As a radiation therapist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Sandra Tea has seen her fair share of cancer. So, when she recognized the signs in herself, she knew she needed to act fast.
It started in the summer of 2020, with a mix of non-specific symptoms like neck pain and itchy skin. “I didn’t think much of it until I felt a lump in my left armpit… my immediate thought was breast cancer,” she said.
After a few tests, all she could do was wait and hope. “I was pulling out all my old oncology notes
and spreadsheets from school,” she recalled, noting that the knowledge kept her grounded while she waited for results.
She was diagnosed on Christmas Eve. “I felt it was coming but seeing the words ‘Hodgkin’s lymphoma’ hit harder than the brick wall I had put up since I first noticed the lumps,” said Sandra.
Thankfully, she was placed under the care of Dr. Anca Prica, Hematologist at The Princess Margaret. “The treatment plan included four drugs and six cycles of chemotherapy…Dr. Prica was lovely and amazing,” Sandra said. “So were my chemo nurses. The difference a kind and patient healthcare team made during treatment gave me more tools for my own patient relationships.”
The treatment was successful and by the summer of 2021, Sandra was in remission. She returned to work with a new appreciation for programs like the Princess Margaret Home Lottery, that fund life-saving cancer research. She even started selling her own greeting cards to raise money for the cause.
Today, Sandra remains healthy and feels extremely fortunate to be a part of one of the top 5 cancer
research centres in the world. “This type of experience doesn’t leave the body. Every time I feel an itch I worry that it’s back. But I know to trust the experts,” said Sandra.
As a survivor and dedicated radiation therapist, Sandra embodies The Princess Margaret’s commitment to continuously improving cancer care. “Being on the other side gave me such a different perspective of how important [patient care] really is.”