St. Mike’s has always been there for me, I felt I should be there for them. I hope my gift inspires others to do the same.
For more than twenty years Carole Collier had been coming to St. Michael's Hospital to receive regular breast screenings. Her appointments were always uneventful. But in the summer of 2011, she received an unexpected phone call from a nurse at the CIBC Breast Centre. An abnormality was discovered during one of her mammograms, and Carole was told she needed to come back for further testing.
A biopsy was performed to remove a sample of tissue from the area. The results revealed a small but aggressive tumour that would require surgery. “I was scared,” says Carole, 71, thinking of her mother who suffered from breast cancer. She was placed under the care of Dr. Ralph George, Medical Director of the CIBC Breast Centre at St. Michael’s, who sees about 60 women with breast problems every week. “He immediately put me at ease,” she recalls. “He tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘we can get through this.’” True to his word, Dr. George successfully removed Carole’s tumour.
But she had another scare this July when one of her breast screenings revealed an irregular node. “When they called to tell me, I thought, ‘now what?’” She returned to St. Michael’s for a diagnostic mammogram – a special x-ray that looks more closely at the abnormality – followed by a biopsy.
Waiting was the worst part. “I was so worried that the tumour had recurred,” says Carole. She remembers the moment when Dr. George popped his head into the room and said, with a huge smile, “I’ve got good news!” He informed her that the node was not malignant and there would be no need to undergo surgery this time. “It was euphoric,” she recalls. “I’ve only met Dr. George twice, but he is one-in-a-million.”
Carole continues to be cared for by Dr. Rashida Haq, Director of Medical Education and Clinical Leader of Oncology at St. Michael’s Hospital. “It’s not just a job,” says Dr. Haq, who sees about 90 patients every week, “Sometimes it’s about holding hands.” Her team is working to create a new model of care, which involves the patient’s own doctor and family members to ensure a smooth continuum of support.
“The staff and volunteers are all amazing,” says Carole, highlighting the exceptional care she received from Lynne, Irene and Debbie at the CIBC Breast Centre. “They’re personable, up-to-date, kind and compassionate.” Her experience inspired her to leave a legacy at St. Michael’s by including a bequest in her will.
“It’s one of the most compassionate hospitals in the city,” says Carole, who cares deeply about Toronto’s growing homeless population and appreciates the fact that St. Michael’s admits vulnerable patients who are not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. “St. Mike’s has always been there for me, I felt I should be there for them. I hope my gift inspires others to do the same.”
To speak with one of our staff about a planned gift to St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, please contact Cynthia Collantes at 416.864.5879 or CollantesC@smh.ca.