Welcome to the new PatientCommando.com

More about you. By you…
Your story. Your video, photo, signature, comment.

Start now and change the world.

The Fringe Festival Pushes Patient Story Into the Fray

The Toronto Fringe Festival is arguably the city’s largest theatre event.  This summer from July 4-15, over 150 performances will be presented to an expected audience of 100,000. That’s a whopping 4% of Toronto’s population.

What makes the Fringe exciting is the process in how acts are selected for the festival.  Each year hundreds of creative applicants send in their ballot to have a show slotted for a Fringe playbill. With no judge or jury, the shows are picked at random, making for a wildly organic and impressive lineup.

Fringe audiences are accustomed to alternative theatre.  Which is why it’s the perfect environment to showcase the new, truthful, gritty, and sometimes slightly less glamourous stories.  In our minds The Fringe is also the ideal arena for patient storytelling.

Last year proved this with the highly acclaimed performance of Daniel Stolfi’s “Cancer Can’t Dance Like This”. Daniel’s show has since gone on to win the Canadian Comedy Award for Best One Person Show, and garner national attention.

This year will be no different. In fact this year’s program offers at least two patient story events for public consumption. Details of these shows below.

Healing Through Theatre

Host: Brian G. Smith (Second City Alumni) Panel: Zal Press (Patient Commando),  Dr. Jeremy Rezmovitz (Sunnybrook Hospital), Daniel Stolfi (Cancer Can’t Dance Like This)

Event Details:

Panel members from the health industry, show business and patient organizations tackle the topic of “Healing Through Theatre” in a riotous discussion. This is Laugh Therapy at its best. Moderated by Brian G. Smith, presented by PatientCommando.com


The Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s 581 Bloor St W

Tuesday July 10th 5:00-6:00pm: Healing Through Theatre

Bar open 4:30pm – 12am

More information available here.


Eat Poo Love 

By: Paul Clement, Evan Mackay, Dan Mackay Cast: Dan Mackay, Evan Mackay, Paul Clement

Paul Clement survived Stage 2 Colon Cancer and went on to blog about it (selected blogs available here), and eventually co-wrote a stage version of the blog which will be performed at the 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival as “Eat, Poo, Love”.  He recently appeared on the RogersTV program ‘daytime Peel’ to discuss his journey through the illness, and his fundraising work with Colon Cancer Canada.

Event Details:

You’re going to stick that WHERE?! When a demon knocks on Paul’s back door, his life takes a turn for the absurd as he is forced to greet the medical community ass-first. Surrendering his dignity in a series of ridiculous situations, Paul ponders what can’t be resolved by a clean bill of health. This true story is full of shit.

Purchase Tickets Here.


Randolph Theatre / Annex Theatre 736 Bathurst St.

July 06 05:15 PM July 07 07:30 PM July 10 09:00 PM July 11 12:00 PM July 12 11:00 PM July 14 05:45 PM July 15 01:45 PM

We’re exceptionally pleased that The Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival and its patrons continue to support patient storytelling.  Our thanks.

Father’s Day Special

I’m reminded of the time my father came to visit me in the hospital after my second bowel resection.

He entered the room in earlier afternoon, walking at a measured pace with his cane, neatly dressed in a suit, winter overcoat and fedora. Ignoring my mother’s exhortations that a man of 91 and such short stature shouldn’t be travelling by public transit on a wintery day, he navigated the system to come and sit by my side.

He related in extreme detail, and with great pride I might add, how he walked to the bus stop, got on the bus and leisurely rode the 35 minutes to the subway. He described all of the new buildings he had noticed along the way and admired the courage of the developers and the creativity of the architects. Getting off the bus, he transferred to the subway, agilely maneuvering down the long escalators leading to the cavernous stations. “I took my time” he cautioned, when my eyes opened wide with the image of his aching, arthritic knees adjusting to the many steps. Once off the subway his chest puffed up as he was able to breathe the cold fresh March air and coast the rest of the way by foot to the hospital.

That was pretty much the dialogue that day. I was 2 days out of surgery, still deeply under morphine influence, aching gut, and not up for company. It didn’t matter to him that I wasn’t very hospitable or communicative. He wanted to be there with his son. That was all that mattered and the conversation wasn’t that important.

For the next 3 days he repeated the trip, same suit, same hat. Same conversation.

My father’s sense of duty is an example of how the illness experience can be interpreted by a parent witnessing the illness of a child, regardless of their age (I was 49 at the time). It starts with the first sniffle as a baby.

