Do you want the good news first — or the bad?
OK, the bad news is Trent Hills Mayor Hector Macmillan still has pancreatic cancer.
But Macmillan received some good news Tuesday in the form of an e-mail from Dr. Robert Martin, a Kentucky surgeon who believes nano-knife surgery and follow-up treatment could give the 58-year-old a fighting chance.
“You do not have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer,” said the message.
Stage 2 maybe? Stage 3 perhaps, but not Stage 4.
For Macmillan, who has been wearing his Kentucky sweatshirt of late for obvious reasons, it could be a lifeline.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
On Thursday, he’ll participate in an appeal by phone before an OHIP panel of experts who are to consider options, including whether the province’s medical system should provide him with tumour removal surgery in Toronto or pay for the operation to be done by Martin’s team in Kentucky.
So far — for a bunch procedural and bureaucratic reasons — he has been turned down potentially life-saving surgery in Ontario.
He has currently raised $40,000 of the $300,000 needed to go to the U.S. for the operation and was starting to lose hope.
His colourful tweets — suggesting he is being murdered by the system, and certainly not being rescued by Health Minister Eric Hoskins — have captured the attention of the media, including the Toronto Sun which featured his plight on its front page.
From my limited talks with Ontario’s health ministry, it felt like there was no hope. I have been trying to encourage a more positive approach.
Much of the problem stemmed from the fact venerable Hector is considered terminally ill at Stage 4 with little prospect of recovery.
But this new information from Martin could change things.
“I will present it to the board I meet with (Thursday) and (at) a follow up meeting in person that could come as early as Friday,” said Macmillan. “I am optimistic this might move things ... in a better direction and allow me to qualify.”
I have been told by a ministry person that if his status was considered Stage 3, it would allow more flexibility.
If the appeal panel accepts Martin’s diagnoses, its members could OK his surgery costs or offer other ideas.
One is to cover a portion of the cost — up to 75% — and another is to allow Martin and his team perform the procedure here. Yet, another option would see an Ontario surgeon test drive — in an experimental way — nano-knife equipment which we do have.
One thing for sure is they can’t waste any time deciding. Pancreatic cancer is aggressive. This is no time for stalling.
“I have grandkids I would like to see grow up but it’s more than that,” said Macmillan. “Since I put out my tweets, I have received messages from hundreds of people who are going through the same thing.”
Macmillan calls it “not-fitting-into-the-box syndrome” where a patient is “sentenced to death” if the disease is not convenient for the health-care system.
It’s not really inspiring. Those running the system should be asking what they can do to help — not telling us what they can’t do.
“No matter what happens with me I think of all of those people — from children up to seniors — who are told their sickness can be helped but just not in Ontario,” he said. “I hope this is a problem we can try to fix.”
My feeling all along has been that Hoskins is not heartless as portrayed on social media. He’s dealing with the realities of limited resources and unusual illnesses.
Still, all of this has not gone well.
Hopefully, with Hoskins’ help, we can also develop a special out-of-the-box medical fund that people can draw from to accompany their own fundraising efforts.
As for Macmillan, this latest e-mail provides him the chance to dream about not always receiving bad news.
It would be cool if Hoskins could be the one to deliver some good news this week. Stay tuned.