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The Cancer Olympics

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Diagnosed with a late-stage cancer, after years of bungled and inadequate medical attention...and then to discover that the best-practice chemotherapy is not available in your province.After her delayed diagnosis of colorectal cancer, Robin McGee reaches out to her community using a blog entitled "Robin's Cancer Olympics." Often uplifting and humourous, the blog posts and responses follow her into the harsh landscape of cancer treatment, medical regulation, and provincial politics. If she and her supporters are to be successful in lobbying the government for the chemotherapy, she must overcome many formidable and frightening hurdles. And time is running out. . .A true story, The Cancer Olympics is a suspenseful and poignant treatment of an unthinkable situation, an account of advocacy and survival that explores our deepest values regarding democracy, medicine, and friendship.  Robin McGee has been decorated with medals by the Canadian Cancer Society and the Governor-General of Canada. thecancerolympics.com

368 pages, Hardcover

First published March 25, 2014

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About the author

Robin McGee

4 books25 followers
Dr. Robin McGee is a Registered Clinical Psychologist, mother, wife, educator and friend. Living in Port Williams, Nova Scotia, she has been a dedicated clinician in health and education settings for over 30 years. She has been very active in patient advocacy, serving as the patient representative on several provincial and national initiatives aimed at improving standards of cancer care. In 2015, McGee was awarded the CCS National Medal of Courage, their highest honour. In 2016, she was decorated with the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers by the Governor-General of Canada. She is currently in treatment for a recurrence of her cancer.

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Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
Profile Image for Wanda.
307 reviews11 followers
September 14, 2014
The Cancer Olympics by Robin McGee

Robin McGee's well written and articulate memoir brought me to tears.
She has told her story as she leads her life; with bravery, compassion, honesty,and humor. Such a remarkable woman! McGee's strength of character shines through.
While facing her own personal battle with cancer she also fought for all Nova Scotians.
The Cancer Olympics is a 5 star read! I would definitely recommend this book to all of my family and friends.
1 review2 followers
April 8, 2017
I just finished my second time through this book and, through my tears, am again reminded what an important story this is. As a health care provider, I will be reading it many times over as it is a stark cautionary of how important our words and actions (or inactions) are. The horrific and devastating collateral damage of a broken medical system that is rehashed through Robin's story is countered only by her incredible strength of human spirit! This story is also then, an uplifting tale of the hidden strengths that we all possess; the differences we can make as communities, and and the tenacity of an incredible woman!
1 review4 followers
January 8, 2019
I was unable to put down this book once I'd started, and was in a state of constant dread for what was coming next. Beautifully written, exhaustively researched, and meticulously recorded. we follow the author though a journey which starts with a delay in diagnosis scarcely credible form this side of the Atlantic, and continues through the ordeals of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, with the outcome always guarded. Despite these trials, she somehow found the energy to challenge the medical establishment for their incompetence and lack of optimal treatments for her condition. A harrowing read, yet worthwhile, and always uplifted by the author's indomitable spirit in overcoming every obstacle she encountered.
Profile Image for Lila Hope-Simpson.
Author 3 books2 followers
July 29, 2014
The Cancer Olympics (Review by Lila Hope-Simpson)

By Robin McGee

If Robin McGee ever runs for office, vote for her.

She is articulate, methodical, passionate, honest, humourous, intelligent, articulate and generous. In short, Robin McGee is a hero.

When I first picked up McGee’s book about her journey with cancer, I was hesitant. Who wants to read about cancer on a beautiful summer day? Once I started however, I was hooked by her compelling story of heartbreak, drama and courage. I never thought a book about cancer could be a page turner, but The Cancer Olympics is just that- a genuinely inspiring and uplifting book.

Her story begins with a visit to the doctor, like so many others who are not feeling 100%, but where it goes from there is part drama, part mystery, part comedy, part suspense and part research. It is a story about a dreadful disease, but it is also a commentary on our system and how we must be proactive in lobbying for change. It is a David vs Goliath story about one woman’s campaign for better diagnosis and treatment. It is a testament to the power of dedication and commitment. But mostly it is about one woman who wants, more than anything, to live.

