Al_WatkinsonGrateful Patient: Al Watkinson, Brant Community Cancer Clinic

Having a positive attitude, a compassionate healthcare team and a strong support system are key to beating a cancer diagnosis as far as Al Watkinson is concerned.

The Brantford resident found himself facing a battle against anal-rectal cancer in early 2014 and says he gained strength from the care and encouragement he received at the Brant Community Healthcare System.

Al admitted that he didn’t make time for regular physical exams during a period in his life when he was travelling extensively for work, and may have left things too long before he saw a doctor about the difficulty he was having eliminating waste. Testing revealed what was thought to be a blockage of the bowel, “and it was,” said Al. “But not the kind you can just flush out.”

In February 2014, Al was admitted to The Brantford General for ostomy surgery under the care of Dr. Walter Pawliwec. He was expected to start chemotherapy in the Brant Community Cancer Clinic at The Brantford General when another unexpected health crisis set him back. He was an inpatient while he received treatment for abscesses and when that was resolved, Al was able to begin a schedule of chemotherapy.

“All the nurses and medical staff in the cancer clinic are absolutely wonderful,” said Al. “They made me feel welcome.”

Their smiling faces, compassionate care and encouraging words were a comfort during his treatments, which were received every two weeks and lasted anywhere from four to eight hours in the clinic each time.

Al also credited oncologist Dr. Bryan Lee with helping him maintain his positive attitude.

“I woke up every morning saying, ‘It’s going to be a better day,’ and ‘I’m one day closer to the end of treatment’,” he said.

In October 2014, Al was scheduled for surgery to remove his tumour, which had shrunk considerably as a result of his first round of chemotherapy and radiation. It was decided that a second round of chemotherapy was warranted to make sure Al would be cancer-free.

“I was going to beat it, and I was going to get back to normal,” he said with determination. “And I am.”

Though thankfully, he has recovered well, when he was first diagnosed, Al felt frustrated with what he knew was ahead of him. He faced his feelings by staging what he described as a protest — he stopped shaving and decided to grow a beard.

“It was started in protest of what my body was doing,” said Al. “When I found out I had cancer.”

Over the course of his treatment, Al’s beard grew longer, as did the beards of two friends who were supporting him during his health crisis.

The trio created pledge sheets and collected donations toward the big ‘shave-off’ that was scheduled immediately after Al received his final chemotherapy treatment. Al’s own beard was eight inches long when it was time for the shave. A friend and stylist, who is a two-time breast cancer survivor, donated her time to Al’s cause.

The men raised $1,500.50 in donations from their network of friends and service club connections. Al requested his donation be used toward the purchase of a vital signs monitor for the Cancer Clinic.

By directing his donation toward the Brant Community Cancer Clinic, Al felt he could help others who are being treated for cancer locally. Surrounded by a welcoming and comfortable
environment and state-of-the-art equipment, patients can concentrate on getting better and keeping a positive attitude.

The equipment supported by donor dollars isn’t all ‘nice to have’—it is critical, much-needed medical equipment required to perform daily diagnostics and care for patients.

As Al has learned first-hand, when crisis or illness impacts you or a loved one, the Brant Community Healthcare System is here to offer you exceptional healthcare in your time of need.

Your involvement, through a donation of any size, will allow the BCHS Foundation to purchase patient equipment not funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, provide essential resources to maintain the exceptional level of compassionate patient care, and invest in new and innovative technology.

To make a donation, click here or call 519-751-5510.

This holiday season, give a gift that could save a life and be a part of the Brant Community Healthcare System Foundation’s 12 Days of Giving Campaign.

Photo above: Brian Sherren, Brenda Judge, Al Watkinson, Don Wolan (left to right)