Honouring Ashley through Humber’s Cancer Care Patient and Family Advisory Council
Rhonda felt privileged to be able to be by her niece’s side throughout Ashley’s cancer treatment, but they weren’t alone. Ashley and her whole family were grateful for the compassionate care provided by Humber. After Ashley sadly passed away, Rhonda has honoured her memory by continuing to serve on Humber’s Cancer Care Patient and Family Advisory Council.
In 2015, Rhonda’s niece, Ashley, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. Ashley was only 25 years old, and her family had difficulty believing that someone so young and vibrant could receive such a serious diagnosis.
“Ashley was such a fun-loving person—if a picture was being taken, she was always making a funny face, never simply smiling,” recalls Rhonda, fondly. “She also loved to express herself through her hair—from long styles to pixie cuts. She even dyed it purple at one point. In addition to the playful side of her personality, she was also extremely kind hearted.”
As a nurse practitioner in Barrie with a heavy patient load, Ashley’s mother Cheryl was unable to take Ashley to many of her chemotherapy appointments. Instead, Rhonda was able to be there for her niece. Her husband Bryan also kindly offered to help, making the trip with Rhonda from their home in Whitby to downtown Toronto (where Ashley lived) to Humber River—and back again after the four-hour treatment was over.
“I was always close with Ashley and was grateful I could be with her to help her through her treatment,” says Rhonda.
“I will be forever grateful for the kindness of the doctors and nurses in the Cancer Care Clinic,” says Rhonda. “It is difficult to express the positive energy that we experienced in the chemo bays at the Clinic. There were so many times that I thought to myself, ‘these people are saints.’ I’m also grateful for the excellent care provided by Dr. Martina Puchyr. She is such a nice person who is also great at explaining things in a direct, easy-to-understand way. She really made an extra effort to get to know Ashley and me very well.”
During the course of her treatment, Ashley decided to join Humber’s Cancer Care Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC)—and Rhonda joined right along with her. The group comprises patients with cancer and family members of patients who use their experience to help make the Cancer Care experience at Humber the best it can be
Sadly, Ashley passed away in 2017. To honour her memory, Rhonda continued to serve on the PFAC.
“Ashley felt strongly about wanting to help people the way she was helped at Humber,” remembers Rhonda. “That inspired me to join the PFAC as well. I’ve been pleased to be involved with bringing about initiatives like the Cancer Care celebratory bell, which patients ring when they meet personal milestones. When we launched it, I was able to ring the bell in memory of Ashley, which was a very emotional experience. The bell will always signify to me just who Ashley was and what she was able to achieve during her journey with cancer.”