Dr. Robin McGee is a Registered Clinical Psychologist who grew up in Ottawa and now lives and practices in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. When she is diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it comes as a shock because it is two years after first seeking medical advice. The mismanagement of her delayed diagnosis results in a late stage tumour that could have had a more positive outcome had it been detected in a more timely manner. She actively seeks medical help for two years before she is correctly diagnosed.

McGee refers to the physicians who saw her as Doctors One, Two, Three and Four. But she will deal with them later. For now, she has the stark realities of radiation, surgeries and chemotherapy to deal with. And so begins yet another hurdle in “Robin’s Cancer Olympics”. This is the title of her blog that she uses as a vehicle to reach out to her circle of family, friends, colleagues, supporters and community. Her blog is dedicated to her greatest cheering committee.

After doing much research, McGee discovers that the one chemotherapy drug which offers the best outcome for her type of cancer is not available in Nova Scotia. So while recovering from debilitating radiation and surgery, McGee takes it upon herself to lobby, not only for herself, but for others who might benefit from this course of chemotherapy. And lobby she does. Her goal? To change cancer treatment in this province and to do so she must navigate the realm of provincial politics and medical regulation.

McGee’s story is harsh. The reader watches her evolve from an active young woman who loves playing soccer to one who can barely lift a cup of tea. She changes from being a respected professional to a patient in a Johnny shirt. But the greatest challenge to her identity is her role of mother to her 15 year old son Austin. It breaks her heart as a mother to see her boy suffer on her account and now he is in a position where he must be a help to her, instead of the other way around.

As tough a scenario as this is, it is also a great and beautiful love story between Robin and her dedicated husband, Andrew Hurst. He stands by her side every single step of the way, from appointments and treatments, to regulatory and political battles. He holds her hand, he weeps with her and together, they find time to laugh and reflect.

I won’t give away any of the twists, surprises and outcomes, but I do recommend The Cancer Olympics as a brilliant read and an exceptional, well-written story. I applaud Robin McGee. She is a reminder that anything is possible with determination, chutzpah and love.


Profile Image for Janine Morin.
7 reviews
August 4, 2014
Imagine your worst nightmare indeed. Imagine being blown-off by no less than 4 doctors for years while you present terrifying symptoms, to finally be diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer. Then imagine being told that the best chemotherapy required to treat this type of cancer, a treatment that is the standard everywhere else in the Western world, is not available in your province. What would you do? Well, Robin McGee became an activist, and this memoir documents her journey in a way that so uplifting it will make your heart sing.
Robin McGee is many things: a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a beloved friend, a professional, and happily, a wordsmith and a humourist. This book is really a love letter. At the beginning of treatment, McGee begins a blog as a way to update her friends and family on her progress. Eventually this blog swells into a large community of supporters who cheer her on through each stage of her battle, which she cleverly compares to being in the Olympics. When she comes up against the stunning news that FOLOFOX, a chemotherapy that would dramatically improve her odds of survival, is not the standard of care in Nova Scotia, McGee rallies her supporters to deluge the Minister of Health and their MP's with letters, and together, along with some dedicated health professionals, they get this standard of treatment changed in their province. And this is where the love comes in. McGee's book is not only a love letter to her husband and son, but also to and from her community of supporters. McGee intersperses her own narrative with her blog entries and some of the replies she received to them. Uplifted by the love this community has for her, McGee finds the strength to battle on and do something that is truly good: improve the chances for sufferers of this type of cancer in Nova Scotia.
This is a wonderfully paced book, a book that is hard to put down. With a writing style that is eloquent and material that is so moving, I laughed and I cried. But most of all I marvelled at this amazing woman who accomplished so much, with so much grace and wit, while undergoing the horrible trials of cancer treatment. This book is a must read for anyone who has cancer, or has a loved one with cancer, and for community activists who can appreciate the power of the people. As she puts it at the end, hopefully this will be her last cancer memoir but I for one (for many I suspect!) eagerly await a novel from this incredible writer.
Profile Image for Robin.
Author 4 books25 followers
February 25, 2015
Reviewed By Lit Amri for Readers’ Favorite, posted by the writer.

