Kara Mackie was just 22-years-old when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Mackie remembers the moment she found out.
“I got a phone call at work actually, I kind of wish they would have told me to sit down because that was really, really scary,” she said.
“They pretty much just said, we got your tests back and you have cancer and you’re just like, ‘what?’ Your knees get weak. I fell onto the chair. You think there’s no way. You don’t feel sick, there’s no symptoms.”
To remove the cancer on her cervix, surgeons used a robotic surgery system called the da Vinci.
The device is minimally invasive, so doctors only have to make small incisions and it gives surgeons enhanced vision and control during procedures.
“It gives you better access and more precision than even,” said Dr. Chris Hoskins.
“It’s a combination of the old microscopic advantages, smaller incisions, easier recovery, but it’s better now because you’ve actually got better operating skill.”
The technology at the Royal Alexandra Hospital is mainly used to treat prostate cancer.
For one day a week, the da Vinci is set aside for women’s health – in operations for cancers of the cervix, endometrium and uterus.
Dr. Helen Steed performed the first female operation and says having a device solely for women’s health would make a huge difference.
“We probably could do it two to three times a week easily,” Steed said.
Campaign launched for device dedicated to women's health
Now a fundraising campaign is underway to help bring the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System to Edmonton – one that would be dedicated for surgeries on women.
The device costs $3 million and would make the Lois Hole Hospital for Women home to the first robotic surgery system dedicated to women’s health in Canada.
“We should be going after the latest technology, the latest in everything and that robot is very sophisticated and it is the latest technology and we should have it,” said Lynn Mandel, who is heading up fundraising efforts.
Hoskins says the device would be critical in helping cancer patients, like Mackie.
"When you have cancer, you only have one chance to do it right. You need to remove as much cancer as possible and you want to do it without complications and you want the patient to get better fast," he said
Mackie credits the da Vinci for saving her life.
“It saved me. It allowed me to not drop out of my semester. It allowed me to recover faster,” she said.
“For a week to be cancer free and back in my normal life, I was grateful.”
After a quick recovery, Mackie is now nearly finished her education degree and has something even bigger to look forward to.
“It turns out I can, possibly have kids one day,” Mackie said with a smile.
“I’m excited about that.”
The hope is to have the new device in place within a year.
With files from Carmen Leibel