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

The Black & White of Prostate Cancer







Last week I went to a remarkable photo exhibition presented by PhotoSensitive and Prostate Cancer Canada. TIEd Together is a black-and-white multimedia exhibition that honours Canadians’ experiences with prostate cancer.

PhotoSensitive is a non-profit group of photographers whose mission is “to harness the power of the camera to achieve social goals…They believe an excellent photograph has the potential to effect social change, to make a difference, to expand a viewer’s field of vision.”

By exploring the experience of living with a life threatening illness PhotoSensitive opens a dialogue about difficult topics, creating communities of common experience, and exposing stories that would otherwise go unheard. They prove that creative expression through photography can have a social impact.

Its not evident enough in the exhibit that prostate cancer isn’t an old man’s disease. There’s only a few examples of young men like swim champ Alex Baumann and CBC Dragon Den star Brett Wilson who are in their forties.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but my personal favourite is this one of a father and son. It’s so hopeful and speaks to the inclusiveness of the dad, the respect he has for his son, and the strong bond of shared honesty between the two. It [...] continue the story