The Cancer Journey Series

With each cancer diagnosis, a patient and their family face a difficult and uncertain future. These are their stories of resilience and hope.

At The Ottawa Hospital, we’re seeing breakthroughs in cancer research that a decade ago seemed impossible. Personalized cancer care allows our medical experts to provide precise treatments, tailored to a patient’s unique cancer. Clinical trials offer patients and their families new hope, and this type of groundbreaking research allows our experts to harness their expertise and develop game-changing treatments.

We believe all cancers can be cured. Our inspiration comes from our patients — our neighbours, colleagues, friends, and family members. Here are just a few of their stories — cancer journeys from around our region. For them, and so many others, we will continue to discover and test novel ways to eradicate cancer and create a better tomorrow.

Diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma stops Heba Haidar in her tracks


When Heba Haidar was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma her world came to a grinding halt. On maternity leave, and with three young children at home under the age of five, she worried about what the future might hold.

Randy McElligott’s unusual reaction to his cancer diagnosis


When Randy McElligott was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, he was happy. Randy’s unusual reaction to this news was because he saw this an opportunity — an opportunity to try something different in his life. He set a goal to run a marathon and he’s never looked back.

Years after losing his dad to cancer, Robert Nsengiyumva faces his own diagnosis


When diagnosed with stomach cancer at age 53, Robert Nsengiyumva had already lost many family members to cancer, including his dad. Today, Robert’s grateful to be cancer-free thanks to The Ottawa Hospital.

Nurse Sabrina Presta’s very different perspective of life as a patient


In 2020, nurse Sabrina Presta found herself as a patient after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It gave her a firsthand glimpse about life on the other side of healthcare.

Music leads Caleb Fagen through his journey with Hodgkin’s lymphoma


Caleb Fagen was close to finishing his undergrad in music at uOttawa when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma The 21-year-old was completely unprepared for the news, and he shares the toll it took, both physically and mentally.

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Full circle experience for Denise-Picard Stencer


After dedicating 27 years of her career to The Ottawa Hospital, Denise Picard-Stencer was shocked when she found herself back at the hospital in 2019 — this time as a patient being treated for multiple myeloma.

Anxiety of cancer diagnosis eased by compassionate care team


When Jay Abramovitch went to the Emergency Department in November 2020, he never expected to hear the word cancer — let alone stage 3B colon cancer. “I was shocked, angry, and confused. I was only 36, and I’d always been healthy with no history of colon cancer in my family.”

Aggressive lymphoma diagnosis that Ram Dubey never saw coming


Four years into his retirement, Ram Dubey was enjoying the extra time he had to pursue his interests in painting and photography. But in October 2019, some red flags started to go up concerning his health, and he was diagnosed with lymphoma.

A cancer journey by the numbers


By the time she was in her early 40s, Tanya O’Brien, had already seen six family members diagnosed with breast cancer — she was terrified she was next. Then in 2013, her worst fears came true, and Tanya turned to The Ottawa Hospital’s Breast Health Centre to face her diagnosis.

Breast cancer diagnosis shocks pregnant, young mom


At the age of 22, Alyssa lost her 53-year-old mom to breast cancer. Almost ten years later — now a mother herself — she learned she had the BRCA2 gene. It would be the beginning of a journey Alyssa hoped she would never have to experience.

Trusting his instincts led to a rare cancer diagnosis


At the first sign that something might be wrong, Kevin thought he would just wait to see what happens — maybe his one-time symptom would go away. But in the middle of the night, he felt compelled to call his doctor and leave a message. Tests revealed Kevin had mucosal melanoma — a rare form of skin cancer found inside the body.

A cancer diagnosis later in life didn’t stop this athlete from competing


At age 78, Samuel Lawrence’s athletic ability continued to dominate his life, even after a diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome that he didn’t see coming. Treatment and guidance from his doctors allowed Samuel to compete at the Ontario Masters Championships in Toronto, one last time, in the summer of 2021.

A top-notch attitude and big dreams


A young man with a young family and big dreams. But at twenty-nine-years old, Matt received the news no one wants to hear — a diagnosis of medullary thyroid cancer. With his wife and newborn by his side, Matt has kept a “top notch attitude” through the ups and downs of his cancer journey.

Look forward. Move ahead. Cycle through cancer.


“Look forward. Move ahead.” That’s the motto Robert lives by — no matter what challenges life throws his way. In late 2017, Robert was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour inside his mouth. While it’s been a long road of treatment — cycling and giving back have empowered him throughout his cancer journey.

A message to other cancer patients: “You are not alone”


In 2019, Jennifer received an unexpected breast cancer diagnosis. It was overwhelming at the time, but she and her family were in it together. Her journey would include chemotherapy treatment, and surgery. While she knows nobody wants to join this club, Jennifer wants others facing a cancer diagnosis to know, they’re not alone.

Diagnosed with two forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma within five years


Janet’s cancer journey began in Paris, France in late 2010 — the 51-year-old was enjoying a vacation with her husband when she noticed some enlarged lymph nodes. By early 2011, Janet faced a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and four years later, yet another cancer diagnosis.

Cancer. It’s a disease that has touched all of us in some way.

That’s why The Ottawa Hospital is challenging the boundaries of conventional cancer care and making critical advancements in cancer research that a decade ago were deemed impossible to achieve.

We treat cancer patients from Deep River to Hawkesbury to Cornwall, and as far away as Nunavut.

Our collaborative team of physicians, nurses, researchers, and other healthcare professionals are harnessing their collective skills, committed to finding the latest treatments options, and enhancing the quality of life for our cancer patients.