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The Healing Power of Home: Local Healthcare’s Impact

A patient at the Lennox and Addington County General Hospital.

In 2020, as the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacquie was handed life-changing news.

She had cancer.

It was stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a diagnosis that would challenge her in ways she had never imagined.

“It’s a scary word to hear,” reflects Jacquie. “When you do hear the word ‘cancer’, it doesn’t feel real. It’s almost like you’re watching it happen. It doesn’t feel like it’s actually happening to you. So it is nerve-wracking. But then you go into fight mode.”

Navigating Cancer Alone in a Pandemic

As the young mother of two little boys, Jacquie knew she needed to be strong. Yet, as the COVID-19 pandemic relentlessly worsened, she was confronted with a heartbreaking reality: she had to face her battle alone. The restrictions meant that no one – not her husband, not her family, nor her friends – could be there while powerful drugs were pumped into her body to target and destroy the cancer cells that were invading her.

“Being diagnosed with cancer is scary in itself. Being diagnosed with cancer during a pandemic adds another level in making it quite frightening. I can only imagine someone like my father having to drop off his daughter for chemo and not being able to come in with her,” she reflects. “Watching her walk into the chemo centre and having to drive away and wait to pick her up. That’s a scary thing for a family.”

The medical professionals at Lennox and Addington County General Hospital understood that their role extended beyond merely administering medication to support Jacquie in her fight. They went above and beyond, providing assistance in countless ways that Jacquie finds difficult to express gratitude for.

“I remember sitting down in the Napanee chemo unit here and hadn’t even started yet and I was getting upset. I was crying and they could see that I was scared. So they saw that coming on and they pulled up a chair and sat down with me as a family member would have.”

Yes, medicine, technology and treatment are all important, admits Jacquie. But the emotional support? It’s been just as critical on her cancer journey.

“For these health care workers to support me emotionally as well was key to my survival,” she says emphatically, putting her hand to her heart. “I truly feel that.”

“Coming into a hospital for treatment is terrifying,” Jacquie goes on to say. “There’s no pretty or lovely way to say that. It’s terrifying. But to know that you’re coming into a space that is welcoming and supportive and they are cheering you on, it helps you mentally. And I’m a big believer that you can fight something like cancer with mental strength and support.”

Although she would have preferred to be anywhere else but at the hospital, there was a certain comfort in encountering familiar faces during her hospital visits. Those close relationships meant that when Jacquie was admitted to the hospital for an infection or fever, for example, she got the care she needed.

“It was so comforting,” says Jacquie. “They were happy to bring me in. They knew exactly what to do for me because they knew my back story. They knew what I was going through. They knew what to do to help me at that moment.”

And that is the beauty of having healthcare close to home, she says.

The Vital Role of Local Healthcare

“When you come into the ER and those people recognize your face and they know your story, they know what your needs are, and they’re able to treat you immediately. It was never a hesitation to get my backstory or to try and figure out the situation. They knew what needed to happen to keep me safe in those trying moments.”

Care close to home also simplifies practical aspects like transportation, which can be challenging when you’re feeling unwell.

“The issue is the drive after chemo,” says Jacquie. “You feel extremely ill, and [when I had to come home from Kingston], I would have to prepare myself to make that 45-minute drive home when all I wanted to do was just crawl into my own bed. When I had my chemo treatment in Napanee, it was great because I knew in 10 minutes, I would be home and I would be able to crawl into my own bed and start my recovery.”

Jacquie is continuing to fight her battle against cancer to this day, but she’s facing it with grace, determination, and more strength than ever before. Her unwavering spirit and resilience are not only an inspiration to her loved ones but also a testament to the incredible human capacity to persevere in the face of adversity – and the incredible power of local health care.

“This local hospital needs support, it needs fundraising, it needs donations,” says Jacquie. “We are doing good things here in this small town. And if we can support that and make it bigger and better and stronger, then why would we not do that? We need to take advantage of the brilliant, kind people we have working here and expand it and make it stronger and better for our local community.”