Hard work, the great outdoors and a natural diet are just some of the reasons James Pol believes growing up on a farm encouraged him to maintain such a healthy lifestyle for so long. So, in 2018, after 55 years with a clean bill of health, James didn’t bat an eye when he had to get a physical to renew his AZ license. For insurance purposes, he needed to provide a blood test and urine sample, which he did right before he headed off to Florida for Christmas. Blissfully unaware of the news he was about to receive, James basked in the warm southern sun and time away with his loved ones.
“No one wants to get a call from their doctor while they’re on vacation,” he says. “As soon as I picked up the phone, the doc told me I needed to come home now. He said, ‘prostate cancer.’ It was such a shock to me, my wife—the entire family.”
At his doctor’s urging, James abandoned his poolside lounger and flew home to receive the testing he needed to kick start his care journey. Despite having no symptoms, a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test revealed James’s stage three cancer was progressing quickly. His prognosis meant he was not eligible for surgery because there was a high chance the cancer would spread.
“For years, my wife has driven friends from out of town to the London Regional Cancer Program,” James explains. “But this time, when we drove up to the hospital, we both realized we weren’t just dropping someone off. I was the one headed in there.”
To get the disease under control, James received brachytherapy, radiation which directly targets cancer cells, while at the same time limiting damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. Afterward, he was connected with radiation oncologist, Dr. Glenn Bauman, and the nurses at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) who were by his side for 25 rounds of radiation therapy. And apart from what he describes as a seamless digital system that helped streamline his path to recovery, James was further impressed by hospital staff who supported him from the moment he first walked through the door until he rang the celebratory gong, signalling the end of his treatment.
“The doctors, the nurses and technicians at LHSC treat patients every hour of every day, yet they maintain a remarkable level of kindness, patience and genuine interest in you as a person,” James remarks.
From diagnosis through to hormone therapy, James quickly came to recognize how drastically cancer affects your mind, body and daily routine.
“People deserve the best care available to overcome all the challenges that come with cancer,” he says. “We have incredible talent at LHSC making amazing breakthroughs. But they also need the funding to back them up. That’s why I’m sharing my story.”
Even though he is now in the clear, James continues to advocate for the generosity needed to empower one of the best healthcare teams in the world, and which happens to be in our own backyard. Learn more about how you can support cancer patients to ring the “gong of hope” by improving their access to life-saving innovations in care.
Have a memorable health care story at LHSC? We want to hear from you! If you have a wellness journey you’d like to share, please contact LHSF’s marketing team at LHSFComm@lhsc.on.ca.