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Making the Team

Before I was diagnosed, both Angie and I had a family physician in Ottawa who we’d seen occasionally over twenty years. I’d had one visit to the Wakefield Hospital emergency room when I’d had a ‘technical mishap’ assembling a squirrel-proof bird feeder system and needed a stitch or two. Angie had a trip to the CLSC in Masham for a stitch after a malfunction of ice-crampons. In other words, we were not high users of the medical system. Getting connected was an urgent priority. Our family physician seemed to disappear after my mammogram. We were not sure where to begin. We were between family physicians and between provinces. The situation called us to be very proactive. We reached out to others to expand beyond the pool of our own limited knowledge. We asked for referrals and guidance.

After I shared news of my ‘suspicious mammogram’, Wakefield friends put me in touch a friend of theirs (and now ours) who’d had breast cancer. She was so helpful and reassuring. Her experience with the Gatineau Hospital, the regional cancer centre, had been very positive. She highly recommended her surgeon, Dr Nadkarni. The surgeon is the key starting place. I gave her name to my doctor's secretary who got me an early appointment. Having this referral gave me a way into ‘the system’ as quickly as possible and with confidence. As my treatment plan took shape, I was assigned to a medical oncologist, Dr Frechette and a radio-oncologist, Dr Gouldreault. Each of these three specialists had a different style but were willing to engage with my questions as I made decisions. I like them all. And, they have provided me with first-rate medical care.

At the primary care level, I was grateful to be able to quickly switch to a Wakefield, QC family physician, Dr Melissa Legrand given the acute nature of my situation. She has been a revelation: knowledgeable and caring; following up on every point needed. She also took Angie into her patient list after her fall. Having a local family doctor in the Quebec system was important as tests and test results rolled on. We learned that a pathologist friend in another province was a specialist in breast cancer pathology. He was immensely helpful to us as we entered this new territory.

The Cancer Pivot Nurse for our area helped between appointments. I was provided with her name and coordinates as I began treatment. I also talked with our Chelsea pharmacist – Isabelle Menard and enlisted her as part of my medical team. Over the year, she and her staff followed my progress and helped me with various prescriptions and processes.

As other needs arose, the team grew. My PICC line was meticulously taken care of by Chantal, a kind and caring nurse at the Masham CLSC. At Gatineau Hospital, physiotherapist Patricia Chabot cleared some cording after my surgery and got me off to a good start with stretching routines. Louise Killens of PhysioSport Chelsea expertly attended to my post-surgical recovery and lymph recovery. Dr Andreanne Côté of Chiro Physio Gatineau, sorted out my carpel tunnel problem with a combination of chiropractic and active release therapy. I've found counselling sessions with Marjorie Coristine very helpful - a space apart, to process and work through many of the challenging aspects of having cancer and navigating so many life changes.

Everyone on my team has been skilled, professional and kind. They have impressive qualifications and clinical expertise. I have felt safe and well-cared for by each of them. And, I think quite coincidentally, all but one of them were women. I took particular interest and cheer, then, from news of a study reported in late in 2016 showing that that “elderly patients treated by female physicians tend to have better health outcomes than patients treated by male doctors,” and "there was ample evidence that male and female physicians practice medicine differently. [The] findings suggest that those differences matter and are important to patient health.”[1] No dissent from me! [2]

Note: I've dated this Post to be early in the sequence On Treatment as it is an early need. I wrote this post in February 2017.

[1] See e.g., “Female Doctors May See Better Results than Male Peers, Study Says” at The study is by Yusuke Tsugawa, Anupam B Jena et al, “Comparison of Hospital Mortality and Readmission Rates for Medicare Patients Treated by Male vs Female Physicians” (2017) 177(2) JAMA Intern Med. 206-213 doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.7875. Online at:

[2] Angie on the other hand, just as coincidentally, seems to have hedged her bets. Her sterling team consists, n the one hand, of her surgeon, Dr William Deloges, physiotherapist at PhysioSport physiotherapist Paul Phillips and personal trainer at the Club Sportif, Sebastien Martin. On the other hand, there is her massage therapist, Gala Loncke, physiotherapist Louise Killens, and our family physician Melissa Legrand.

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