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CMH fundraising efforts hit close to home for one former patient

George Aitkin was diagnosed with cancer in 2021 with quick access to an MRI at Cambridge Memorial Hospital
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2021, George Aitkin is helping raise funds for a new MRI at Cambridge Memorial Hospital.

In October 2021, George Aitkin was diagnosed with cancer. Now he’s telling his story to help raise funds for Cambridge Memorial Hospital (CMH).

Aitkin is featured in the hospital’s current fundraising efforts, explaining how the MRI played a role in quickly diagnosing him. The MRI is the focus of the hospital’s fundraising efforts, with CMH looking to raise $5 million for a new machine.

While they received their first MRI in 2012, the machine has a limited life cycle and will need to be replaced by 2024. Aitkin’s scan in 2021 was one of the roughly 9,000 done each year at CMH.

That scan was the first step in a larger medical journey for Aitkin. Back in 2021, he was being put on a new medication and needed to undergo a blood test to figure out the correct dosage.

After his doctor found some abnormalities in Aitkin’s blood work, the 70-year-old Cambridge resident underwent an urgent MRI at the hospital. The next day, he had an appointment with his doctor to follow up on what the scan showed.

“He called me in and said ‘I’d like to have your wife with us as well,’” Aitkin said. “So that wasn’t a very good sign. A little ominous, because I’ve never had that request made.”

The results showed he had cholangiocarcinoma, a cancer in his liver’s bile ducts.

Next up for Aitkin was chemotherapy and a surgery in Toronto which resulted in 70 per cent of his liver being removed.

Aitkin said having an MRI close to home was a benefit for him, since prior to 2012, patients in Cambridge would have to go to Guelph or another city just to get one.

“The MRI is very fortunate to be here,” Aitkin said. “To have it done right here and the right people to read it and refer me to Toronto right away, I feel so lucky to have that.”

A long-time fixture in Cambridge’s running community, Aitkin was one of those patients. Several years ago, he needed to go to Guelph for a scan on a knee injury.

His story made Aitkin an excellent candidate to assist with the fundraising efforts. The experience of having an MRI in Cambridge as opposed to Guelph is part of the reason he wanted to help out.

“Any patient who has something potentially serious, they’ll get a little stressed out when they have to get something like an MRI,” he said. “And to get it without having to travel far is great. That’s basically what I felt like when I was going through all this.”

Aitkin’s experience at CMH has given him a new perspective on the need for donations to the hospital and how the fundraising efforts can help out.

“It’s sort of turned me into more of a donor to the hospital as well, seeing the need for it,” he said. “It should be a interesting day when the new MRI gets delivered.”