Robin McGee’s The Cancer Olympics is a memoir of her battle against not only cancer but inadequate healthcare that she unfortunately received. The negligence of her delayed diagnosis – no thanks to Doctors One, Two, Three and Four – cause a late stage tumor that could have been prevented and treated earlier. The medical providers had, unbelievably, failed her. From my perspective, they were unprofessional, arrogant and shockingly naive. She reaches out to her community through her blog “Robin's Cancer Olympics” where she shares her story and gains allies to overcome bungling medical politics. Robin actively seeks medical help for two years before she is correctly diagnosed.

The important message of The Cancer Olympics is that every patient needs to be proactive in their own treatment and find doctors who are truly ethical in their practice. This should be priority number one. We have the right to demand the best healthcare possible, and we should not be intimidated by medical providers who use their position in the healthcare system like some kind of an untouchable law.

Robin’s ordeal and success in battling cancer, as well as the flaws of the medical system, is truly an eye-opener. This is also a beautiful story about her family’s dedication, husband Andrew and son Austin. Through her flawless prose and deft narration, readers will find her memoir exceptional and well-written. As harsh as her struggle was, this is not a depressing memoir, but one that gives hope and advocates a patient’s rights and well-being. This is a must-read for everyone.
Profile Image for Laura.
Author 2 books15 followers
September 26, 2014
For me, the takeaway message from The Cancer Olympics is to be brave, be strong, and fight for what you believe in especially in the face of adversity.

I must admit that I was hesitant at first to read this book. A close family member had just died from cancer, and I wasn't sure I wanted to read a book about cancer. However, friends encouraged me by explaining that it is not a depressing book about cancer. It is a book about hope, optimism and advocacy. I was glad I listened!

The Cancer Olympics is about one woman's personal story from when she learns that she has been diagnosed with cancer through to post-surgery and recovery. It combines personal reflections, blog posts from the time as well as correspondence from friends and family. This helps to give the complete picture of events, and realize how such a strong community of support is a powerful healing mechanism.

Even while sick, McGee fights (successfully) for change for better cancer care in the province - despite the fact that she might not be the one who benefits from these changes.

This is a great story of hope, empowerment and the love of friends. I am proud to have McGee as part of my community!
Profile Image for Steven Fujita.
Author 7 books8 followers
January 14, 2015
Amazing story. Not only did the author have to battle the disease, which gained an early advantage due to some poor healtchare she received from her medical providers, she had to battle those same medical providers and her provincal government because the best care chemotherapy treatment wasn't available for patients with the type of cancer she was diagnosed with.

There is a lesson in this book, and that is patients need to be his/her own advocate and demand and seek out the best care available. It is all the more inspiring because McGee went through it, and succeeded. The reader is right alongside with her as she fights these battles, alongside a wonderful support network she had, and also some of the issue she had to deal with outside her illness.

Profile Image for Yannick Serres.
240 reviews4 followers
September 15, 2014
Very touching story. Well written and well built, this book reminds you that everything can happens to anyone. You can do all good things to avoid any disease, but you can still be backstabbed by it. It was my first book of this type, not really the kind of book i'm use to, but was really nice to read. Thanks to Robin Mcgee who gave and signed this book for me. It's really appreciated and I hope all the best for you and your family.
The cancer olympics, what a hell of a sport!

**Recieved from Goodreads First Reader Giveaway.
Profile Image for Kit Luce.
3 reviews2 followers
April 14, 2014
I loved this book. The first few pages had me hooked, and I was immediately drawn into the story. Robin tells the story of her journey and battle with colorectal cancer, fighting for good medical care and advocating for changes in treatment protocols. Through it all, her writing is clear and concise, and she brings the reader to tears and then laughter within a few pages. Of particular interest is the role that the online community played in providing support. I couldn't put it down.
1 review
September 2, 2014
This is an excellent book by a woman that I have met and respect. A great read by an articulate author. Healthcare is like every other profession there are kind, compassionate, ethical, capable people and there are those who fall short. In this book Robin tells her story with wit, humor and a raw honesty. She shows what one person can accomplish. She is a voice for many others who wouldn't have the knowledge to advocate for themselves. She tells a story of courage.
Profile Image for Naomi.
118 reviews65 followers
October 16, 2014

