Nova Scotia

The Cancer Olympics recounts patient's hurdles to diagnosis

A colorectal cancer patient is publishing a book she penned after a disheartening encounter with Nova Scotia's health system, in the hope that others will be diagnosed faster.

Robin McGee hopes book will help other Nova Scotians get a diagnosis faster

Robin McGee says she hopes her work will help other Nova Scotians get a diagnosis faster. (Contributed)

A Nova Scotia woman is publishing a book she penned after struggling for years to get doctors to correctly diagnose her colorectal cancer.

Robin McGee said she hopes her work will help other Nova Scotians get an earlier diagnosis. She recounts her story in the self-published book The Cancer Olympics, which was released in Halifax on Monday.

McGee said she was a fit, active woman in her 40s when she developed frightening symptoms that kept getting worse. She said four doctors, including a surgeon, ignored her complaints or belittled them.

"All four failed to form a correct suspension," she said.

McGee, a clinical psychologist who works for the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, waited two years for a diagnosis. By then she had stage-three colorectal cancer, which carries slim survival odds.

"I thought, 'I'm going to lose my life to this mediocrity. I can't go to my grave knowing that I didn't do something to protect other Nova Scotians from an outcome like mine.'"

Wait times too long

She said she doesn't want anyone else to face the same hurdles.

"Cancer does not care if you're smart. It doesn't care if you're rich. It doesn't care if you're strong. You can look at Terry Fox. It doesn't care if you're smart, look at Steve Jobs. It doesn't care if you’re good, look at Jack Layton," said McGee, who has a PhD.

"If care this bad can happen to me, what the hell is happening to the woman in the trailer park?"

Besides writing a book, McGee is working with health officials to improve the testing standards for colorectal cancer. She said she waited 661 days for a bowel scope — she wants the wait to be 60 days.

"I was forsaken and I didn't know I had been," she said.

McGee took her case to the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons. Three of her doctors were disciplined.

She was also successful in lobbying the government to extend its formulary to cover colorectal cancer drugs.

She's now in remission.

The Cancer Olympics is self-published and available through Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, and the Friesen Press bookstore. Half the proceeds from sales will go to the Canadian Cancer Society and colorectal cancer research.


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