on dialysis in the Ottawa area. Just over two hundred are on peritoneal dialysis. Dr. Brendan McCormick, Medical Director of the Home Dialysis Program, said some patients have been treated for over a decade on peritoneal dialysis but more typically patients spend about three years on this therapy. People leave peritoneal dialysis once they receive a kidney transplant, however, some need to transfer to hemodialysis due to complications of therapy.

The Ottawa Hospital Home dialysis program has the highest rate of kidney transplant in the province. For many patients, peritoneal dialysis serves as a bridge to kidney transplant.

Needing life-saving dialysis

According to a report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information released in December 2018, only 16 percent of Canadians on dialysis survive past 10 years. However, up to 74 percent of Canadians with a kidney transplant still have a functioning kidney after 10 years.

June was only on dialysis for six months before she received the call that a donor match had been found. On November 28, 1998, June received a kidney transplant from a deceased donor.

“It lasted four months shy of 15 years,” June said. “Then, the disease reappeared. I’ve been back on dialysis now for six years.”

In the Ottawa Region, 52 people have received kidney transplants this year. Unfortunately, there are still 165 people are on a waiting list.

“We need to do a lot of transplants to get people off dialysis to keep them alive longer with a better quality of life,” said Dr. Ann Bugeja, nephrologist and Director of the Living Kidney Donor Program. “We know that getting a living donor kidney is the best treatment for end-stage kidney disease and it lasts longer than getting a kidney from a deceased donor.”

When June’s kidney transplant failed six years ago, she had to go back on hemodialysis. She switched to peritoneal dialysis in July 2013. Once again, she has a dialysis machine at home, but this time she does dialysis for nine hours every night. It cleans her blood while she sleeps.

June’s nightly routine is a hassle and not a permanent solution. The membrane around her stomach has started to harden, which means the fluids can’t move back and forth as easily. What this means is that June will have to go on hemodialysis. The technology hasn’t changed in the 20 years since she was on it before and she remembers too vividly how it gave her severe headaches and was painful.

 

Making a difference for future generations

The Joneses at the unveiling of the plaque outside the Jones Family Foundation Kidney Research Laboratory in honour of their million dollar donation to Kidney Research.
The Joneses at the unveiling of the plaque outside the Jones Family Foundation Kidney Research Laboratory in honour of their million dollar donation to Kidney Research.

June needs a new kidney. She is on a Canada-wide waiting list for one.

“Giving a kidney can change somebody’s life,” said Dr. Bugeja.

June lives with the daily hope of a second transplant.

She and husband Russ know first-hand how important research is to improve outcomes for people suffering with kidney disease. They heard researchers at The Ottawa Hospital were making great strides finding solutions to kidney diseases, including detecting kidney disease early and looking at the potential of stem cells to heal injured kidneys.

They decided the only way to make a difference for future generations of patients was through research and made a $1 million donation to support kidney research at the Kidney Research Centre at The Ottawa Hospital.

Their support will enable the research team at the Kidney Research Centre to continue to advance knowledge and improve the care of patients with kidney disease through world-renowned studies and research.

June’s children are now adults, married, and parents themselves — each with their own adorable little girl. Leah, aged two, and Bailey, 18 months, are the pride and joy of June’s life.

On January 8, 2019, the entire family was at The Ottawa Hospital Kidney Research Centre to unveil a plaque outside the Jones Family Foundation Kidney Research Laboratory. The plaque commemorates their incredible support of kidney research.

“I hope with research advancements, I will live to see my grandchildren’s memorable events,” said June.

“I hope to be there for their high school graduations, university graduations, their wedding days, and when they have children of their own. I also hope great strides are made so that their generation will find a cure.”

Your support of kidney research helps move discoveries in the lab to clinical trials and into treatment for patients.

More Great Stories

Brain tumour diagnosis leads mom down unimaginable path 
In 2016, Natasha Lewis was diagnosed with a brain tumour and her quality of life began to deteriorate. She was be cared for at The Ottawa Hospital – the only hospital in the region that could help her because of the complexity of her diagnosis.  
Astonishing recovery after minimally invasive brain surgery
With a tumour on his pituitary gland, John Fairchild was preparing for the worst when minimally invasive brain surgery saved his life.
‘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 Associate Deputy Minister in Agriculture and Agrifood Canada would soon begin her breast cancer journey but she put her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.

