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David Renwick’sjourney with anxiety and depression was originally triggered by significant work stress. He became harder and harder on himself. His relentless anxiety led to difficulty sleeping and unhealthy weight loss, a colleague suggested that he visit his doctor.
“Eventually all I could get was two hours of sleep. I was having panic attacks in the middle of the night,says David. I experienced some very dark thoughts.”
He needed to take a leave from work. With the support of his employer and the care and concern of his wife Jane and the rest of his family, David focused on becoming well. He started taking medication and was able to sleep, and by the time he was due to return to work he felt as good as new.
David felt so healthy over the months to come that he wondered if he still needed his medication. He consulted his family physician who worked with David to decrease the doses until he was no longer taking the medication.
Unfortunately, the darkness very quickly returned. “It all started again”, he says. “The sleeplessness, the weight loss, the feelings of dread and of not being good enough – it all came back, and I didn’t have any tools to help me deal with it.”
Soon afterwards, Jane found him curled up on the family room floor. He was incoherent and in distress, so she took him immediately to the Emergency Department and he was admitted to the hospital. It was a scary time for them both – but this was the beginning of David’s recovery. He spent the next three weeks at Victoria Hospital, resting, restarting his medication, and taking part in cognitive-behavioural therapy and mindfulness programs. These programs form part of the hospital’s comprehensive treatment approach and are designed to help patients manage their stress and anxiety. The hospital stay provided David with the support and routine that allowed him to focus on regaining his mental health. Working with his healthcare team and family, he began to make significant progress.
The tools learned at the hospital, combined with medication and therapist visits, allowed David to return home. He also received further support through an outpatient “Track to Wellness” program provided by LHSC to ensure continued success in managing his mental health. David now enjoys a full and healthy life and has even become a spokesperson within his company in an effort to help colleagues who may be suffering from mental health difficulties.
“I’ve received such incredible support, and it’s great to be able to help others,” he says. “I’m so thankful for my family, my friends, my work family and my caregivers. They saved my life,” said David, “Mental illness is a silent killer, and so if people can think about it in that context and put their money towards mental health, we are going to have a much healthier population down the road.”
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, age 12
In 2010, six-year-old Olivia Romkes was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, commonly known as ALL. At the beginning of her long journey, 98 per cent of Olivia’s bone marrow contained cancerous cells. After the first week of chemotherapy, it had miraculously dropped to 76 per cent, and after two weeks, it dropped to zero! Over the next two and a half years, Olivia received treatment at Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre to make sure she stayed cancer-free. During this time, she endured 11 hospital admissions, pushing the family’s ability to cope at some points along the way.
Fast forward six years, Olivia is now 12 years old and is doing awesome! She is in grade seven and wants to be a kindergarten teacher when she grows up. Fishing, camping and horseback riding are just a few of her favourite activities. One thing’s for sure – cancer has not stopped her from enjoying life!
Ann ImrieIt was Christmas 1965 when Ann Imrie’s uncle took one look at her and knew she had diabetes. Living with diabetes himself he recognized the signs, but he didn’t have the heart to tell Ann’s mother during the holidays.
She was diagnosed a few days later. I was 10. I had dropped 20 pounds in two weeks. I remember being so thirsty I ate an entire box of mandarins all at once, one after another.
Today, Ann, 61, is proud to be living well with insulin-dependent diabetes for 50 years. She receives ongoing care and support from her care team at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, including her endocrinologist Dr. Irene Hramiak.
Reflecting back on her life though, Ann describes an over protected childhood being watched like a hawk by her worried parents who limited her to more sedentary activities.
Something else Ann never forgot is being told she would not live a long life and having to give up on her dream of becoming a nurse because the hours, she was warned, would be impossible to manage.
Fifty years later, it’s a very different world for those living with type 1 diabetes, and few are as struck by the stark contrast as Ann, whose daughter was diagnosed 18 years ago, at age 13. I was in and out of hospital, staying up to two weeks at a time, says Ann. My daughter has never spent any time in the hospital except to have her baby. She was a figure skater. Whatever she wanted to do she could do.
Ann credits the difference to better diabetes testing, control, research and knowledge. Like her daughter, she uses an insulin pump. And like her daughter, there are now no limitations to what she can accomplish with a little planning.
Despite some diabetes-related complications, she has travelled the world and is reveling in being a grandma.