Santa and Shorna

Guest blog: As a nurse and a patient, I’m incredibly grateful

Shorna Wallace RN shares how donors helped her recover from cancer

In all my years of nursing, I’d always put myself in the patient’s shoes, never thinking I’d soon be the one in need of care.

But that’s exactly what happened to me five years ago. At the time, I’d been a labour and delivery nurse at Michael Garron Hospital for eight years. My colleagues were like a second family to me. We leaned on each other during tough times and celebrated the good times. When you work in a hospital, there are plenty of both!

When I got sick with cancer, I knew I’d have to lean on my colleagues in a whole new way. All of a sudden, instead of being a caregiver, I was a patient. My life was in their hands.

Despite my worry, I knew I was in the best place. Living in Toronto, I had plenty of options for care, but I knew that I’d get first-rate, compassionate care at Michael Garron Hospital. I firmly believe we have the very best people on our healthcare teams.

Thank you so much for giving so generously to our community hospital. Maybe you give because you or someone you love has been treated here. Maybe you give because you know you might need us at some point in the future. Either way, as both a nurse and a patient, I’m incredibly grateful.

From a nurse to a patientMy healthcare journey started with really, really bad abdominal pain. I’m pretty tough, but even I had to admit this was out of the ordinary.

The timing wasn’t the greatest, to be honest. It was the weekend of my brother’s wedding, and we had lots of family in town. I got dressed up and went to the wedding in a lot of pain.

Two days after the wedding, I was admitted to the hospital. An ultrasound revealed fibroids, a kind of muscular tumour, on my uterus. Fibroids are usually benign, but the doctors told me I’d still need surgery to remove them, and I’d likely need a hysterectomy. I’m fortunate that the surgery was successful and they managed to find and remove all the fibroids.

But a couple of days later, I got a call from one of the doctors. He tried to put it gently, but there’s really no way to soften this blow. “We found cancer,” he told me. “The origin is the colon.”

To say I was shocked was an understatement. I expected to be back at work in the Family Birthing Centre in a few weeks, helping families as they bring new life into the world. Suddenly, everything changed.

Fortunately, I was never alone. The doctors, nurses and staff were beyond incredible. Every question was answered, every call returned, and all with a positive, encouraging attitude. How lucky I am to work in such a wonderful hospital; one where the patient truly comes first. This is the kind of genuine, heartfelt care you enable when you donate, and I can’t thank you enough.

A month later, I was back in surgery, this time for a colon resection. Once again, I put my life into the hands of my colleagues. And once again, the surgery was successful.

Following my operation, the nurses went above and beyond to make sure my recovery was as smooth as possible. They taught me what to expect, what to eat and how to cope with the physical changes. They also kept tabs on my mental health, checking in to monitor my mood and mindset. As you can imagine, it made all the difference knowing I had a whole team of professionals cheering for me.

Four years went by. As each one passed with no signs of cancer, I celebrated a new lease on life. Then in 2022, my routine colonoscopy told a different story. The cancer was back. I was devastated … but also determined.

Once again, the team at Michael Garron Hospital rallied around me, just as though they were members of my family. I was quickly scheduled for another surgery and chemotherapy treatment.

The difference that your donations makeWhile I was undergoing treatment, I had the opportunity to really experience the impact of your support. My room post-surgery was in the new Ken and Marilyn Thomson Patient Care Centre, which you made possible by giving so generously.

It was a really lovely single room with a beautiful view of the skyline and lake. I was in the hospital over Canada Day, and, to my amazement and delight, was able to see the fireworks from my bed! It made such a difference to be able to recover in a calming and beautiful space.

Likewise, the chemotherapy unit has seen some great improvements! The chairs are like little pods, very comfortable with more privacy. The nurses in this department are wonderful, as well. They never seemed to be in a rush no matter how busy things got. They’d take the time to settle me in just right and make sure I had everything I needed.

One of the side effects of chemo can be that it makes you very cold, but the nurses were always on hand with a hot drink and cozy blankets. These acts of kindness set me at ease and turned what could have been a very uncomfortable experience into one that felt warm and supportive. This is the kind of personalized care that donors make possible at Michael Garron Hospital.

Looking forward to the holidays with my family

My final treatment was completed in June. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that whatever happens, I’ll be in the expert hands of truly caring healthcare professionals. Because of them, and thanks to your support, I’m still here and gearing up to celebrate Christmas with my parents, siblings and the rest of my extended family!

My family is from Jamaica and we like to celebrate! I’m already looking forward to Christmas dinner with the whole family. We’ll have turkey, of course, but also ackee and codfish, fried dumplings, jerk chicken and Jamaican fruitcake to finish it off.

I’ve survived three surgeries and you better believe I’ll be celebrating every minute I have with the people I love. Thank you for giving me more holidays with my family.

I’ll be forever grateful for the care I received at Michael Garron Hospital. I’m even more passionate about extending that same quality of care to each of my patients. I know from personal experience what a life-changing difference it can make.

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