2018-2019 Events Summary

The Ottawa Hospital Foundation saw great success during the 2018-2019 fiscal year. From running to cycling, to posh gala evenings, we have something for everyone! These events are all about being a part of your community. Click the images below for more on individual events.

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

 

Summary of the 2018-2019 Dancing with the Docs event

Summary of the 2018-2019 RIDE at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

Summary of the 2018-2019 Run for a Reason at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

Additional summary of events held by The Ottawa Hospital Foundation throughout 2018-2019

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

After 18 years with MS—“I really feel like I’m cured.”

“It’s now 12 years since my stem cell transplant. I really feel like I’m cured,” said Heather who has no symptoms of the disease.

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

 

Heather Harris was driving her fiancé to a golf tournament one morning in 2001 when her right foot went numb. By the end of the day, the numbness had spread up the entire right side of her body.

The then-24-year-old Thunder Bay resident had an MRI, which showed signs of multiple sclerosis (MS). The numbness was her first MS attack.

MS is a devastating disease that occurs when the immune system—which protects against foreign organisms such as viruses or bacteria—mistakenly attacks the body’s own central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve.

Heather met with neurologist and MS specialist Dr. Mark Freedman just a few weeks before her wedding. Heather’s disease was progressing rapidly. Dr. Freedman told her she would be in a wheelchair within five years.

Dr. Freedman and hematologist and scientist Dr. Harold Atkins were leading a world-first clinical trial, investigating whether patients with early, aggressive MS would benefit if their immune system was wiped out with high-dose chemotherapy and then regenerated with blood stem cells.

The stem cell treatment seemed her only hope. Heather and her husband moved to Ottawa for a year while she took part in the trial. She had the stem cell transplant in November 2006.

“It’s now 12 years since my stem cell transplant. I really feel like I’m cured,” said Heather who has no symptoms of the disease. She works full-time as a school principal, and is back to camping, skiing, running and driving a manual shift car.

Heather and her husband wanted to have a baby. With the help of in vitro fertilization, Heather had a baby girl in 2016. She said her little Zoe is the second miracle in her life.

In June 2016, Drs. Freedman and Atkins published the results of their successful clinical trial in The Lancet, a top medical journal. To date, more than 50 MS patients, like Heather, from all over Canada have undergone this treatment, which eliminated all signs of damaging active brain inflammation.

 

 

 

 

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, Heather Harris
Heather and daughter Zoe.

 

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

Support from generous donors like you helps The Ottawa Hospital conduct research that is revolutionizing patients care.

More Great Stories

A double-life — living with kidney disease
Nearly 15 years after a kidney transplant, June Jones’ kidneys failed. She is back on dialysis — and a Canada-wide wait list for a new kidney.
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.
Four years after metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, every day is a gift
Jillian O’Connor was 18 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and given less than two years to live. In February, she celebrated the fourth birthday of her healthy baby boy and continues to live life to the fullest.

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.

More Great Stories

Brain tumour diagnosis leads mom down unimaginable path 
In 2016, Natasha Lewis was diagnosed with a brain tumour and her quality of life began to deteriorate. She was be cared for at The Ottawa Hospital – the only hospital in the region that could help her because of the complexity of her diagnosis.  
Astonishing recovery after minimally invasive brain surgery
With a tumour on his pituitary gland, John Fairchild was preparing for the worst when minimally invasive brain surgery saved his life.
‘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 Associate Deputy Minister in Agriculture and Agrifood Canada would soon begin her breast cancer journey but she put her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.

The Ottawa-Gatineau Walk for Myeloma

The Ottawa-Gatineau Myeloma Walk and takes a step towards a cure for multiple myeloma!

Event Date: Sunday, September 22, 2019
Event Time: 12:30PM
Location: Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre 102 Greenview Ave, Ottawa, ON
Website: http://www.stepstoacure.ca/
Contact: Frank Shepherd, [email protected], Glenn Hussey, [email protected]

The Ottawa-Gatineau Myeloma Walk and takes a step towards a cure for multiple myeloma! The Walk not only increases awareness of the disease but importantly helps fund clinical research and supports advocacy for accelerated access to game-changing therapies for Canadian patients living with myeloma. Multiple Myeloma remains a relatively unknown and rare form of blood cancer. Supporting research and raising awareness of the disease is critical.

The funds raised will support the work of Myeloma Canada and The Ottawa Hospital.

