Patient Gil Légère with Drs. Kevin Fung (left) and Anthony Nichols.
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A Very Special First

On Dec. 3, 2010, Gildard “Gil” Légère of Sarnia became the first Canadian to undergo a robotically assisted and minimally invasive laryngectomy – a procedure that was necessary to remove a cancerous lesion in Gil’s larynx. Incredibly, Gil was referred to the London Regional Cancer Program at London Health Sciences Centre after choking on a piece of lobster and having an emergency room physician in Sarnia notice the lesion while removing the blockage. If his brother hadn’t brought back the lobster from vacation, Gil’s story might have ended very differently.

The benefits of this Canadian first were twofold for Gil. First, because doctors were confident that the surgery alone could remove the cancer in Gil’s case, he did not need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment, which was something that helped make his decision to be first much easier. Secondly, the use of the surgical robot helped reduce the complexity of this surgery, resulting in a faster recovery with less pain medication.

Today, Gil has recuperated from his surgery and is doing amazingly well. He has the use of his voice and has been able to provide a heartfelt message to Dr. Anthony Nichols, Dr. Kevin Fung and their medical team: “Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for giving me more years to live, more years to enjoy. You know, there are no words, just thank you.”

2010 was a milestone year for cancer care at London Health Sciences Centre, with the opening of the Gerald C. Baines Centre for Translational Cancer Research and the new ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Clinic in the new North Tower at Victoria Hospital, where the research will be applied to patient care.

ABOVE: Patient Gil Légère with Drs. Kevin Fung (left) and Anthony Nichols.