A year later

Lightning may never strike in the same place twice, but sometimes cancer does. Rehana faced a frightening diagnosis twice in a year: first her father’s, then her own. Both times, Michael Garron Hospital gave her family hope.

MGH patient Rehana Sumar

MGH patient Rehana Sumar

Being told I had cancer was a surreal experience. It felt like an out-of-body experience where I was watching someone else’s life unfold – not mine. I’m young, healthy, and I have no family history of breast cancer. Nothing could have prepared me for a diagnosis that came out of nowhere.

I was in extreme shock. Nothing seemed real to me: what anyone was saying, what was happening in the room. Everything was moving in slow motion. All of a sudden I had to digest all of this new, confusing information: foreign words like adjuvant therapy and TNM staging.  

Emotionally it was such turmoil, with a million thoughts going through my head. I realized I’d have to restructure my whole life – the career I loved; being the primary caregiver for my aging parents.

When you’re diagnosed with cancer you lose control over everything – your job, your daily responsibilities – all of a sudden you’re in the hands of medical professionals and you don’t know what’s going to happen day-to-day. You’re not sure you’ll be around a year from now. It’s a situation where you’re completely vulnerable. A diagnosis changes your world in a single moment – five minutes earlier you were sitting in the waiting room, drinking a coffee, looking at Facebook on your phone and suddenly the world that you’ve known doesn’t exist anymore.

The worst part was worrying how my family was going to take the news. We’re so close – the thought of causing them pain was more than I could manage. So I kept it to myself for a while. I told my sisters first and we were terrified to tell my parents.

My father is a strong man. Telling him I had cancer was the first time I’d ever seen him cry.

And yet our family had been here before.

My father was diagnosed with cancer exactly one year before I was. He was diagnosed in September 2015, I was diagnosed in September 2016. It was the same shocking, strange experience. My father is the nucleus of our family. We all depend on him, so it was frightening to think that we could lose him. It deeply affected everyone in our family.

Our luck changed when my father was referred to Michael Garron Hospital. Honestly, the entire experience from that moment on was as good as it could have been under the circumstances.

From the minute we arrived, the receptionist, the people who took his blood, the oncologist – they were so professional, and knew what they were doing, and were so efficient. But the most important thing was that everyone was so kind and caring. When we went to the hospital the first time and didn’t know how to find the clinic, the maintenance people who were changing light bulbs in the lobby stopped and asked us if we knew where we were going.

That kind of compassion is exactly what you need at that point – somebody to tell you that everything is going to be okay, that you’re in good hands. We felt that way at Michael Garron Hospital. It’s a family-like atmosphere – you feel like the staff knows you and cares for your loved one the same way they would for their own family.

So when I was diagnosed, I had no doubt that I wanted to be treated at Michael Garron Hospital. It was a great comfort to my family knowing that I was in good hands. I told my dad: Look at what you went through at Michael Garron Hospital and how it turned out a year later. You’re fine, and that’s going to be my story, too. Being at the hospital we trusted was so reassuring, and gave me great confidence at a time when I had no confidence in anything.

Today, my dad and I are both doing well. We’re healthy, we’re confident, I’m back to my normal life. Other than my family, my job is my most precious thing – I run shelters for the homeless. It’s my dream job, and I pour my life into it. I feel so blessed and grateful to my medical team, and to the donors who helped give me and my dad our lives back. It’s a ripple effect: now I can go back to caring for my family and my clients. You’ve helped them, too. You really couldn’t put your donation in a better place.

It’s so important to know there’s help close by in your community – you never know when you’re going to need medical care. I certainly never expected to be diagnosed with cancer. Knowing that such an excellent hospital is there in our community to take care of me and my family is a blessing.