Hundreds support The Ottawa Hospital and Run for a Reason

Close to 600 runners laced up their running shoes to support The Ottawa Hospital at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Together, they raised $296,060.

MAY 26, 2019, OTTAWA, ON – Close to 600 runners laced up their running shoes to support The Ottawa Hospital at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Together, they raised $296,060 by choosing to Run for a Reason and support an area of The Ottawa Hospital close to their hearts.

Since 1998, Run for a Reason has united individuals and teams, family, friends and employees of The Ottawa Hospital for one common cause—to support eastern Ontario’s most important health care hub. Funds raised will help transform patient care and advance research.

Nora Shipton returned as team captain of Preemies 4 Preemies this year. Her team raised funds for The Ottawa Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. She loved the experience of being part of something special that brought so many of her family and friends together. “I can’t wait to do this again next year. We had a lot of excitement on our team and it feels heartwarming to have so many people come out and support us.”

It’s this kind of community support, which makes Run for a Reason such a special fundraiser for The Ottawa Hospital. Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, said he sees it year after year. “The energy never disappoints. I know for each participant, whether they ran or walked, there is special meaning behind why they are fundraising for The Ottawa Hospital. These are our ambassadors who will leave a lasting legacy as we continue to make significant strides in research and patient care.”

“These are our ambassadors who will leave a lasting legacy as we continue to make significant strides in research and patient care.” Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals, with more than 1,200 beds, approximately 12,000 staff members and an annual budget of about approximately $1.3 billion.

Our focus on learning and research helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region and our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care.

From the compassion of our people to the relentless pursuit of new discoveries, The Ottawa Hospital never stops seeking solutions to the most complex health-care challenges. For more information about The Ottawa Hospital, visit ohfoundation.ca.


More News

Dr. Natasha Kekre and Dr. Arleigh McCurdy win The Ottawa Hospital’s Medicine Ball trophy
A sold-out crowd was brought to their feet when Dr. Natasha Kekre and Dr. Arleigh McCurdy were announced the winners of The Ottawa Hospital’s Dancing with the Docs Gala, presented by MD Financial Management, on Saturday night. This annual fundraiser raised $455,156.
Three top researchers honoured
The city’s most prestigious event of the year paid tribute to innovative research at The Ottawa Hospital in front of a sold-out crowd at the Westin Ottawa. A capacity crowd of 700 filled the elegant ballroom and enjoyed a sumptuous four-course meal.
$1.1 million raised at THE RIDE
Pedal power took over the nation’s capital on Sunday, as hundreds of cyclists came together to support leading edge research at The Ottawa Hospital.

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.

Story by Vesna Zic-Côté 

Vesna Zic Cote“In 2012, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Despite the standard treatment of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal treatment, the cancer returned four years later, having spread to my lungs, bones and lymph nodes.

I received my diagnosis of incurable stage 4 metastatic breast cancer on my son’s birthday. He was nine.

My world as I knew it ended. I was sitting upstairs on my bed. I could hear the kids playing downstairs. I called my husband at work and he came home and we cried.

It is a tradition in our home that on our kids’ birthdays, we go out to a restaurant of their choosing for dinner. So on the day my world ended, I sat in a restaurant and ordered some food and tried to eat cardboard, but couldn’t get the food to go down. I looked at the birthday boy and held the tears in, and my heart shattered in a million pieces.

Metastatic breast cancer is treatable, but not curable. When I was first diagnosed, my life expectancy was being measured in months. Now with cautious hope, it might be a few years. I go to the Hospital every 28 days to get injections. They are part of a series of targeted treatments I receive to keep the cancer cells at bay. One day, the cancer will figure out how to grow despite this treatment, and I will move onto something else. And I’ll continue this endless cycle of treatments and scans and progression and change until I am out of options. But I am a 43-year-old mother. And wife. And daughter. And sister. I need more time. Time to see my young children through elementary school. Time to watch my family grow and share in all the joys that life brings. Time to celebrate anniversaries with my husband and birthdays with my niece and nephews. Time with my beloved family and friends.

There is so much that needs to happen to make this a reality for me. I will need new treatments when my current regimen stops working – because it will stop working. I need research in cancer therapies and a health-care system that is streamlined and accessible.

Sadly, early detection does not prevent all cancers from returning and spreading. We need research to understand why, and treatment to extend our lives.