This weekend we celebrate Father’s Day and the relationship of parents and children challenged with an illness. There’s Aza Raskin’s lyrical memory of his late father Jef Raskin, inventor of the Mac, and Pulitzer Prize winner Buzz Bissinger’s brutally honest memoir of his road trip with brain damaged son Zach. Unlike the conversations I had with my dad that week over 12 years ago, not one of these stories is the same.

Feel free to add your story to theirs.

“Valleys”: Successfully Funded on Kickstarter

On with the show!

Our congratulations to Mike Lang (Director) and Amy Aubin (Star) of the soon to launch web documentary “Valleys”.  In the final days of crowd-funding, this dynamic duo managed to raise an impressive $18,000 via Kickstarter.

As the Director of Photography for the Toronto portion of this series I am pleased to know that “Valleys” will be developed as Mike originally intended. It was evident when the trailer was launched last week that Amy’s story was powerful and necessary to share.

We look forward to updating you on “Valleys” as news becomes available.

Here’s a snippet from Amy’s blog – sharing her excitement:

Wow – so Valleys the movie will be happening; in 30 days we managed to raise our goal of $17,000.00 thanks to a lot of people with big hearts!  Mikey said he had never raised this much and well neither had I; this past weekend we had our doubts as we had been stuck at the $5,000.00 mark but today we made it to $17,000.00 so thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has helped in any and every way.  No effort or donation is too small and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.  Now- we await update#2 where Mikey may come back to Toronto for some filming before we head down to the Grand Canyon to raft 188km’s a journey that seems to in some ways parallel my own [...] more here.

Two “Patients” Could Use Your Vote

It’s this time each year that I notice an increased excitement, a buzz, in most of the people I work with. Some would account this behaviour to the onset of Spring, but I say it’s for a different season altogether.  The Webby Award season.

Each year the Webby Awards honour the best of the web.  Now in their 16th year, their ever expanding categories include interactive, mobile and apps. If TED talks are the new innovative “ideas worth spreading” then the Webbys are the ideas that have worked.  The creative eyes of the world tune into this award ceremony each year and just about every agency wants their work showcased here.

Our congratulations then to the individuals, agencies and foundations that saw TWO (2) patient stories listed on this year’s nominee ballot.

Under the online film & video category of Public Service and Activism both Dear 16-year-old Me by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund and Living With Alzheimer’s by Relate Digital for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, (featured below respectively) are listed.


While next year’s ballot will most likely include KONY 2012 (lessons to learn when your campaign goes viral), this year, it’s all about the patient.  We’re asking you, our community to help make these videos even more memorable by casting your vote.

You can watch this year’s awards online with the rest of the world.  Hosted by one of my favourite comedians, Patton Oswalt on May 21st, it promises to be a good show.

“Valleys”: A DP’s Perspective

Last week I was whisked away to Georgetown, Ontario. A young and talented Director from Alberta had hired me as his Director of Photography and all encompassing ”camera guy”, for his newly envisioned web series.

Mike Lang, is the Director, and “Valleys” is his new project.

Diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 25, Mike rapidly launched Survive & Thrive Expeditions, an organization that seeks to  connect young adult cancer patients with peers. Whether it’s a whitewater trip down a river or a serene sailing trip along the inlets of Canada’s west coast – Survive & Thrive (STE) has provided much needed solitude and support to courageous patients.



And if this wasn’t enough, Mike had cameras rolling the entire time. During these past few years Mike has cut together footage of his expeditions and the intimate interviews captured between survivors.

With this he has already created  two uniquely inspirational and mind expanding films, “Wrong Way to Hope” and “Ebb & Flow“.  Mike’s films have been used as educational materials by health institutes to provide a common link between practitioners and patients.

Determined isn’t quite enough to describe Mike as he now tackles creating his third film project in only a few short years.

With the next STE trip set for this summer (a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon), Mike has his lens aimed at Amy Aubin, a young mother  scheduled to participate in this year’s trip. “Valleys” would be a web series documentary that would share Amy’s story from start to end.

As I stepped foot off the Georgetown GO bus from Toronto, it became evidently clear why Amy’s story had to be told. Amy is a two time cancer survivor – ovarian and cervical.  She’s also a loving mother to the family’s “miracle baby”, Avery.

Mike and I spent two days filming Amy and her family, making regular stops at Tim Horton’s to stay fueled.  Avery provided walk around tours of the house, her toys and pets, while Amy told her story for us and the cameras.  On the last day Mike and I were invited to a family dinner, where both sides of Avery’s family were represented – Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts, friends.

Those last few hours were precious.  We took advantage of our time at dinner and managed to interview almost everyone including Amy’s husband John and their respective parents.

