Hope for Ontario pancreatic cancer patients thanks to Mayor Hec

Take a bow, Mayor Hector Macmillan.


Thanks to your pushing, it seems fellow pancreatic cancer patients will soon not have to travel out of country to receive modern NanoKnife surgery.

“The ministry is in the process of working through the final details that will allow some pancreatic cancer patients to get NanoKnife Irreversible Electroporation (IRE) surgery in Toronto,” Health Ministry spokesman David Jensen said Friday.

What a development for Ontario. Less Canadians like Macmillan having to travel to Germany for the surgery and coming up with the money to pay for it themselves? No more trips to the United States or India?

It is believed the first NanoKnife procedures to break apart and eventually vanish cancerous pancreatic tumours will occur through the University Health Network, which includes Toronto General and Princess Margaret hospitals, where they already have equipment in place and doctors eager to both experiment and perfect the surgery.

And it could happen very soon.

If this works out as well as it seems to have for Macmillan, it may very well mean the new technology will end up becoming widespread and available for pancreatic cancer patients to have a far better shot at life than they ever have had before.

Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins can take a bow too. This is big.

It’s also the right thing to do.

“I was thrilled to hear it,” Macmillan, the mayor of Trent Hills, told me. “It’s going to help a lot of people.”

Macmillan was taken by surprise when the minister this week made the announcement in a room of medical people. Macmillan had offered him some ideas on how to help with the financial crisis in the ministry, and Hoskins accepted and appreciated it.

“He continued by congratulating me on my IRE NanoKnife surgery in Germany and thanking me for the advocacy. He then announced Ontario would now be going forward with IRE at the Toronto UHN experimentally, initially.”

Macmillan, who is no shrinking violet and perhaps the toughest critic Hoskins has ever faced, was knocked off his feet. Even though he’s been fighting hard for this very thing, he didn’t see it coming.

“I had not expected to even discuss IRE in my presentation so I was rather surprised, flabbergasted, actually, when he made the pledge,” said Macmillan, who Friday had a big appointment to follow his surgery from four months ago. “I was so emotional I was speechless. I left the room to gather and regain my composure and spoke to my wife, Sandy, who was waiting at the back of the hall.”

What a moment. Nothing but up from here.

It certainly is a long way from the day I saw the Macmillans in a sombre mood going through the gate at Pearson airport heading to Germany for the surgery Mayor Hec couldn’t get here or get OHIP to pay for. Or the day Hector and I were kicked out of the foyer of the Princess Margaret Hospital while just talking about Christmas plans.

There is a change in attitude toward him and toward his cause. Hector Macmillan will forever be credited for moving along the introduction of NanoKnife surgery to Ontario.

Who knows how many lives that will save. Take another bow, Hector.

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