Healing on Lake Superior

Caribou Charity Ride
Pictured at the start of the 8th Annual Caribou Charity Ride are writer Barbara Hanshard (second from right), Steve Demmings (right), with their niece Kathryn Tooley (second from left) and her partner, Scott Stephens. The ride marked the finalization of treatments and appointments and the beginning of a new future for Barbara after recently completing treatment for breast cancer.

On September 11, 2016, I completed the 8th annual Caribou Charity Ride following a year of treatment for breast cancer.  I was accompanied by my husband and my niece and her partner who flew in from Toronto to participate in a ride on a spectacular fall day.  The ride for me marked the finalization of treatments and appointments and the beginning of a new future.   My radiation treatment was completed at the Thunder Bay Regional Cancer facility.  My experience during this part of my treatment plan was very positive and largely owed to the cheerful and kind medical staff and the front line administrative staff who make up the Radiation Team at the Thunder Bay Cancer facility.

The reception desk is the first point of entry where you are greeted by genuine, warm and kind staff members.  Their client-focused behavior is a testimony to their professionalism, particularly when they frequently admit 110-130 patients in a day.   When I asked if morning radiation treatments were possible for me, my request was made possible and allowed me to schedule my day to focus on healing.  I am fortunate that my recovery was possible at a family camp on Lake Superior.  This allowed me to enjoy a summer surrounded by caring friends and family and the opportunity to take in afternoon snoozes, evening bonfires, daily walks and bike and boat outings.  

At the outset of our first visit to the Regional Cancer Care facility we felt that it was a very special place. It is a hospital unlike any that we have experienced in the past year.  The planners went to great efforts to incorporate state-of-the-art, sensitive architectural design into every element of the building and its physical surroundings. The use of wood and stone as building materials along with the terrazzo floor throughout the main entrance connects the natural outdoors into the hospital and provides a calming effect.  While some might question what the connection of physical space is, with the process of healing, receiving treatment in beautiful surroundings reduces the stress and scariness of heading into treatment.  Nowhere is the calming effect of great architecture on display and more surprising, than in the “radiation oncology bunker.”  Here, you can feel the calming effect of excellent planning that works in synergy with radiation technologists who deliver their expertise with state of the art Elekta technology and “a whole lot of kindness and compassion.”

Now that my radiation treatment is completed, I am starting to plan my future.  My experience in dealing with cancer at the Thunder Bay hospital will always be very special because of the excellent quality of care that is delivered by kind, genuine people.  All of this takes place in a hospital that is not a scary institution but in a beautiful building which provides a calming environment that is missing in so many other hospitals.