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Wood Buffalo woman grateful for care throughout cancer diagnosis

“Even though I got tested every year for cervical cancer because it runs in my family, I never thought I’d go through what I went through.”

Darlene Predham kept a positive outlook through a devastating diagnosis thanks to the tremendous health care she received at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.

Darlene’s symptoms began in Spring 2009. At 47 years of age, she thought that her varied menstrual cycles might be a sign of pre-menopause.

However, Darlene had a family history of cervical cancer, so she made an appointment with her family doctor, Dr. Conraddi, who immediately suggested a Pap smear. During the exam, Dr. Conraddi found a polyp which Darlene was aware of because he found one during her annual Pap smear the year before.

“Dr. Conraddi, was always very thorough and so he sent me to the Health Centre to have a pelvic
ultrasound done, just to be sure.”

Darlene had her pelvic ultrasound done and one week later she received a phone call from her doctor’s office; wanting to see her immediately. The pelvic ultrasound found a cyst on Darlene’s right ovary that was about the size of a fist. This worried Dr. Conraddi and had Darlene feeling afraid.

“Both my mom and aunt had cervical cancer, so I was tested every year.”

That morning, Dr. Conraddi contacted Dr. K.P. Wong to inform him of Darlene’s pelvic ultrasound and to have him examine Darlene.

Two days later, Darlene went to see Dr. Wong. “(He) did another ultrasound and said that he wasn’t sure what we were dealing with and that he wouldn’t know until he opened me up.”

Dr. Wong told Darlene that they’d need to remove her right ovary, but he was concerned they may have to take more. “I said I don’t care, take it all. Do what you have to do; I don’t want to have to go through this again.”

When Dr. Wong was performing the surgery, he discovered that Darlene had stage three endometriosis, a hormonal and immune system disease in which cells similar to that which line the uterus grow outside the uterine cavity.

“Being the type of doctor that he (Dr. Wong) was, he wanted to be thorough and make sure that he got everything. Not only did he do the hysterectomy, he did 10 additional biopsies to make sure there was nothing else.”

Dr. Wong submitted Darlene’s results to the Cross Cancer Clinic in Edmonton, who found Darlene’s cyst to be cancerous. Following her diagnosis, Darlene had her first round of chemotherapy and 26 radiation treatments at the Clinic, followed by three more rounds of chemotherapy in the Community Cancer Clinic of the Health Centre in Wood Buffalo.

Darlene kept her mind as active as she could through work after her surgery and throughout her treatments.

“(Staying busy) allowed me to keep positive and it helped me to change my attitude. Because our mind can take us places, fear can be the worst thing. I had to stay active and try to stay positive.” That positive attitude helped Darlene get through months of treatment and losing her hair.

After seeing what other patients receiving treatment were dealing with Darlene knew she was lucky. “I had no reason to be on a self-pity trip.

I had no reason to be down on myself, because I was fine, I was OK. Yeah I had to have chemo every two weeks and then radiation but compared to other people, I had a lot to be grateful for.”

Gratitude is what Darlene feels for the quality of health care that she has received in her 37 years in Fort McMurray, and for the wonderful doctors and nurses who helped her in her time of illness.

“I’m grateful because Dr. Wong took such great care of me. He took the time to do those biopsies, he took the time during the three and a half hour surgery to make sure that he got everything, so I knew in my heart of hearts that I was going to be OK.”

Darlene is just one of many patients who was fortunate enough to have received care by Dr. Wong and was among those affected by his passing earlier this year.

“When he passed it was very sad and I shed a few tears because he had been here (in Fort McMurray) about the same time I was. Many of my friends had all of their kids delivered by him and thought he was one of the best doctors.”

Darlene knows not only the importance of quality health care but knows that it is vital to support it.

“It’s our future. For me, you need to give back because we all use the health care in our community and because you never know where life is going to take you. Even though I got tested every year for cervical cancer because it runs in my family, I never thought I’d go through what I went through. Because you don’t know where life is going to take you, that is why I support the Northern Lights Health Foundation. You need to give back to something that gives so much to you.”

I support the Northern Lights Health Foundation in funding improvements to community health care and you should too.

Please consider giving in memory of Dr. Wong and show your support of health and wellness in Wood Buffalo today.

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