Inspiring patient shares message of hope

Allison Roberts holds the hand of her daughter, Taryn, as they walk through the doors of Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre. Dressed in pink and with her cherub-like face, Taryn is the perfect picture of a little princess. Yet, for her mom Allison, this little three-year old symbolizes the hope found at the end of a traumatic journey.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, Allison put much of her life on hold, including her desire for a second child, while she fought the battle of her life. She had to travel for the radiation treatments, which meant leaving her husband Marty at home while she and her young son, Tyler, traveled to Toronto for weeks on end.

Allison embraced every treatment possible, clung to every small victory and found the time to join a Dragon Boat team and hold golf tournaments to raise money to help build the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre.

Now ten years later, Allison is cancer free and holding the hand of the second child she thought she’d never have. If there is one message Allison would like to shout to the world it would be a simple one – “Never give up hope.” And she credits RVH’s Dr. Bryn Pressnail for planting that seed of hope in her life.

“I will never forget the day Dr. Pressnail told me I had a clean bill of health and I could go ahead and try to have another baby,” says Allison. “Those words meant so much to me. It meant I had finally beaten the breast cancer that had taken so much of my life. It meant I could push the play button on life instead of being on pause.”

Allison’s story was one of eight shared during a celebration where the new identity and name of Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre was unveiled. The new identity was developed following extensive consultation with RVH staff, physicians, volunteers, health partners and residents throughout the region.

With the expansion construction now 90 per cent complete, the time had come to develop the new signage, which is included in the construction costs of the expansion project. The signage will guide patients and visitors through the facility, both old and new including the cancer centre and Rotary Place. This provided RVH with a cost-effective and efficient opportunity to revitalize its identity.

The new name recognizes the evolution of RVH’s role to include a far greater focus on disease prevention and health promotion. It also reflects RVH’s growing focus on innovation, training and research and well-positions the health centre for both recruitment and fundraising. Part of the revitalized identity was the creation of a new tagline – “Inspiring care.”

“Inspiring care is our promise to the community. It says everything we do, and everything we strive to be, is inspired by a single priority – our patients and their families,” says Janice Skot, RVH president and CEO. That inspiration is the magic played out in thousands of ways every day by the people who work, practice, volunteer and train at RVH.

“Our role in the new identity begins with the work we do everyday to ensure that advanced, compassionate – inspiring care – is delivered. Whether we care for patients at the bedside; clean their rooms; perform surgery or diagnostic procedures; prepare meals or register patients; we’re the ones who live the brand every day,” says Dr. Jim Shaver, chair of the Medical Advisory Committee. “It is not just how we treat our visitors it is how we treat each other as well.”

RVH is a place where inspiring care can be found just about anywhere. Just ask Dr. Pressnail. “Seeing Allison with her daughter is actually a big thrill. It is the whole reason I do what I do. She is so inspiring to all of us who work in cancer care,” says Pressnail, clinical director of the Regional Cancer Program. “She goes through all the treatments and goes on to live her life. That is what makes my job worthwhile. It’s all about helping our patients through this so they can go on with their lives. This year she is celebrating her 10th year since she was diagnosed with cancer and she’s cancer free. Now that’s inspiring.

Inspirational stories, like that of Allison Roberts, can be now found on posters throughout the health centre and on the website at