From the complacent diagnostic failings of her first four doctors, to the messy realities of living in treatment and her determined and painstaking engagement with bureaucracy, the author documents the frustrations and triumphs of her recovery with admirable frankness, clarity, and equanimity.
Profile Image for Dennis Maione.
Author 14 books2 followers
March 14, 2016
A wonderful book. The circumstance made me angry and frustrated. The fact that she had to fight over and over for what was simply common sense treatment and solutions made me despair for the medical system in Canada. But, through it all she, and the community that faithfully supported her, retained hope.
Profile Image for N.
192 reviews1 follower
July 8, 2017
So full disclosure; I knew Robin years ago at Carleton U. We first met through a mutual friend. Then, as now I respect her insight, humour and inner strength. I also worked for the medical profession in Nova Scotia for about 8 years, so a good chance I know at least two of the four doctors who are unnamed, and some of the named others definitely rang a bell.

This is a harrowing, book. What Robin went through are things no one should have to go through, and she wound up going through them because four (I still shake my head at that number) doctors couldn't be bothered to do their jobs properly and engage with robin as a patient who needed their skills, insight, and access to health care diagnostics and treatments only they can get. Beyond that Robin got caught in the mess and gaps in Canadian health care systems, the gaps in cancer treatment that cost many people their health, their savings, and in some case their lives.

It would have been easy for Robin to turn this book into an extended rant about how physicians and the 'system' screwed up her care and cost her a heavy price, but she doesn't do that. It's a rich, revealing, and moving book about what these ordeals (her Olympics) cost her and her family physically, spiritually an psychically, and how she managed to come through them.She has also turned her anger and energy into advocacy for cancer patients in NS and all of Canada.

No spoilers here, Robin's story is not over, you'll need to go to her blog site to see where she is several years after her book ended, but it is worth the trip. This book is only the start.
Profile Image for Rhonda.
108 reviews
February 6, 2021
Robin McGee's Cancer Olympics is the true story of her colorectal cancer journey. It begins with her talking about doctors 1, 2, 3 and 4, all of whose lack of care and treatment has led to a later stage diagnosis as her concerns were not truly taken seriously.

The journey hit home to me as my mother as well went through a stage 3 cancer diagnosis and eventually had recurrence and succumbed to the vicious disease. Her journey reminded me so much of my mothers and her words and outlook reminded me of her as well. The suffering she endures to survive is unimaginable, but the changes she brings about due to her experiences are incredible.

I recently was saddened to read after 6 years in remission her cancer has also returned at stage 4. I hope she will continue to thrive and be able to enter a remission once again. Thank you for sharing your story, Robin ❤
Profile Image for Julie Haigh.
652 reviews983 followers
December 28, 2015
Amazing memoir, amazing lady!