When I was first diagnosed, my focus was limited, directed inwards, focused on those dearest to me. During that time of learning about this new world, I absorbed every detail I could about metastatic breast cancer; living with metastatic breast cancer, treating metastatic breast cancer, dying metastatic breast cancer. A few names came to the forefront; those making noise, shifting opinions, moving the dial on research and progress. Months into treatment, when I could finally breathe again, I knew that I wanted to be part of this movement, part of the noise, part of the shift. I needed to validate this situation that I didn’t ask for in order to accept that it was part of my story whether I liked it or not.

For now, I have energy to cast outward. Not every day, but some days. Writing, fundraising, speaking, meeting. And I would say that the way I live my life has influenced my children who actively participate in my fundraising efforts with enthusiasm. They don’t need to feel embarrassed that their mom has cancer. Instead, they can feel like they are doing something to help me by climbing trees and selling apples, doing presentations on their fundraising efforts, wearing pink laces, and making signs, helping the doctors and researchers to find better medicines. Regardless of where we eventually land, I want them to be able to look back on all the good things that they did, and know that their efforts warmed many, many hearts… mine most of all.

On behalf of all of us living with incurable cancer – finding joy between injections and scans and blood work and appointments, living with hope and making a difference – thank you for your support.”

– Vesna

We need your help today to give patients like Vesna more time, more memories, more hope. Support our cancer clinical trial research today and help us develop new ways to treat this devastating disease.

More Great Stories of #TOHMOMS

Brain tumour diagnosis leads mom down unimaginable path 
In 2016, Natasha Lewis was diagnosed with a brain tumour and her quality of life began to deteriorate. She was be cared for at The Ottawa Hospital – the only hospital in the region that could help her because of the complexity of her diagnosis.  
Astonishing recovery after minimally invasive brain surgery
With a tumour on his pituitary gland, John Fairchild was preparing for the worst when minimally invasive brain surgery saved his life.
‘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 Associate Deputy Minister in Agriculture and Agrifood Canada would soon begin her breast cancer journey but she put her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.

Four years after metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, every day is a gift

Jillian O’Connor was 18 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and given less than two years to live. In February, she celebrated the fourth birthday of her healthy baby boy and continues to live life to the fullest.

Jillian O’Connor stands in her living room laughing. A small boy hugs her leg, then takes off and disappears down the stairs to play with his older brother and sister. That was Declan. He turned four on February 1, 2019. The fact that his mother saw him blow out the candles on his birthday cake is extraordinary.

When Jillian was 18 weeks pregnant with Declan, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. She wasn’t expected to celebrate his second birthday. Two and a half years later, Jillian celebrated his fourth birthday with him—and still living life to its fullest.

Jillian O’Connor

The first thing that strikes you about Jillian is her smile. Next, it’s her insatiable enthusiasm for life. Then comes her contagious positivity. Hard not to think the latter alone is why she has made it so far against daunting odds. It may be anecdotal but Jillian definitely thinks, or rather knows, it’s the key.

“I am totally full of cancer, pretty much from my head to my toes,” said Jillian. “Every day I get is a blessing, ‘Oh, I woke up. Perfect!’ You just want to go at it as hard as you can, for as long as you can. Just being optimistic, I think helps. I really believe it helps.”

Jillian’s petite frame belies her light-up-the-room personality. She is gregarious with an enthusiasm that bubbles infectiously out of her. She talks about her cancer matter-of-factly. It is part of her life, but doesn’t rule her. She has other things to focus on—her precious family. The 35-year-old laughs and chats so easily about her life and her journey with cancer that it takes a second to realize how extraordinary her journey has been.

In 2014, Jillian was still nursing Landon, her second child, when she went to see her physician about a blocked milk duct. It turned out to be breast cancer. Doctors wanted to do CT scans to determine the extent of her cancer, but Jillian couldn’t. She was 18 weeks pregnant. Without treatment, she was told she wouldn’t survive to give birth. It was unfathomable. She had a three-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son at home. It was a devastating diagnosis but Jillian met it head on with her own special brand of optimism and determination.

Terminating the pregnancy was not an option for Jillian and her husband David. Her oncologist, Dr. Mark Clemons, told her she didn’t have to. He could provide a chemotherapy cocktail that would keep her cancer at bay without harming her unborn child. Jillian had a mastectomy and a dozen chemo treatments tailored to her special case. On February 1, 2015, she gave birth to a healthy baby Declan.

“I received chemotherapy right up until I delivered him. He was healthy—a wonderful birth weight. He was absolutely perfect,” said Jillian.

