Our vision is to build a new Ambulatory Centre of Excellence to enable the expansion of a wide range of outpatient programs and clinics, delivering care beyond our walls.
Your investment in an Ambulatory Centre of Excellence will:
Free up prime space in the hospital to build acute care capacity, especially within paediatrics, cancer and cardiovascular care – where there is unprecedented and urgent demand
Enable close to 40% increase in beds – growing from 354 to 491 projected increase in total beds by 2030
Reduce traffic and pressure on the Emergency Department
Increase access to specialists, urgent clinics and diagnostic services
With the help of MSH, Aryan beat cancer
With a 50% chance of survival, Aryan’s life felt like a coin toss. Yet, he never lost hope. With the help of MSH, Aryan beat cancer.
Aryan Fazeli was 27 years old when he and his fiancée went to Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) to find out why he had chest pain and a chronic cough.
He’d felt that way for months and had received a diagnosis of bronchitis from a walk-in clinic. But it wasn’t bronchitis.
Given Aryan’s lifestyle, it shouldn’t have been anything worse. A minor infection, maybe. He was in great shape. He operated his own health vitamin and supplement company. He ate healthy and worked out regularly. He was in peak physical condition, and he kept a steady eye on his wellness.
“I was in the best shape of my life. I was taking things very seriously at the gym and with nutrition. I looked and felt great,” Aryan says.
Despite his level of fitness, his heart rate was irregular and elevated. All of this made his symptoms more worrisome.
In August of 2019 he went to the hospital to find answers — and, he says, that’s when his life went into warp speed.
Aryan was born in Iran and grew up in the Markham area. He had been to MSH once in the past, when his sister broke her wrist and was taken to the Emergency Department (ED). The quality of care she received stuck with him.
“And that’s what took me back. I knew I had to go back there for my care,” he says.
By the time he arrived at the ED, he says, “It felt like someone was standing on my chest while I tried to inhale through a straw.”
He was immediately sent for a CT scan.
“I could see from the look on the doctor’s face it wasn’t good news,” he says.
The scan showed that there was a tumour in his chest. A massive tumour, the size of a football. He was admitted to the hospital. Medical oncologist Dr. Henry Solow expedited a biopsy. The speed at which the hospital got things done, Aryan says, may have saved his life.
“The location and tumour size had the potential of causing a catastrophe for Mr. Fazeli,” said Dr. Solow. “While a young and physically fit young man, situations like this need immediate therapy since tumours like this do not play favourites.”
The diagnosis confirmed that Aryan had a germ cell tumour, specifically a yolk sac tumour. With a survival rate of 50 per cent.
The enormity of the tumour was causing the pressure on his lungs and heart, which explained his difficulty breathing. The cancer had also spread to his heart lining, causing a heavy build-up of fluid.
By this point, every minute counted — and quick action would make a big difference. Aryan’s resilience and positive mindset played a big part. Optimism in the face of 50:50 odds isn’t easy, but he knew that his personal attitude would be an important factor in his eventual recovery.
“I continued to believe that I was going to be okay. Mindset is everything, and I wanted to know that if I got to the end, I did everything I could. I applied everything I learned from my parents,” he says.
Aryan started IV chemotherapy treatment the following Monday at MSH’s The Shakir Rehamatullah Cancer Clinic, which provides patient care through all phases of cancer. Because of the severity of his condition, he was kept at the hospital for observation. There was risk of complications and his medical team felt it would be safer if he stayed close by.
Those first two weeks, he says, “were pretty scary.”
“But the nurses were my angels and they took care of me,” he says. “From the nurses in the cancer clinic during chemo, to the care in my room at night, to when I had some complications, the attention to detail and care was something I’d never seen before.”
As well, Dr. Solow was at his bedside every morning to see how he was doing.
“I was quite anxious and very concerned about moment to moment changes in the health of Mr. Fazeli,” said Dr. Solow. “His situation initially was quite tenuous and could have gone either way. I wanted to keep a close watch on his improvement on a daily basis so as to be able to intervene promptly.”
Aryan had four rounds of chemotherapy and spent three weeks in the hospital, followed by critical open chest surgery in December 2019 performed by Dr. Laura Donahoe at Toronto General Hospital. He also received treatment from Dr. Phillipe Bedard at Princess Margaret Hospital.
He credits the doctors, nurses and staff at MSH for keeping him focused on getting better. This, combined with his determination to stay as active as he could in both mind and body, helped him beat the odds. He made the decision that surviving was his only option.
The support Aryan received went beyond physical or medical treatment, he says. Conversations with staff and techniques for staying positive contributed very tangibly to his recovery.
“We found a lot of positive things to talk about,” he says, of his conversations with the nurses and staff, as well as his family.
“It seems anytime something could have gone wrong, it didn’t because of the care and the preparedness of the nurses and doctors. The odds were not in my favour. My family and I discussed that if we’d picked another hospital, I might not be here today.”
Whitney Gemmill was one of the nurses who attended to Aryan from the moment he arrived at the hospital. As a nurse practitioner, she cares for a patient’s physical health as well as the psychological and emotional health of both patients and their families.
“I offer a safe space for patients to ask the tough questions and how to navigate the difficult task of planning for the worst, while hoping for the best,” says Whitney.
“With Aryan specifically, I was able to assist with his symptom control. Aryan struggled with dyspnea, or shortness of breath, due to the location and size of the mass in his chest. Together, we worked to trial non-pharmacological strategies, like distraction, positioning, imagery, and relaxation techniques, as well as different medications to improve his quality of life during treatment.”
Aryan says that every step of the way — despite some complications and unexpected turns — he felt that he was in the best hands. When his condition required immediate action, MSH had the people — as well as the equipment — to do whatever needed to be done.
Keeping his mind active by working on his business helped him focus on the future rather than dwelling on the present. And when the chemotherapy began to do its job, Aryan felt well enough to put something in motion that he’d been planning to do the very same weekend he was first admitted to the hospital.
He asked his girlfriend to marry him. With the help of the nurses, staff and his family, they decorated a private room, and he popped the question.
Of course, she said “yes.”
As of today — about two years since Aryan first arrived at MSH — there is no evidence of cancer. The future looks bright indeed.
“MSH is where I got my chance to beat cancer and live. It’s where I took my first step toward a new life with the woman of my dreams.”
I continued to believe that I was going to be okay. Mindset is everything, and I wanted to know that if I got to the end, I did everything I could.