Stories @CSI: Patient Commando is improving healthcare outcomes through patient narratives

By Lisa Ferguson, CSI Reporter

Actor Daniel Stolfi was undergoing chemotherapy treatment when he started writing a one-man comedy show about cancer. His friends and family thought he was crazy. No one was going to laugh at cancer, they told him.

While there’s nothing funny about cancer, Daniel’s story of his experience with it is. It’s also powerful and moving. By sharing what he went through—losing, at age 25, his hair, appetite, strength, sex drive, even his desire to dance—Daniel is helping healthcare professionals like those who watched him perform recently at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital to view their patient as more than a symptom or a condition. Such understanding can improve doctor-patient relationships and, in turn, patient outcomes.

Performances like Daniel’s are part of the modus operandi of Patient Commando, a patient advocacy group founded in Toronto in 2010 by Executive Director Zal Press, who has his own story of battling illness.

Zal has lived with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel illness, for over 30 years. For many of those years he was “the typically unengaged patient,” taking pills and doing what the doctor told him to. He was in and out of hospital, tried different types of treatments, and had surgery.

About eight [...] continue the story

Cancer Can’t LOVE Like This

Cancer Survivor: Daniel Stolfi Diagnosis: Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma Date of Treatment – March 2008-March 2010 Relation: Girlfriend

I don’t know how to put this. Long story short – I found out Daniel was sick a month into his treatment. I was devastated. It took me days to call him and then I finally manned up to it. Once we talked, our relationship blossomed over time. Dan and I know each other from theatre school (2002). Daniel’s illness shook our group of friends from University greatly. All were incredibly supportive and loving, but there was something inside my heart that wanted to be by his side. To this day, I have no idea what it was, but now he’s my love and I’m so blessed to have him – everyday.

I spent two years being a part of something very scary, sad and painful. It was hard to watch someone be so sick. I felt helpless and unsure of what to do at times. I questioned his illness, I cried a lot, I was frustrated, and I wanted answers. It brings tears to my eyes to remember how hard it was to know that I couldn’t really do anything to take the pain away.

 

Then, I finally realized [...] continue the story

Upstaging Cancer

A short film on the battle of Daniel Stolfi, a young man with cancer who not only survives, but transforms his horrific experience into a deeply personal, yet highly comedic one-man show “Cancer Can’t Dance Like This”, winner of the 2011 Canadian Comedy Award for Best One Person Show.

Read the story of Daniel’s girlfriend, Jennifer De Lucia, as she tells her emotional companion story for the first time.