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Tom Philip’s Journal

Tom Philip’s Journal

Tom Philip has written a journal entitled "Don’t be a man: Do the right thing", which is an ongoing series about living with cancer from Tom’s perspective.

Dignity and respect are the norm here.

by Tom Philip

One of the great benefits of living in this country is universal access to health care. For most of us, that may mean simply being able to see a doctor as the need arises, and knowing our provincial or territorial plan will cover the costs. Another Canadian advantage, particularly for people who have been diagnosed with serious medical problems, is the opportunity to get a second, qualified medical opinion.

For cancer patients living in Canada, governments have worked closely, and diligently with organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society, the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada, and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation to increase awareness of the disease, raise funds for support and research, and establish regional cancer centres across the country.

In this journey to rid myself of the tumor in my colon, I decided to get a second opinion from a medical oncologist, a doctor trained in the treatment of cancer. I asked my family doctor for a referral to a cancer specialist. That led to a recent visit to KRCC, the Kingston Regional Cancer Centre, and sessions with oncology nurse Trish MacPherson and Dr. Jim Biagi.

KRCC enjoys the same stellar reputation that all such regional cancer centres in Canada enjoy. (Please see links below to other Canadian cancer centres). If my brief experience there is any indication, that reputation should be broadcast to the world. Respect and dignity are more than just buzz words there.

The medical profession has made great strides recently in recognizing that patients have rights too. Most importantly, patients have an absolute right to be treated as individual human beings, with personal medical problems. Many cancer patients, probably not unlike folks with heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses, may be scared, or confused, or even in denial. Cancer centre specialists (and they truly are special, right down to the receptionists and volunteers who welcome you at the door) recognize that we may be feeling trapped in a personal hell, and work hard to lead us to a better place.

The couple of hours I spent with Dr. Biagi and Trish MacPherson taught me a great deal about how much centre staff really care about their patients. Although the visit was, of course, clinical in nature, their gentle, reassuring way of gathering, and giving information put me at ease during this time in my life when it’s not been easy to relax.

I was made to understand that, although far from being unique, my colorectal cancer is special to me. Only I have the right to decide how to deal with this terror that is threatening my life. And that is true for every one of the fifty or so special patients, from children to senior citizens, who sat in the KRCC lounge that morning, waiting to discuss their cancer journeys with amazing people like Biagi and MacPherson.

Ultimately, my surgeon’s diagnosis was confirmed. Surgery is the only option in my case. Dr. Biagi said I couldn’t have a better surgeon than the one who will remove the cancer from my bowel later this month.

"And if you never have to come back here to see us," he said, "that’s a really good news story!" For more information about some of the cancer centres in the following regions, please check out these web sites.,,,, and

next  Newsflash: patients have rights too.

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