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Leaside nurse wins national award MEET YOUR NEIGHBOUR

Leasider Angela Leahey named the 2016 Boehringer Ingleheim Oncology Nurse of the Year. Photo by Doug Nichol.

Leasider Angela Leahey named the 2016 Boehringer Ingleheim Oncology Nurse of the Year. Photo by Doug Nichol.

Sudbury’s loss is Leaside and Sunnybrook’s gain.

Though Angela Leahey was born in Toronto, she grew up in Sudbury where her father was an engineer with Inco. She graduated in nursing from Laurentian University in 1991 after developing a keen interest in oncology nursing through a student placement. For the next two years she worked at three part-time jobs (one of which was teaching aerobics) to make ends meet because there weren’t full-time nursing jobs available in Sudbury.

As luck would have it, shortly after her boyfriend, Pat, moved to Toronto, Ange was able to get a full-time job at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. So back south she came.

She was fortunate that shortly after starting at Sunnybrook, she was able to switch to the oncology department, where she has remained ever since. When asked what drew her to oncology, she told me, “I discovered that I loved that aspect of nursing – where people are going through difficult times and need to talk about life and death in all its complexities.”

Ange has thrived in this atmosphere. In fact, this gifted oncology nurse was recently honoured as this year’s Canada-wide winner of the Boehringer Ingelheim Oncology Nurse of the Year, recognized by the pharmaceutical company and the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology. The award recognizes excellence in leadership to better the lives of cancer patients and their families.

She is proud to have been nominated by her peers, and that the innovative work she and her teams do is being recognized. One of the initiatives mentioned is a system for a distress telephone line, designed for patients with lung, ovarian or cervical cancer not in the hospital, but in treatment, who are frightened or stressed. Instead of phoning and getting voicemail, the phone is answered by a nurse or clerical assistant and the patient can share symptoms and get answers in real time on how to best manage these symptoms. This innovation not only supports patients but has proven that it makes a difference in patient outcomes. Expansion to serve patients with other cancers is in the works. Oh, and the award came with a prize of $5,000 towards further education. “There are always opportunities for professional development in oncology,” Ange told me, “so the prize is much appreciated.”

She says she goes back and forth between two bubbles – her work at the Odette Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook and her home in Leaside. She and Pat, now her husband, originally chose Leaside as a place to live because it was close to her work. Little did they realize they were also moving into such a great community. Until their children, Reagan and Brennan, were born, they hadn’t appreciated the excellent local schools and Leaside’s sense of family. She describes it as a “community feel in a big city.”

Her brother lives just up the road, and friends from other neighbourhoods are moving into Leaside, too. For a number of years, she walked back and forth to work, and really appreciated that transition time between home and work. Now, however, her children’s schedules often mean that she has to move more quickly, so driving is in order.

While talking to Ange, I discovered that she lives just around the corner from me, on Sutherland – and that while we are from different generations, we have Leaside friends in common. Small Leaside world!