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Let me be clear that I am commenting as an individual who has experienced cancer, and as an experienced user of the health care system here and in other countries. My views are not necessarily those of the Globe and Mail. We have an editorial board which decides our policy positions as a newspaper, and I am not part of that board. That's what we call church-and-state separation here.
Like a lot of people in Canada, I care deeply about making a difference to the care that can be offered . . . there are a lot of positive developments, and a lot of hope, and we want to capture that message in The Globe too.
Jasmine Francis, Halifax: Mr. Crawley, I was sorry to read on this page about your wife. I lost my husband to cancer two years ago. Fortunately, he didn't suffer too long. But it has left a huge void in my life. If it's not too personal a question, did the loss of your wife lead you to take on your work on the hospital board and with the cancer agency?
Phillip Crawley: Jasmine, yes, I have taken an active role in helping out in the health care area since my wife died, because I feel I have some knowledge that other patients might find useful.
I used the money that was donated in memory of my wife to create a fund at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, where she was a patient for four years, which provides help and advice for cancer patients waiting for treatment.
She spent many hours in those waiting rooms and met many other women who were needing information and guidance.
The doctors are busy and don't always have the time to explain in person, so the better informed you are, the better chance you have of dealing with the problem.
Barbara Tremblay, Prince George, B.C.: I have been following your series with great interest, as I was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus in March, 2001. Thanks to good, prompt treatment and great support from family and friends, I am alive today. One thing I have not seen comments on are support programs which help to ease the feeling of isolation experienced by those who are going through treatment. I am a volunteer with Cancer Connection, which is run by the Canadian Cancer Society. In this program, we are matched with those with the same type of cancer, and other similarities, so we can share practical stories and offer emotional support. I used this when I was a patient, and now I am talking to others across the country, and hopefully helping them. [Can you comment on this approach?]
Phillip Crawley: Support programs are enormously valuable, both for the emotional value and the information source they provide.
I have some knowledge of an organisation called Wellspring which has centres in six locations in Ontario, and is looking to expand across the country. Having visited one of their Toronto centres, I can vouch for the quality of their support, which comes free, despite having no government funding.
Meeting other patients, sharing experiences, and being able to read up on a treatment in a well-stocked library, are all very important to a patient facing up to the various choices.
Sam Butera, Toronto: Canada has many levels to its health system, and it is no longer universal. For example, I work for a small company [and] this year I paid over $1,800 for prescription drugs, tests, etc. from my own pocket whereas a unionized worker at a large company may get all of that covered. Revenue Canada will send me a tiny reimbursement. If I was diagnosed with cancer, I would have to die. I could not afford rent, medications and recovery time. I would probably lose my job and my apartment. Is The Globe going to write about this discrepancy in its Health Section or its cancer series?