The following is Aaron's story:
"I've been struggling on what to write and where to begin with this recounting, but I finally decided that starting at the beginning would be the most logical place to begin. I’ll try to condense as much as I can.
"Hello though! My name is Aaron Gagnier and I’m a mostly ordinary 34-year-old guy who lives in Windsor, Ontario (though some would argue the “ordinary” part, haha!).
Last year, mid-to-late August of 2016, I started feeling strange stabbing and intense pains throughout my body and couldn't explain or understand why. It was actually a quick and steady development over the months leading up to that point, but that’s beside it all really. It was probably 10 years since the last time I saw my doctor (like a lot of men, I’m sure – with our pride and busy lives getting in the way as a pseudo excuse), so I figured that I should pay him a visit just for the heck of it to see what could be going on. With that, he got a bit concerned almost immediately and needed no convincing...since even though I'd not seen him in a while, he’s been my primary physician for nearly 20 years and knows that I would only go to him if it was something substantial or significant. He ordered a barrage of tests after some consideration for the game plan (CT Scans, Nuclear Bone Scans, copious blood tests, x-rays and so on) and it came to be found that a suspicious mass was growing in my 6th rib; as well as, a small tumor in my brain on my pituitary gland.
Moving along, the discovery was made but as things seem to go in my life, nothing ever seems to be simple or clear cut. Just before I was about to go into surgery to remove the affected rib as a first step in the treatment after a biopsy and other probings, my appendix decided that it wanted some of the spotlight, so it ruptured. With all the other pain I was feeling, it didn’t occur to any of us at all that THAT could be in the scope of probability. After gruelingly suffering for three days and basically zombifying, I was rushed to the ER and after a bit of turbulence, I was scheduled for emergency surgery to remove my appendix and clean things up since my body had completely become toxic and overrun with all sorts of additional complications. The surgeon that performed the procedure said that I was lucky to have made it through since I guess it was at a point that was extreme and critical.
It took me nearly two months in the hospital to recover from that and the ensuing infections associated with it; all the while, investigations and the treatment plan for my rib and brain issues had to be placed on hold. Finally, in December of 2016 we could continue down the path to getting a full and proper diagnosis. My affliction was then finally given a name and the procedure to surgically remove it could proceed. It’s something called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, which is a rare thing for people to get and resides on the fringe of cancer territory. Since not much is known about it and cases seem to vary, there aren’t really any foolproof treatment regimens and it’s all very experimental. The surgery ended up taking roughly 5 hours and he removed a section of my 6th rib, along with part of my 7th for good measure, with them then inserting mesh to prevent my lung from hemorrhaging due to the gap. Initial reports suggested that the surgery was a success, but soon after it was discovered to have spread down throughout the rest of my ribs from what remains of the 6th rib to the 11th. Not the best of news. A new plan was then devised that I was going to proceed with six months of chemotherapy (Ara-C, aka Cytarabine) since that was shown to have helped with some people in clinical trials. So that began, with all its unpleasantries – hot flashes, extreme nausea, and vomiting, etc. It’s also hopeful to contribute towards resolving the brain tumor as well.
All the while, I have been forced to commit to an extended leave of absence from work since I found that I was unable to function at a useful capacity, along with the fact that the chemotherapy also severely compromises my immune system, along with the rest of the effects described. So limited contact with large groups of people (along with a few other restrictions) has hindered my ability to be able to continue working during the course of the treatment.
Fast forwarding through details and descriptions, I’m now on the cusp of my sixth month mark with my chemotherapy and with what we see and what I’ve had to endure with hospitalizations along the way (ICU and otherwise), it hasn’t been as effective as we had hoped. The spread has seemingly stopped, but it isn’t getting any better. I’ve also developed a severe intestinal infection that two rounds of antibiotics haven't been able to clear up as a result of being compromised.
That pretty much sums up my story as it stands up to this point, with the added support at home with regular nurse visits and continued monitoring and alternative treatment supplements in between chemo rounds. What I’m timidly and humbly asking for is financial assistance with anything you might be able to spare. As “free” as our health care system is in our great country, not all of my medications have been covered through benefits. Furthermore, repeated hospital visits that have been charged to me, ambulance fees, strict (and shockingly) expensive diet modifications and other financial obligations that are becoming increasingly difficult to meet with being unable to work (as stubborn as I was, in the beginning, to want to continue to work when the treatments initially began).
Thank you kindly for at least donating your time to read through all of this. If you aren’t able to lend anything financially since I completely understand that times are tough for a lot of us, please help by sharing this story to raise awareness and I’d be eternally grateful. Take care!"
Those of us that know and care for him want to see him focus on healing, not on the stress associated with a financial burden. Please do what you can to show him some support, everything is greatly appreciated.
- Gianni&Rachelle Apolloni
- Gloria Demeter
- Linda Bellmore
Organizer and beneficiary
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