Still playing hockey after two cancer surgeries

When Garry Fay had cancer surgery the first time in 2004, he thought he was done with it.

Eight years later, when he learned he would have to do battle a second time with the same rare type of slow-growing tumour between his lungs called thymoma, Garry did what any one of us might do. He consulted Google and put “top thoracic surgeon” in the search window.

His result? Dr. Shaf Keshavjee.

Garry says his experience with Dr. Keshavjee and the team at Toronto General Hospital has been “absolutely remarkable.”

“The first time I met Dr. Keshavjee he sat beside me, handed me his card and said, ‘If you ever need anything, just call me,’” says Garry. “So, not long after my first visit, I sent him an email on a Friday night. I was anxious about my treatment plan and was looking for reassurance. Thirty minutes later, Dr. Keshavjee – who is also UHN’s Surgeon-in-Chief and in charge of one of the busiest surgical units in the province – responded. On a Friday night!”

Dr. Keshavjee’s words, even if by email, were encouraging and provided Garry with the assurance that he was in the best possible hands with the best possible plan.

Nurse Practitioner Marijana Zubrinic was also a big part of Garry’s care.

“She was thoughtful, caring and knowledgeable,” says Garry. “She took the time to get to know my wife and I. We were treated as people first, rather than patients. Marijana did more for us than she probably knows. She not only provided both my wife and I with sound clinical judgment, but also the compassion and understanding that only great clinicians seem to come by naturally. Her ability to think analytically and communicate that information with her heart is a skill not all clinicians have. She’s an amazing Nurse Practitioner.”

A resident of Corbeil, Ontario, a small rural community just east of North Bay, Garry would drive to Toronto – about 350 kilometres – every week for his treatment, but says the distance is a small price to pay when compared with the quality of his care.

“I would’ve driven twice as far,” he says. “The team was always uplifting, always supportive. You’re in good hands at TGH. Not just with their expertise. They also treat you humanely. It’s not about disease. It’s about my life and they recognize that. I would go there again in a flash.”

Today, Garry is still playing hockey and golf, hiking, cycling and is a long way from the days when he wasn’t sure if he was going to live much longer. He recalls being diagnosed in 2004 and driving home from the local hospital, not knowing whether to turn right to make funeral arrangements or turn left to go home and break the news to his wife.

“My experience at TGH has made me more resilient,” he says. “They gave me hope when I had none. What more can you ask for?”

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