Just twenty pages into this memoir and I was thinking that this is one of the best medical memoirs I have read. I can see why it keeps winning awards. The flow starts straight away, the book is easy to get into as it's all facts and symptoms, concise, no flowery stuff, it grips you immediately. After consulting a doctor with her initial symptoms, Robin McGee was told it was 'likely nothing significant'. How wrong could they be???? This is just a catalogue of disasters on the part of a few doctors-unbelievably, not just one, but a whole string of them! Many doctors bungling around. A wait of 18 months for an appointment-a colonoscopy? She could have been dead by then with them messing about like this! Unbelievable! One doctor seems determined to play her symptoms down-almost as if she knows there had been one huge cock-up and she would be in major trouble. She tells her it's only a haemorrhoid! I was shouting at this book in total disbelief at how this lady had been treated. Sheer neglect-so wrong. Most of the cancer stories I have read before have been written by celebrities fighting the disease-with their book being published after their death. Thankfully, after all this terrible neglect, Robin is alive and in remission. I do hope that she has many more years to enjoy life and help others who have encountered similar situations. This is a tragic story, yet there is that hope there as Robin McGee has recently celebrated living five years after her initial extremely bleak prognosis. It’s heart-breaking reading about her telling family, friends, work and her son the painful news. Very emotional. As well as telling her own story, Robin is aiming to help other cancer sufferers too-both through education, and through raising money as a portion of the proceeds from each book sale goes to cancer charities. The book has the perfect title: all these hurdles that she should never have had to encounter. Cancer is terrible enough without all this-so, with all this-unforgivable. Given the subject matter, I never imagined there would be any humour in here-but there is! It was so unexpected! What a wonderful lady. This book is very detailed regarding the treatments, medication etc. For instance; some books just say 'I had chemotherapy' but this book takes a lot of the mysteries away and will help other sufferers or their family members. I liked the Cancer Olympics blog entries interspersed. There were very often a few chuckles, she was trying to lighten things with her way of looking at it and all the people were posting their support. These were sort of like diary entries with the dates and times given too. Not just remembered stuff, these were words actually written at the time, as it was-I love that way of doing things. I was gripped by this account and often read it very late at night/early hours of the morning. It almost feels like I'm doing something wrong to say I couldn't put it down or couldn't stop reading it (given the subject matter)-but it was just so well done! What a very courageous and determined lady Robin McGee is. Many happenings in the book reflect that her title IS the perfect title-she had so many hurdles to contend with-as if having the disease wasn't enough in the first place! I found it disgusting, ridiculous and incredible how many errors had stood in her way. People were playing about with other people's lives. Amazing memoir, amazing lady.
Profile Image for Carol Cassada.
Author 36 books100 followers
March 13, 2016
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Dr. Robin McGee lived a quiet life in her home of Nova Scotia. She’s an admired psychologist, wife, and mother. Then one day, Robin’s life changed when she received the news every person dreads. She has cancer.

The Cancer Olympics explores Robin’s battle with colorectal cancer. Her battle wasn’t easy; she had to deal with inadequate care from the first four doctors she saw when her symptoms began. Robin explains the anger she felt towards the doctors as they blew off her concerns and didn’t follow up with further examinations.

When she was finally diagnosed with colorectal cancer, she had to endure numerous surgeries along with chemotherapy. Robin is very detailed in her explanation of the surgery, the pain she endured, and the aftermath of learning to adapt to the changes in her body. Some parts of the book may be a little too graphic for some people, but that’s one of the things I liked about her story. Robin doesn’t hold back, she tells you everything that happened and she’s not afraid or embarrassed to share every detail.

Along with her surgeries and chemotherapy, Robin also set in motion a movement to provide better health care for cancer patients in Nova Scotia. After learning about a new treatment called FOLFOX, she and her fellow supporters begin contacting their local politicians to approve the treatment, which wasn’t available in Nova Scotia.

Throughout her cancer battle, she faced fear of the unknown and she shared her feelings on her blog called Robin’s Cancer Olympics. In her book, she includes excerpts from her blog and responses from the community. Reading the blog entries and the responses, you see how she was an inspiration to everyone and how supportive they were in her time of need.

This is an inspiring must read book for everyone. It gives you a glimpse into one woman’s battle with cancer, her courage to help others, and how she changed the healthcare system in her town.
Profile Image for Anamarija Wagner.
2 reviews109 followers
April 3, 2016
A Gripping Page Turner
This book is gripping, informative and comprehensive. It brought to life the medical saga that gripped Robin's life, as well as the battle of not only her cancer, but also of a the medical system that ironically she was a colleague in. Robin writes in a way that grips your attention, heart and gut from the first sentence to the last sentence. It is a definite page turner that had be holding my breath through many a chapter.
Profile Image for Monique.
157 reviews7 followers
May 8, 2015
I received a copy through Goodreads First Reads Giveaway!

Absolutely loved it! Wow, very awe inspiring. Really helped me come to terms with the news of a close friend of mine just being diagnosed with breast cancer and confirmed how important it is to stay on top of your health especially when you sense something might be wrong. Definitely recommend everyone reads this book!
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