When Frank Farkas retired 4 years ago at the age of 74, he set a record. Frank had contributed 47 years of service as a teacher with the Algoma District School Board. His teaching career spanned generations of Saultites. He would have tried for 50 years if his health hadn't slowed him down. You see, over 16 years ago, Frank was diagnosed with cancer.
It started when Frank noticed blood in his urine. He went in for testing that showed he had a mass on his kidney. Soon after, he was connected with Dr. Silvana Spadafora, an Oncologist at Sault Area Hospital.
Over the years, Frank has had surgery, chemotherapy, immune therapy and more. His treatments kept him teaching for over a decade after his diagnosis!
He's seen changes in equipment, in therapies, even in the facilities where he's gotten care (from the old hospital on Queen Street to the new one on Great Northern Road). "So much has changed since I first started coming to Sault Area Hospital," Frank shares. "We have better equipment, better facilities, the rooms are brighter and more pleasant. When I've gone for immunotherapy, the chairs are newer and more comfortable - the environment is very positive. After seeing our hospital and comparing to some of the hospitals in Toronto - what a difference!"
Frank has seen specialists in London and Toronto, and had treatment out-of-town, but the one constant part of his care has been the team at Sault Area Hospital.
Frank sees Dr. Spadafora, or sometimes her colleague - Dr. Karen Booth - monthly. Dr. Spadafora has been an incredible advocate for Frank over the years. When Frank has needed services he couldn't get in Sault Ste. Marie, Dr. Spadafora helped to connect him to care out of town. Most recently, she helped him get a much-needed surgery in Toronto this fall. "Without her I don't know if I could've had the surgery. She went to bat for me. She told the surgeon I’m a good candidate, I’m resilient – she presented my case. It's thanks to her they took me," he shares.
Dr. Spadafora has also advocated for Frank outside of his cancer care treatment. It was her insight that caught a heart issue during a routine appointment. Dr. Spadafora referred Frank to a cardiologist, who determined he needed stents. At the time, Sault Area Hospital did not offer cardiac stenting, so Frank was sent to St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. "Those stents saved my life," Frank says.
Frank credits Dr. Spadafora and the team in the Algoma District Cancer Program for helping him live with cancer for so long.
"I've had really, really, good healthcare in the Sault."
To survive over 16 years with cancer takes many things - among them, hope.
Cancer care is constantly advancing, with new evidence-informed treatments available all the time. In fact, some of the treatments Frank has had in recent years weren't available when he was first diagnosed with cancer!
It's critical that all areas of Sault Area Hospital stay up-to-date with the latest equipment to provide outstanding cancer care locally. That includes being able to take high-resolution images, run sophisticated lab tests quickly and accurately, and mix customized medications to continue to treat patients like Frank. The tools to do this work only arrive thanks to generous donations to Sault Area Hospital Foundation.
Being a teacher like Frank, and giving to support our hospital, have a key similarity: many are inspired to do it because they have hope. Hope that their efforts will make the future better. You can give a little more hope this holiday season to patients like Frank with a gift to Sault Area Hospital Foundation.
Community gifts help expand and improve services, so Saultites like Frank can receive more care locally.