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For Immediate Release
April 24 , 2014
LONDON, Ontario – When Kaeleigh Barney was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma - a rare form of bone cancer - at the age of thirteen, beating the disease that was attacking her was her only concern. Two years spent in hospital while receiving intense radiation and chemotherapy regimens meant that every aspect of her life was put on hold while she battled with every ounce of energy she had. Little did Barney realize that the effects of the life-saving treatments she received would be felt for years to come – possibly for the rest of her life.
That’s where the Oncology After-Care Program at Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) - which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this month - comes in. Launched in collaboration with the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) in 2004, the program follows pediatric oncology patients from the time their condition is considered stabilized/in remission throughout the remainder of their lifetime.
Patients attend the multi-disciplinary clinic once a year for follow-up, with visits focusing on issues such as promotion of healthy lifestyle, screening for secondary cancers, as well as early detection of long-term side effects from treatments such as hormone changes, cardiac damage, and bone loss. They also receive psychosocial support as needed. Younger survivors may participate in the School Support program or see the Neuropsychologist while adolescents and young adults may become involved with a program called SAVTI (Successful Academic and Vocational Transition Initiative), which assists survivors who, as a result of their disease and treatment, may have developed learning difficulties or may have missed significant time at school, interfering with the achievement of their educational and career goals.
Barney was referred to the program several years ago, and has received ongoing monitoring and support for radiation related side effects including colitis and osteopenia which causes her bone density to be lower than normal.
“It is comforting to know that I’m being followed by a team of professionals who treated me as a child, and who know exactly what long term monitoring is required”, said Barney. “If I have concerns between appointments, they always make time to see me to make sure I’m alright.”
Dr. Beth Cairney – LHSC pediatric oncologist and program lead for the After-Care Program – knows that this reassurance is exactly what Barney and other patients need to hear. “As frightening as a cancer diagnosis is, it is also daunting to think that once your treatments are finished and you’ve been declared free of the disease, you may develop other problems, even potentially life threatening, years later as a consequence of that very treatment that saved your life,” said Cairney. “Potential late complications of therapy given to a growing child is an ever-evolving field, both as survivors continue to age, and as up front therapy changes”.
The Aftercare clinic, which runs every other Thursday, has had 2000 visits from patients since it began. Patients moving away from the London region to elsewhere in Ontario are referred to similar POGO programs to ensure continuity of care. Anyone, child or adult, who was diagnosed with cancer before the age of 18 and treated with either radiation therapy or chemotherapy or both, is eligible to be followed in the Pediatric Oncology Aftercare Clinic. Patients can be referred by their family doctor, but can also refer themselves directly.
For Barney, the care received in the clinic has allowed her to move forward with her life, and realize her dream of being a pediatric oncology nurse at Children’s Hospital. “I know I survived childhood cancer for a reason, and that is to help other kids who are fighting the disease and give back to the team that has given me so much. I’m happy to be working alongside some of the nurses and doctors who cared for me but most of all, I’m glad that I can help comfort other children who are facing the same fears I faced 12 years ago, and let them know that they are in good hands – now and long into the future.”
About London Health Sciences Centre
London Health Sciences Centre has been at the forefront of medicine in Canada for 139 years and offers the broadest range of specialized clinical services in Ontario. Building on the traditions of its founding hospitals to provide compassionate care in an academic teaching setting, London Health Sciences Centre is home to Children’s Hospital, University Hospital, Victoria Hospital, the Kidney Care Centre, two family medical centres, and two research institutes – Children’s Health Research Institute and Lawson Health Research Institute. As a leader in medical discovery and health research, London Health Sciences Centre has a history of over 65 international and national firsts and attracts top clinicians and researchers from around the world. As a regional referral centre, London Health Sciences Centre cares for the most medically complex patients including critically injured adults and children in southwestern Ontario and beyond. The hospital’s nearly 15,000 staff, physicians, students and volunteers provide care for more than one million patient visits a year. For more information visit www.lhsc.on.ca
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Note: Dr. Beth Cairney and Kaeleigh Barney are available for interviews today from 11:30am-1:30pm.
For media inquiries contact:
Corporate Communications and Public Relations
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 74772
Call LHSC Switchboard at 519-685-8500 and ask to page the communication consultant on-call