Woman with cancer campaigning to bring radiation therapy to Yarmouth
Published Friday, March 9, 2018 9:22PM AST
A cancer patient in rural Nova Scotia is prompting the health authority to launch a review with hopes of bringing radiation therapy to her community.
Sandy Dennis was diagnosed non-small cell lung cancer last year. The disease has since spread to her spine.
"At first it was the initial shock of finding out that you have cancer,” says Dennis. “You hear of it, but you really don't know what people go through."
During her first appointment in Halifax, Dennis couldn't believe how many people from Shelburne, Digby and Yarmouth counties were there for the same reason.
“I decided to bring it to council and ask for the mayor to write a letter in support of having radiation therapy at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital," Dennis says.
Dennis believes she’s driven more than 5,000 kilometres over the past year for radiation treatment in Halifax. She says for many low-income earners, the costs can quickly add up.
"I really needed my husband there for that support, so I feel so bad for people who can't afford to have that support person. They can't afford to come home on the weekend. It's very difficult," says Dennis.
Dennis’ dedication has led to progress. The Nova Scotia Health Authority is conducting a review of cancer services in Yarmouth.
"Sandy's always been and will always be all about the people,” says Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood. “We're just really proud that she's taken this on."
Dr. Drew Bethune, medical director of Nova Scotia Cancer Care, says the review is looking at the feasibility and sustainability of adding radiation services at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
“We're looking at disease prevalence, we're looking at population trends, all those different issues we're trying to be as comprehensive as possible," says Dr. Bethune.
The health authority held focus groups in Yarmouth in February. It will soon launch electronic and paper surveys for residents.
Dr. Bethune hopes to have the review complete by late spring.
"It can be a really significant hardship to people in different ways, for different people, and hearing their voice in their words is extremely valuable to us when we're trying to make very difficult decisions," says Dr. Bethune.
Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey is awaiting the results of the review.
Sandy Dennis says she'll continue to push for radiation therapy closer to home.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Suzette Belliveau.