After Declan was born, Jillian had scans to see where the cancer was. It had spread, and had metastasized to her bones, liver, and lymphatic system. That was when she was given less than two years.

“Basically, they said, ‘We can’t give you a long timeframe. It’s stage IV, so every day you wake up is going to be a gift,’” said Jillian, who stopped working as a nurse at the Queensway Carleton Hospital and became a patient there, receiving treatment at The Ottawa Hospital’s satellite cancer centre, the Irving Greenberg Family Cancer Centre. “Two years passed, then three, and then I passed four years this past summer. I’m hoping I’ll have another 40 plus years. I got a pretty doom and gloom diagnosis, but I continue to pull life off.”

Jillian has pulled life off in a big way. After all, when she brought Declan home from the hospital, she had three children under the age of three to look after. She poured herself into motherhood, enjoying every moment with them. Between weekly trips to the cancer centre for treatment, she was busy changing diapers, making meals, caring for, playing with, and loving her little ones.

Declan and Jillian O'Connor
Four-year-old Declan sits on his mom’s knee.

Declan is back and clambers onto his mother’s knee—for about 30 seconds—before scrambling off onto the couch beside her. He is a typical four-year-old. His big sister Myla, who is seven, and brother Landon, who is five, appear, and the three play on the floor near their mom. Jillian chatters happily with them.

Jillian has celebrated all her children’s early-year milestones: learning to walk, talk, run, play, read, and become independent little people. Both Myla and Landon are now in school. Declan will be joining them in September. In mid-January, Jillian and David registered him for junior kindergarten. Nowadays, while the two older ones are in school, she and Declan have fun hanging out. They fill their days with activities that include volunteering at the school, as well as the more mundane household chores.

“I got a pretty doom and gloom diagnosis, but I continue to pull life off.”

Jillian is exuberant about life. She lives each day as it comes.

“She has, with all the help that modern radiotherapy and medical oncology can offer in Ottawa, in addition to her tremendous personality and drive, done amazingly well in a tragic situation for any young mom,” said Dr. Clemons. “At the same time, she has been involved in practice-changing research that is going to improve the care of patients—she continues to give.”

Over the past four years, Jillian has participated in clinical cancer trials with new therapies that have kept her cancer in check. When it spread to her brain a couple of years ago, she had whole-brain and CyberKnife radiation. Then she was put on new medication that can cross the blood brain barrier, which her regular chemotherapy couldn’t do. The medication halted new tumour growths in her brain. Her cancer is not getting better, but it’s not getting worse, either.

“I’m happy to stay status quo, because there is nothing I want to do that I can’t do right now,” said Jillian.“Status quo—I’m good with that. I feel great. I don’t have aches or pains or anything. I don’t have time to think about how I feel.”

Jillian sits on the floor laughing and playing with her three children. She looks at the little doll her daughter Myla shows her, and hands a ball to Landon. “I really think it’s the kids. They have so much to do with it, because they are so great. They are so fun. They keep me really busy and that’s half the fun. By the time I go to bed at night, I don’t think about cancer. I don’t think about tests coming up. I don’t think about that stuff because I’m too tired. So I think that is helpful.”

Dr. Clemons agrees.

“She is a gem, and her attitude of living life with true meaning is a humbling lesson for all of us,” said Dr. Clemons. “Too many people in society spend too much time moaning about the trivial, as well as things they can’t do anything about. Life is for living, and Jillian encourages people to do that—live!”

Whether it’s thanks to the innovative new treatment she receives or her uber-positive attitude, Jillian has surpassed the original two-year diagnosis by two-and-a-half years.

Dr. Clemons told her, “Whatever you’re doing, keep on doing it—obviously it’s working for you.”

And it is.


We need your help today to give patients like Jillian more time, more memories, more hope. Support our cancer clinical trial research today and help us develop new ways to treat this devastating disease.

More Great Stories of #TOHMOMS

Brain tumour diagnosis leads mom down unimaginable path 
In 2016, Natasha Lewis was diagnosed with a brain tumour and her quality of life began to deteriorate. She was be cared for at The Ottawa Hospital – the only hospital in the region that could help her because of the complexity of her diagnosis.  
Astonishing recovery after minimally invasive brain surgery
With a tumour on his pituitary gland, John Fairchild was preparing for the worst when minimally invasive brain surgery saved his life.
‘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 Associate Deputy Minister in Agriculture and Agrifood Canada would soon begin her breast cancer journey but she put her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.

