“The best place for me to be:” Wendi Campbell shares story of early diagnosis and compassionate care at St. Mary’s 

Wendi two-days post-op drinking coffee on her porch
Wendi two-days post-op drinking coffee on her porch
Wendi Campbell lowers her head beneath her red-ribboned sun hat, her voice trembling as she recalls the 2022 day that changed her life.

The 52-year-old, who’s currently on medical leave from her role as CEO of the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, knew something was off when she started experiencing twitches that would travel from her feet to her neck and last several minutes.

After a 90-minute tremor in June, Wendi rushed to the emergency department at St. Mary’s General Hospital. Within hours, she was undergoing the CT scan that revealed the golf-ball sized tumour in her brain.

Wendi had an emotional discussion with her ER doctor, Bob Wickett, as he explained to her the images he saw in the scan.

“There was a lesion on my brain and they wouldn’t know what it was until they did further testing,” Wendi recalls.

“But the doctor said: ‘I’ve already been on the phone with neurosurgery in Hamilton. You’ll have an appointment in a few days to dig into this further.’

“So he had everything laid out. It was like, ‘Wow.’”

A team in Hamilton removed the tumour a week later, and Wendi says her neurosurgeon is confident he got all of it. Despite some breakthrough seizures and lingering effects on her mobility, Wendi is recovering well.

An aggressive tumour, but an early diagnosis

Wendi’s tumour was aggressive, she says, but her neurosurgeon believes it hadn’t been there long.

Her story highlights the importance of quick and accurate diagnosis – something St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation has put at the forefront of its fundraising efforts for the next few years.

Upgrading old equipment and securing new machines will lower wait times for essential tests and scans, leading to more patient success stories in the community.

Wendi initially believed her tremors were related to a pinched nerve. But trips to her massage therapist, osteopath and chiropractor provided no relief.

When she approached her family doctor last May, he requested an MRI, which was scheduled for three months later.

“If I had waited until August, what would have happened?” Wendi says. “You hear stories about people waiting months and months (for tests), and what if it’s more serious? We need that access.

“Nowhere in my symptoms did we see brain tumor.”

Dr. Wickett saw it, though, thanks in part to a video Wendi’s daughter took of her 90-minute tremor.

Wendi says self-advocacy is critical in healthcare. Having a trustworthy medical team that listens is the other component.

She found that at St. Mary’s.

“Everybody thinks St. Mary’s is the heart hospital – and if you’ve got a heart issue, that’s where you want to go – but it’s so much more than that,” she says.

“For me that day … I have no proof that it was the best place for me to be, but I sure feel like it was.”

Wendi headshot, pre-diagnosis, 2022
Wendi headshot, pre-diagnosis, 2022

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