Francine's Story: Celebrating Life, Education and Community

Francine's Story: Celebrating Life, Education and Community

Canada Day 2011 is burned into Collège Boréal President Denis Hubert-Dutrisac’s memory. For Denis, it was the day that his wife, long-time educator, community leader and professional Francine Chartrand-Dutrisac began her journey with a brain tumour. Now, more than nine months later, Denis is sharing both Francine’s story and his personal energy in support of the region’s brain tumour area’s patients, survivors and their families for the April 29 Sudbury Spring Sprint (now Brain Tumour Walk) in support of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

“I remember that day so clearly,” Denis explains. “Francine had fallen, broken her arm and cut herself in the bedroom. I knew I’d get us to the hospital faster than waiting for an ambulance to come all the way out to us, so we headed to Sudbury Regional Hospital (HSN).”

Francine had been feeling “funny” for a few months, she had been bruising easily and falling quite a bit. Visits to the doctor had explained these symptoms by various minor issues. But now they would have an answer. Once they were at the hospital Francine started to not understand English anymore, reverting to speaking French only. The next day, she started to forget who I was, “that scared the hell out of me,” Denis recalls.

An MRI was ordered and soon a brain tumour was discovered. “This was very scary; we lost a very good friend to a brain tumour the previous year.” Very quickly Francine underwent surgery to install a shunt, which helps to relieve pressure on the brain. “After that surgery she came back. Her spirit, her mind and her English returned.”

The couple, so dedicated to education, marveled that so many staff, from those helping with her MRI and taking her blood, to nurses and doctors, had been through the various programs they both supported in their careers. “Francine would say, ‘This is why we worked so hard. These people help bring so much comfort to so many.’ And it brought so much to us,” Denis recalls.

Surgery to remove the brain tumour was scheduled three weeks later. "We spent that time connecting with one another, soaking up every minute, talking about our 30 years together and the beauty of life. It was a very special time.”

When she returned to hospital for her surgery Francine was ready for what could come next, together they would fight. “I said, ‘I will take care of you’” Denis remembers.

Following her surgery, Francine experienced seizures which sent her into a coma. A third surgery was performed to further reduce the pressure on her brain in the hopes it could start to heal. Sadly, on August 25th, 2011, Francine passed away.

This April, Denis will be out running in the Spring Sprint for brain tumour research and patient programs. He wants the Sudbury community to know that their experience helps provide hope and support for brain tumour patients and their families. This includes the local support group, information services and education for patients and health care professionals, like those both Francine and Denis cherished so much.

The Spring Sprint in Sudbury is very special to the entire community, including the Collège Boréal family. Rock Carrière, a graduate student of Collège Boréal was instrumental in bringing the first event to Sudbury and Collège Boréal many years ago. This legacy continues with support through the annual event for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada growing every year. It is the determined efforts of local volunteers that bring the event to life and run programs like the local brain tumour support group.

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Story posted: April 2012

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