To say this time was intimate would be a massive understatement.  I found myself trying to find focus between bouts of tearing from the incredibly candid and honest narratives each family member provided.  This was the hardest assignment I have filmed to date – it was also the most memorable and rewarding.

Though my time filming “Valleys” has ended, the camera is still recording.  Fingers-crossed, “Valleys” will reach its goal of raising $17,000 by April 14 so that Amy’s journey can continue to be documented full circle, from Georgetown, to the Grand Canyon. Until she arrives safely home, back into the loving and supportive arms of John, Avery, Mom, Dad, Siblings, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, dog and cat.


What Ontario can learn from Kingston General Hospital’s authentic patient-centred reforms

By Cathy Fooks, CEO The Change Foundation

“The change that’s needed won’t come easily or quickly to healthcare. And it won’t come at all if we don’t change the debate, change the practice, 

change the experience.” – The Change Foundation Strategic Plan, 2010-2013

Three years ago I lost my Mom to cancer.  She died at home which was her wish but the struggle we had in dealing with multiple aspects of Ontario’s healthcare system shocked me.  I had worked for over twenty years in the healthcare world and came from a family full of health professionals and yet I could not “navigate” the system effectively for my mother. Why did it have to be like this?

For me it was a burning platform for The Change Foundation to focus its efforts and resources on improving the patient and caregiver experience.

So in 2011, The Foundation’s signature Meeting of the Minds event gathered 50 participants including — health system leaders, patients and caregivers, and care providers — to discuss How to ACE the patient experience?   Our dynamic keynote speaker, Barbara Balik of The Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) came to share her experience in working with organizations that are serious about creating patient-centred care.  Balik says the shift from “doing to” to “doing for” patients must move to “working with” patients and families as equal partners in decision-making about their care.

Sitting quietly in the audience was, Eleanor Rivoire, a VP at Kingston General Hospital (KGH).  A few days after the meeting was over, I received an email from KGH’s dynamic CEO, Leslee Thompson.  She said that Eleanor had come back all fired up from our meeting and that I might be interested in the work they were doing with their patients and families as they reorganized the way they provided care all grounded in its bold KGH 2015: Strategy for Outstanding Care Always.

At the operational level, KGH’s fundamental shift in organizational culture started by truly embedding patients in all levels of decision-making from top boardroom tables to frontline staff hiring panels, with a focus on quality, safety and service.  At the centre, was the creation of 17-member Patient and Family Advisory Council comprised of twelve volunteer-patients and four staff and a physician.   It was clear that KGH was on its way to embodying the genuine, transformative shift Balik prescribes; and the organization had much to teach others walking Ontario’s Excellent Care For All Act mandated quality-improvement path.

I was so impressed by KGH’s patient-centred progress, that last September, I invited Eleanor and her team to make a presentation to The Change Foundation board and offered an online profile of their work.  We also heard from KGH Patient Advisor, Jennifer Dee who spoke poignantly about her own harrowing healthcare experience and how she was using it to make a difference; and Daryl Bell, KGH”s Patient Advisory Council Lead, on the transformative value of adding the missing patient voice to healthcare discussions.

I share KGH’s story of improving the patient experience within its walls, because it holds wider lessons on how to improve patient experience across the continuum of care. That could mean going from your family doctor to specialists, to having tests at various clinics, or moving from hospital to home, with home-care services, or going to a nursing home.   Patients and their families must be included as equal partners to help transform and redesign our healthcare “system” to achieve a seamless journey and high quality care.  The Foundation offers its best advice on how Ontario can move closer to an integrated health system and improve patient experience in Winning Conditions to Improve Patient Care (November 2011)

Read our KGH profile and see video interviews with KGH leaders (below):

 Eleanor Rivoire, Senior VP Clinical Administration and Professional Practice and Chief Nursing Executive, on changing culture • Daryl Bell, Co-Chair, Patient Advisory Council, on the why & how of adding the patient voice • Jennifer Dee, Patient Experience Advisor, on using her bad healthcare experience to make a difference.

The Change Foundation is committed to working with patients like you to improve the experience of individuals and caregivers as they move in, out of, and across the healthcare system over time as their health changes, particularly at transitions.  Share Your Story with The Change Foundation to help change the story.  

Learn more about us: 

Can the patient voice design emerging healthcare technology?

Is the patient voice going to be the essential driver in the design of new healthcare technologies and mobile apps? Or will design by healthy (non-patient) people overlook the lessons learned from reflecting upon patient narratives?

The upcoming Healthcare Experience Design Conference  is going to take a look at these questions from many angles. Amy Cueva, Founder, Chief Experience Officer, and Healthcare Principal at organizer Mad*Pow has an informative blog.

Read more here.