Andrea’s journey began in November of 2019. After experiencing some bleeding from her bowel, we immediately booked a doctor’s appointment. Andrea was sent off for a colonoscopy exam where they discovered a large tumor. Samples were taken at her exam and were sent off for biopsy’s. The following week we met with our specialist where we discovered Andrea had Stage 2B Colorectal cancer. Immediately after our specialist appointment in mid-November, Andrea was sent for a full CT scan and MRI of her body so doctors can get a closer look at her cancer tumor and to assess how treatment will begin.
After speaking with our new Oncologist and assessing Andrea’s cancer tumor, it was decided that a round of targeted Radiation and chemotherapy coupled together were Andrea’s best option, followed up with surgery. Her treatment began on December 30th 2019 with daily targeted Radiation at the Tom Baker cancer center, for 25 days. Her Chemo treatment was pill form called Capecitabine which was beneficial because she could administer the chemotherapy herself rather than attending Tom Baker also for her chemo therapy.
In the beginning of Andrea’s treatment, things were going amazing. Side effects were next to none and Andrea looked great. Energy levels were normal, and you would never know she was going through any sort of cancer treatment. Around 2 weeks into treatment, Andrea’s side effects began with soreness while walking and loss of appetite. During the 3rd and 4th week Andrea’s side effects were hot flashes, nausea, extremely low energy levels and difficulty walking. Her final week of treatment was the worst, which I won’t go into details but you could imagine the pain and suffering she went through.
During Andrea’s entire treatment, she tackled it like a champion in my eyes. The will she had to persevere was inspiring to me. I can’t imagine me handling that situation if I were in her shoes. We love you so much Andrea.
Andrea’s treatment completed on February 3rd 2020 with a scheduled surgery date of March 30th 2020 for doctors to remove the cancer tumor from her colon. Once done, Andrea would live with a Colostomy bag for the remainder of her life. She was given a break from treatment to allow her body to heal from the Radiation and Chemotherapy for a few weeks and the doctors would perform another CT Scan to see how her body responded from treatment and also for surgeons to see how much they need to remove from her body during surgery.
On March 18th Andrea had a follow up CT Scan so doctors can see how her body responded to treatment. On March 20th we received a call from her Oncologist who indicated that the colon cancer tumor appeared to shrink a bit, but that they also noticed lesions in her lungs, we were then scheduled a face to face appointment for March 31st . When we entered our appointment, there was an immediate feeling of ‘there is something more’. You could just tell by the way questions were answered and in the look of our Oncologists eyes. Our worst fears had come true. We were told that Andrea had several cancer tumors in both her right and left lungs. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer that metastasized to her lungs.
Because Andrea’s cancer spread to her lungs, our options were slim. She was no longer a candidate for Radiation therapy because of the amount of tumors (think a gun shot, that’s radiation) . She also was not a candidate for surgery because the cancer was in both lungs and in each “lung window”. Each lung has an upper, middle, and lower section. They call them “windows”. They told us our only option for treatment is chemotherapy but because of the type of cancer in her lungs, chemotherapy at some point in time becomes ineffective. The cancer was considered “smart”, meaning that Andrea would be on a particular strength of chemo that would keep things status-quo. But at some point in time, her cancer would become resistant to her treatment and eventually grow or spread. When that occurred, we were told that our option would be a stronger dose of chemotherapy, but eventually the same thing would occur. Her cancer would eventually become resistant and grow or spread.
Because of this, on March 31st 2020 we were looked in our eyes and told that Andrea had a 50% chance of being alive within 3 year and only 11% change within 5 years. All I could do was cry.
Andrea’s surgery was cancelled, and she was told to go through another round of chemotherapy beginning April 6th for 3 months. She was placed on the same chemotherapy as she was during radiation. Andrea’s energy levels throughout the 3 months on Chemo were amazing. She had the odd day here or there where she felt like absolute garbage but overall, she looked and felt amazing. Things were looking up. We had hoped that the spots they found in March on her lungs were the result of possibly COVID or an pneumonia and that when she was done her next round in early July that the follow up scans would show nothing.
On June 30th, Andrea had her CT scan and we waited for the results. The oncologist called the following Monday and advised that the spots were still there, but nothing grew, there was no new cancer and things were stable. While we were devasted to hear that nothing had changed, when you hear the word “stable” with cancer, you find joy and comfort in that, as it’s one of the best things you could possibly hear. Our oncologist advised that she was going to schedule Andrea for PET scan and a meeting with a lung surgeon.
On July 14th Andrea was scheduled for a PET Scan so doctors and our Oncologists can finally get an up-close look at her lungs. Unfortunately, none of them disappeared. Andrea has over 25 tumors in her right lung and around 15 in her left lung. As a partner to Andrea and understanding the severity of her diagnosis, we scheduled a call and requested to see a surgeon. My thoughts were to remove her lungs (both of them) and she could have half of my healthy lungs. Seems simple to me (although difficult).
We met with a surgeon on Tuesday July 21st to go over any possible options. We went in feeling great that there could be something done for Andrea. Afterall, there was always my lung she could have. The surgeon came into the room and discussed the severity of the tumors in Andrea’s lungs and concluded with surgery not being an option for her. My immediate response to our surgeon was, ‘take both her lungs out and she can have half of mine’. No big deal right?! Unfortunately the surgeon said, that’s also not an option and the reason is simple. Once they remove Andrea lungs and place my healthy lung into her. Her body becomes so immunosuppressed that the cancer would immediately attack and infect the healthy lung that I gave her, so we are back where we began.
This news was clearly the hardest for us to hear. We have now ran out of options. I am staring at this young, amazing, beautiful 38 year old mother of 3 that may not be with us for long. I could not take this news as the end, there had to be other options out there.
I spoke with friends of ours about another option called Immunotherapy. It is a treatment that helps a person’s immune system fight cancer. It is biological therapy specific to Andrea’s body. And so I began asking questions and researching online. Its surprising how many success stories are out there from people who were terminal and now cancer free!
I called the founding scientist from a highly recommended company called CTOAM . They are based out of British Columbia and have helped many people with great success. On July 22nd I spoke with Alex from CTOAM and found that he specializes in immunotherapy specifically for Colorectal patients. I provided him with all of Andrea’s details and he thinks that there could be many many solutions for Andrea’s condition to help. Now this is a private facility that specializes in scanning all DNA, and mutations that Andrea’s body produces; which is why she got cancer. They go over all the private scanning results and come up with a plan of attack with specific targeted drugs for her cancer. This private approach unfortunately is not covered under our current health care plan nor extended benefit plans.
Andrea will be receiving the CARIS & Omicure package which analyzes over 650 DNA strands, over 127 inherited mutations and also a new scanning method called Omicure RNA & AI . She will also receive 4 liquid biopsies after her new treatment begins to see if things are working as they should.
This private immunotherapy is our last hope and one we need to take. The cost is extremely expensive, and we hope our amazing friends and family could find it in their heart to help us out in anyway possible. The CARIS & Omicure package is $34,575.00 CAD which will cover baseline and about 5 months of monitoring after treatment begins. Afterwards, they are $250 per hour for consultation and the liquid biopsies are $950CAD afterwards. This does not include any medication costs not covered under Alberta Health.
Andrea is such an amazing mother, partner and even more all-around person. I, as a partner am doing everything I can to help her and our last-ditch effort is going down this new journey.
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