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My Walk with Cancer

You are helping people like Kathryn White who has thrived after a stage four colon cancer diagnosis.

Woman sitting.

It started with a pain in my left side and a trip to the Emergency Department at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH).

This visit was followed by an ultrasound that showed spots on my liver. Then came a colonoscopy, then so many CTs and barium scans, blood work, and an MRI. You name the test, I likely had it.

My initial surgeon, Dr. McLaughlin, finally made the call: I needed surgery.

I went in for surgery at STEGH and left with a little less of my colon.

At this point, we knew it was cancer; we just didn’t know the details.

Then the results were back: stage four colon cancer.

At only 43, as a mom and a teacher and a wife, I thought, “oh my God, this isn’t good,” and I immediately turned to look at my husband’s devastated face. We had already told our 15- and 16-year-old sons that it was cancer, and now we had to go back and tell them it was even further along than we had thought.

We decided right away that we wouldn’t research and didn’t want to know the percentages or statistics on survival. I was going to trust my medical team and give every day 100 per cent.

The next step was chemo – five rounds. I was so grateful that I could have my treatment at STEGH, right around the corner from home. This was followed by surgery in London to have most of my liver removed, a six-week recovery break (for good behavior, I like to joke) and then seven more rounds of chemo at STEGH.I was fortunate to meet Dr. Donahue and nurses Carla, Laurie, Janice and Sarah, who were amazing and supportive during my treatments.

I then rang that bell and walked out of STEGH cancer free.

A few years later, there was a lump in my abdomen. The lump was a new tumour. My new surgeon, Dr. Bottoni, removed this tumour, accompanied by Dr. McLaughlin, who came to help care for me one last time before he retired.

Then came a lump in my lung a year after that. And a few months ago, the day before my 50th birthday, I had another lump removed in my abdomen. Going into surgery, I joked, “I had asked the universe for a new car for my birthday, but in- stead I am getting a new scar.

This surgery was harder for us, as my husband couldn’t come with me because of COVID. I left him my wedding bands so he could have me close, and I wore one of his shirts so it would feel like he was right there.

Today, my walk  with cancer has not stopped. My body is currently disease free, but cancer is something I have accepted as a part of my life, and I treat it like a chronic illness.

This makes it easier to manage. I constantly work to heal my body and my mind –and my family too. A cancer diagnosis affects every part of your life, but it does not decide how you live your life. I choose to thrive.

Since 1998, with the birth of my first child, to the Emergency Department visit that started everything in 2014 and my most recent surgery to remove a tumour in 2021, STEGH has given my family nothing but heartfelt care.

I cannot name everyone, but I am forever grateful to every nurse and doctor, and each person who cleaned my room, brought me dry shampoo, helped me bathe and walk, and took time from their day to make mine better.

And to you, I thank you. Every gift, whether it is money or time volunteering or snacks or preemie hats, makes a difference in the life of someone who needs it in that moment. I can personally attest to that.

- Kathyrn White, Passionate Cancer Thriver/Cancer Support Coach

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