Patient Stories

A cancer patient says she will be “forever grateful” for her care

Her cancer treatment was long and intense, but Joanne Archibald credits her team at St. Michael’s with getting her through it with thoughtfulness and compassion.

Joanne Archibald had been feeling unwell for a while, with pain in her chest and weakness, but no one, including doctors, suspected anything serious. One day in November 2017, Joanne, then 25, came home exhausted from a day of Christmas shopping with her mother and decided she had to find out what was wrong. So she went back to her doctor and got an ultrasound, which revealed a suspicious mass. ”I remember actually feeling relieved, because it meant the pain wasn’t all in my head,” she says.

Joanne was sent to St. Michael’s Hospital for X-rays, and that’s when she found out she had Non Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL), and her cancer journey began. It featured stellar care right from the start. “The radiologist encouraged me to go to Emergency so I could get all my tests done right away, and that was great advice,” Joanne recalls. “I had a biopsy, a CT scan, bloodwork and another ultrasound.” And then she met Dr. Martina Trinkaus, a hematologist at St. Michael’s who took over her care. ”She’s an amazing doctor, and the most wonderful person,” Joanne says. “She told me, ‘We’re going to work together to make sure you are going to be fine.’ I really appreciated her confidence, because getting the diagnosis was overwhelming.”

After going through a procedure to retrieve and freeze her eggs so that motherhood could be an option down the road, Joanne began her treatment. While the diagnosis was a type of NHL called diffuse large B cell lymphoma, Dr. Trinkaus believed the rapid growth of Joanne’s tumours pointed to the deadlier Burkitt lymphoma, and prescribed a more rigorous course of chemotherapy. “That was a great example of Dr. Trinkaus’ brilliance,” says Joanne. “It was intense, but I think it’s one of the reasons I’m alive today. If we’d gone with the treatment normally used for diffuse large B cell, I’m not sure it would have worked as well.”

Joanne went through a 12-week program that included five-day chemotherapy sessions in the hospital followed by a few days’ rest at home. Since the lymphoma was in her spine as well, she underwent lumbar punctures that caused crippling headaches, but her care team stepped up by suggesting that the procedure could be done with a smaller needle. “We tried it and no more headaches!” Joanne says. “Another example of how the St. Mike’s team goes above and beyond.”

Joanne went into remission in March 2018, and has remained there ever since. She credits the care she received from Dr. Trinkaus, the nurses on the oncology ward and in medical day care and the entire team at St. Michael’s. “I honestly don’t know how I could have done it without Dr. Trinkaus,” she says. “She’s incredibly knowledgeable and confident in her skills, but also very compassionate and thoughtful. And she’s respectful in terms of listening to me, making sure I understand what’s going on and walking me through the details. She never sugar-coated anything, which I appreciated, and she gave me confidence that we could do this. I am so grateful, and I will be forever grateful to all the St. Mike’s staff, the most excellent doctors and nurses around.”