"They made me feel my feelings mattered"

For Gia Laurent, getting treated for endometrial cancer at St. Michael’s showed her what the patient experience should be.

They made me feel my feelings mattered

Most of my life, I’ve suffered from depression, an eating disorder and acute anxiety, stemming from worries about my health and death. I know what you’re thinking. It’s not so uncommon. But I also suffer from iatrophobia and nosocomephobia. That means I live with the fear that there may be something wrong with me, but I’m also too afraid to seek medical help.

Each time I found the courage to discuss my health concerns with my doctor, all I ever heard was, if I just lost weight, it would all go away. It was difficult enough to deal with society’s stigma surrounding mental illness, but the fact that I was now having to face it in a doctor’s office too, was unbearable. I should have insisted that I get tests done or be referred to a specialist. I should have looked for another doctor. I should have done a lot of things, but I couldn’t because I was too afraid.

I wouldn’t wish this health-care experience on anyone.

Then in February 2021, I collapsed at home. I was rushed to my local hospital. They then referred me to St. Michael’s for what would turn out to be an unbelievable diagnosis: endometrial cancer.

They say the first time you hear the word ‘cancer,’ your world falls apart. It’s an understatement. The earth opens beneath you and swallows you whole. Deep down, I always feared that something was wrong, I just couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it. Now, I had no choice. It was real.

I underwent three major surgeries. I had life-threatening complications and ended up in the ICU. It was touch and go. Everyone worked to save me. They kept my family in the loop (it was the pandemic, so I couldn’t have visitors). And I did make it.

Today, I am six months cancer-free. Looking back, I know now I can face my fears with hope. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do it alone. My medical team at St. Michael’s, led by Dr. Andrea Simpson, gave me courage, love and support unlike anything I’ve ever felt before – and it made all the difference.

They gave me confidence in medical professionals. Although I was one of many patients, they always made me feel my feelings mattered, my fears were valid. They showed me daily what true patient care should look like. I will never again settle for anything less. Their care was nothing short of magical. The love, respect and appreciation I have for the gynecology, trauma and ICU teams cannot be defined by words. Because I know, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.

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