When Joycey Romeo was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare cancer that affects soft tissue, her doctors told her she would need to have her right leg amputated up to her hip to stop the cancer spreading to her pelvis.
The mother of six arrived at West Park Healthcare Centre a week after her surgery feeling scared and alone. But once she was in her room in the in-patient amputee rehabilitation unit, she was immediately greeted by a nurse who took great care to make her feel safe and welcome.
“Everybody went above and beyond to make sure that I was doing well,” says Ms. Romeo. “You feel embarrassed because you have no dignity in the beginning, but these nurses were my light, my family. They gave me strength.”
Ms. Romeo told her occupational therapist her goals – to cook for her family and play with her two-year-old son – and she learned how to get around with one leg and then with her new prosthetic leg. Her nurses introduced her to other patients at different stages of recovery, and they shared their inspiring stories that Ms. Romeo believes helped build her resilience.
Everybody went above and beyond to make sure that I was doing well. You feel embarrassed because you have no dignity in the beginning, but these nurses were my light, my family. They gave me strength.— Joycey Romeo
“It is great to have the amputee unit because we are all in the same boat with the same struggles,” she says. “It is nice knowing you are not alone.”
West Park has been helping patients like Ms. Romeo recover from severe health challenges for more than 100 years. The hospital is now preparing to grow and innovate to meet the challenges ahead by building a world-class hospital that will bring the very best in rehabilitative care to Ontario.
West Park Foundation’s $80-million Get Your Life Back Campaign is helping to fuel this transformation, which will include a newly designed Prosthetics and Orthotics Centre that will accommodate innovative new technologies, such as 3D printing to build prosthetic devices faster, and expanded outdoor therapy courtyards that will prepare patients for a range of real-world conditions.
Each day, Ms. Romeo is getting stronger and more independent.
“I’m back in the kitchen making homemade pizza and lasagna for my kids,” she says. “I’ve been a hairdresser for 25 years, and I am back to working with clients part-time.
“I am walking slowly, but I am walking.”
Learn more: westpark.org
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.