Dr. Natasha Kekre and Dr. Arleigh McCurdy win The Ottawa Hospital’s Medicine Ball trophy

A sold-out crowd was brought to their feet when Dr. Natasha Kekre and Dr. Arleigh McCurdy were announced the winners of The Ottawa Hospital’s Dancing with the Docs Gala, presented by MD Financial Management, on Saturday night. This annual fundraiser raised $455,156. 

April 6, 2019, OTTAWA, ON – A sold-out crowd was brought to their feet when Dr. Natasha Kekre and Dr. Arleigh McCurdy were announced the winners of The Ottawa Hospital’s Dancing with the Docs Gala, presented by MD Financial Management, on Saturday night. Nine physicians and researchers partnered with a dance professional from Arthur Murray Dance Studio to compete for the Medicine Ball trophy. Scores from a panel of four judges were combined with the votes given for each contestant’s fundraising efforts.

This annual fundraiser raised $455,156 supporting innovative patient care and world-class research at The Ottawa Hospital. Tim Kluke, president of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, said it was a thrilling night. “This truly is the most entertaining fundraiser I’ve seen in our city. Where else could you have nine, active, working doctors take to the stage and put on a show? It’s a big party and the whole room gets involved. It’s really a night like no other in our region. Thanks to the incredible success of Dancing with the Docs, funds will be supporting ground-breaking cancer research, our orthopaedic department, the SIM Centre, women’s health initiatives and so much more.”

“Thanks to the incredible success of Dancing with the Docs, funds will be supporting ground-breaking cancer research, our orthopaedic department, the SIM Centre, women’s health initiatives and so much more.”

Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

The fancy footwork of the nine competitors from The Ottawa Hospital was contagious. After the official ceremony was over, guests hit the dance floor at the Hilton Lac-Leamy to show off their own dance moves, potentially vying for a spot to compete next year.

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals, with more than 1,200 beds, over 12,000 staff members and an annual budget of approximately $1.2 billion.

Our focus on learning and research helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care.

From the compassion of our people, to the relentless pursuit of new discoveries, The Ottawa Hospital never stops seeking solutions to the most complex health care challenges.

For more information about The Ottawa Hospital, visit ohfoundation.ca.


More News

Hundreds support The Ottawa Hospital and Run for a Reason
Close to 600 runners laced up their running shoes to support The Ottawa Hospital at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Together, they raised $296,060.
Three top researchers honoured
The city’s most prestigious event of the year paid tribute to innovative research at The Ottawa Hospital in front of a sold-out crowd at the Westin Ottawa. A capacity crowd of 700 filled the elegant ballroom and enjoyed a sumptuous four-course meal.
$1.1 million raised at THE RIDE
Pedal power took over the nation’s capital on Sunday, as hundreds of cyclists came together to support leading edge research at The Ottawa Hospital.

President's Dinner

Be informed and inspired by our guest speakers and network with Ottawa’s health care leaders as we discuss the latest technology and innovation in health care.

Speakers

Cameron Love - Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Office

Cameron Love – Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, The Ottawa Hospital

Cameron Love will share ideas about how technology and innovation can improve the lives of patients and how these ideas tie-in to the planning and building of the new campus of The Ottawa Hospital. 

Alan Forster - Vice President, Quality Performance and Population Health at The Ottawa Hospital.

Dr. Alan Forster – Vice President, Innovation and Quality at The Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Forster will explore how data driven health care at The Ottawa Hospital continuously drives improvements in quality and some of the innovative approaches the hospital takes to deliver world-class care. 

Dr. Dar Dowlatshahi - Stroke Neurologist at the Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Dar Dowlatshahi – Stroke Neurologist at the Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Dar Dowlatshahi will discuss the role that innovation and technology play in the advancement of patient care through the use of applications like the RecoverNow app for stroke patients. 

Dr. Sylvain Boet – Scientist, Clinical Epidemiology Program, The Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Sylvain Boet – Scientist, Clinical Epidemiology Program, The Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Sylvain Boet will go behind the operating room doors to show how the OR Black Box is providing data to create better patient outcomes. 

Event Date:

May 28, 2019

Time:

6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Location:

Ottawa Conference and Event Centre, 200 Coventry Road, Ottawa, ON

Contact:

Donor Relations
613-737-8899, ext. 19796
[email protected]