Five days after my breast cancer diagnosis, it was my 56th birthday and I was at a Josh Groban concert. My husband surprised me with tickets months before.
That day had been very emotional. We had told our children about my diagnosis and met with a highly recommended breast surgeon at a downtown hospital.
After the resident escorted me to the exam room, the surgeon entered the room, his greeting was curt and he told me about the surgery. I felt like I was his 89th patient of the day. When he asked if I had any questions, as I was posing the first from my sheet of questions, he grabbed the paper and said, “I don’t need to answer these questions now.” And with that, he was on to his next patient.
At the concert, I was numb from the day’s events. My favourite song since I was a little girl is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, and it has guided me through other life challenges. That night, Josh Groban sang it as his encore song. I looked at my husband and said, “I think I’m gonna be fine.”
A few days later, one of our friends told us about the amazing care his mother had received at North York General Hospital (NYGH) after her breast cancer diagnosis. That was just the information I needed to schedule an appointment at NYGH for a second opinion.
When I arrived at NYGH, I walked into the Breast Diagnostic Centre. My experience was day and night compared to what I had at the downtown hospital. The nurse who brought me to the exam room was kind, interested, knowledgeable and empathetic. She told me she’d be following me on my breast cancer journey and gave me her contact information so I could easily reach her with any questions.
While I waited in the exam room for renowned surgeon Dr. Donna McRitchie, I pondered what she’d say about my prognosis. The other appointment had left me anxious, scared and alone with the difficult decision of weighing a lumpectomy versus a double mastectomy.
Dr. McRitchie walked in confidently with a big smile and in-depth knowledge of what I was facing. I wasn’t just another patient in her queue: I was a woman battling breast cancer. I was no longer alone, for I immediately knew that Dr. McRitchie was my link to attaining a healthy future.
I then met with plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Ron Somogyi. He was, as Dr. McRitchie described, talented, precise and detailed about my options. His reconstructive breast surgery style is state-of-the art, and I knew I was literally in good hands.
After the surgery, my relationship with NYGH’s team was just beginning. Drs. McRitchie and Somogyi checked in on me. And when a post-surgery issue caused by one medication landed me in the emergency room, Dr. McRitchie was there for me.
Within days, I was given the green light to attend my niece’s wedding in Oklahoma just two weeks after surgery.
When it was time to meet with an oncologist, Dr. McRitchie sent me to Dr. Daryl Roitman, who prescribed my chemotherapy regimen.
At NYGH’s chemo clinic, they held an orientation session so I’d know exactly what to expect. This gave me back some of the power I had lost since my diagnosis. From Stacy, the receptionist, to Rab, the clinical coordinator, to Tiffany, the nurse who administered my chemo drugs, to Raymond, the pharmacist, to Sonia, the nutritionist, to Dr. Cohen, the oncology psychiatrist, and to Dr. Roitman, what an A+++ team! Their kindness, attention to detail and ability to answer my questions thoughtfully and in-depth were all gifts to be treasured.
It’s easy for people and institutions to say they care, but it’s much harder to do it. I know from my journey that NYGH really does care about its patients’ health and well-being and will go that extra mile.
Like in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy was journeying to find the qualities of home, I found those qualities of home’s comfort, safety and support at NYGH to return me to health.
With my deepest gratitude,
Judith Finer Freedman
Breast cancer patient