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Rhonel B

 
Rhonel B.

Fifteen years ago, Rhonel B. came to Canada from St. Vincent for what was to be a short visit her big sister, Monica. But everything changed when Monica received the news that she had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Just 21 years old at the time, Rhonel became the primary caregiver for her sister and her 3 young nieces.

Monica lost her battle with cancer after 4 very difficult years. “She had tremendous will, and she handled everything with such poise and grace,” says Rhonel.

Although Monica received very good care, both sisters struggled with learning how to navigate the healthcare system. “It would have been so helpful to have had clearer care plans or someone to guide us,” says Rhonel. She also wishes there had been better support for her and the children. “Cancer takes a devastating toll on the family. The better support we have, the more we can help the patient.”

A patient navigator might have also thought to ask about Monica’s specific type of breast cancer, information that is vitally important to her daughters, Natasha, Nicole and Latonya (now 30, 25 and 18 years old, respectively). “I didn’t think to ask about it at the time, but now that Natasha is almost the same age her mother was when she was diagnosed with cancer, prevention and early detection are always on my mind.”

As a member of Cancer Care Ontario’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, Rhonel hopes to see better information and resources about screening made available to both physicians and patients. “I think there is a lot of confusion out there about the best standard for screening. Patients need to know what the recommendations are so that they can make better decisions.”