Cancer. I’ve never had it, which is surprising considering my fascination with cigarettes and any piece of wireless technology. But my grandmother died from it. She lived in Thessalon, Ontario and had to drive almost 2 hours to a hospital in Sault Ste Marie for treatment. It was close to fifteen years ago but I still remember once when we were visiting we all went along for the ride. She didn’t last long probably only a year or two, but I do remember the day before she died, having the whole family in the spare bedroom at my grandparent house, which had been converted into a hospital room and her withered body hardly moving at all in the bed. I remember thinking she looked so sick and that other her eyes shifting around looking at each of us, she might have already been dead. It was upsetting for all of us to watch her so quickly go from daily gardening and cooking up massive batches of sweets to a barely breathing corpse over a short period of time. However, these days I don’t really think about it much, my point simply is I’m not a total stranger to cancer and its effects on people and their families. I want anyone who reads this to understand that before reading further and assuming I’m just stirring the pot for the sake of getting people’s blood boiling… (I am after all, a bit of a shit disturber…)
Because, this week in the local paper, it was announced to the world at large (or at least the microcosm that is Temiskaming) that the Community Cancer Care centre was being evicted from the Temiskaming Hospital. Now why would they do that you ask? Well the stated reason is because they need more room to treat cancer patients. The program which is paid for through donations and run by volunteers helps provides different types of support to people receiving cancer treatment at the hospital.
So let me take a second and say that I think it’s a great thing and that I’m happy all those drink tickets I buy on Canada Day weekend go to support something other than some promoter’s pocket. Because I also don’t want anyone thinking that I have anything against this organization.
So why are they getting evicted? According to the article in the Temiskaming Speaker, CEO Bruce Cunningham has said that they need more room to treat MORE cancer patients. Now, the Community Cancer Care has not been ordered and cease and desist order, it hasn’t been told it needs to close its doors and stop offering the services and support it provides, it’s been just been told to move. Logically it makes sense to have the centre in the hospital and I’ll agree with that, but the hospital itself is pretty small compared to any other hospital I can think of that offers cancer treatment so I’ll take Bruce’s word (for now) that real estate in the building is at a premium.
Naturally though, the people responsible for the program are upset about this, because like I said, and what seems to be their reasoning, is that it makes sense for this to be in the hospital where people receive the treatment. However, (and this is where my opinions may start to differ…) the hospital is not located on an island, nor is it located in some remote piece of Northern Ontario bush land miles from civilization. It is located right on the edge of New Liskeard, not so close that the average person would walk there from the grocery store, but close enough that I doubt the needle on your fuel gauge would budge from driving down town and back.
What I believe to be the simple solution of moving it, for the sake of being able to treat more patients, seems to be incomprehensible to Barry Phippen and the other volunteers. What upsets me is listening to and reading Barry in interviews where he stamps his feet and beats his chest about how Bruce Cunningham has resented the program. Barry, you’re a leader in this community and I can understand that this decision doesn’t sit well with you especially after you have invested so much of yourself into it. But we should be happy that patients don’t have to drive to North Bay or Sudbury for cancer treatment as it is. We live in one of the most overlooked areas of the entire country, even when I go to Ottawa I have to explain to people ‘it’s two hours north of North Bay…‘ and that’s if they even know where North Bay is!
Be glad for what this community does have, if the office needs to be moved down town or anywhere else, so be it! Be glad that you are in a position that you can provide extra help to these patients at all and if it means being 5 minutes away instead of being in the same building, that’s still doing more than not having the program at all. I still remember that two hour drive to Sault Ste Marie and if it meant another 5 minutes to get extra support, I’m sure my family would have considered it a drop in the bucket or a minor nuisance compared to not having it at all.
You can listen to Barry’s interview on CBC points north here. Also you can read the article from the speaker here. Bruce Cunningham is set to appear on CBC radio’s points north on Monday, Sept 12th.