Christine MacLean - Fighting A Devastating Stage 4 Cancer Diagnosis
Christine Maclean has quietly touched the lives of thousands through her 20 years of compassionate counselling as a psychotherapist in the Creemore and Collingwood area, working primarily in private practice, and at the Georgian Bay Family Health Team, My Friend’s House, and as Clinical Supervisor at Athena’s Sexual Assault Centre in Barrie. She most recently carried on work in the sexual assault field at the Avalon Centre in Halifax. It was a life altering shock this past June when she was diagnosed with stage 4 adenocarcinoma, at her gastroesophageal junction (GEJ). This late stage cancer has metastasized and spread to her lymph nodes as well. This is a devastating diagnosis as Christine recently moved to Nova Scotia in 2018, finally following a long held dream to live near the ocean with her family, daughters Maya and Samara, and husband Kevin. She had just rented a space in May of 2019 to start up a new private practice, a month prior to the diagnosis.
Christine’s diagnosis came as a complete shock to family, friends and physicians. Christine’s only presenting symptom: a swollen lymph node near her collarbone, which indicated that the cancer had already metastasized (stage IV ) and spread to her lymph nodes. She was otherwise healthy, a fan of long walks, green foods, yoga and meditation.
Christine had no other warning signs or symptoms. She does not have any risk factors for this cancer. Gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma is a relatively rare type of cancer, particularly amongst women, especially in her age bracket.
Help Christine Receive the Most Beneficial Treatments
Surgery and radiation are not options for advanced GEJ cancer in Canada. Christine is currently in her third chemo round, but with heart related side effects presenting at the end of round 2, the family is searching for other treatment options. Fighting an advanced cancer often means going outside the box. Christine is determined to beat the odds, and has learned that treatments in the US (Keytruda, an immunotherapy with great promise in gastric cancers) and Germany (regional chemotherapy, and personalized tumour vaccines) are possible options that both hold hope. She is also seeking acupuncture, and naturopathic treatments with an oncological naturopath that complement the chemotherapy she is currently on, and help to preserve immune function. These supportive therapies can improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy, promise minimal side effects, and improve the chance of remission with a cancer that has slim survival rates. But they also come at a cost that she will not be able to afford without support.
Out-of-Pocket and Out-of-Country
In North America, there are very few cancer care centres that specialize in gastric junction cancer treatment. MD Anderson in Texas or Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York are highly rated in the treatment of this type of cancer and have much higher patient volumes to draw experience from - but even getting a second opinion can cost between $2500-$10000. Genetic tumour testing is available in both centres, which improves the match between the type of cancer cells and the type of chemotherapies that will be most beneficial, with the lowest side effects. Proton radiation therapy, not available in Canada, can be used to much more safely treat tumour sites close to major organs, so Christine is actively seeking this type of care. Immunotherapy treatment, also not yet approved for this type of cancer in Canada, requires travel to the US, and paying out of pocket on a repeating 3 week rotation, at a minimum cost of $3500 per treatment . Medias Klinikum, an oncology centre in Germany that has recently treated local Georgian Triangle patients, offers regional chemotherapy and personalized tumour vaccines that target only the tumours, with minimal side effects, vastly improving quality of life. A round of treatment starts at 22000 € plus travel and living expenses. She is also, between chemo rounds, researching available clinical trials, both in Canada and abroad.
To receive the best care and best chance of longer term survival, to watch her girls grow into adulthood, and beat the 5-9% five year odds, in terms of next steps beyond standard chemotherapy, Christine must leave the country, and pay for travel, accommodations and treatments out of her own pocket. Seeking these treatments plus covering household expenses will easily cost $150,000 over the next year, and more if treatments extend into future years.
Providing Support and Hope in a Trying Time
In a caregiving profession for all of her adult life, Christine herself now needs support and hope. As a long time self-employed and contract worker, she does not have any financial safety net in terms of long term disability coverage or even provincial disability payments. A small critical illness policy has so far given her the capacity to continue to help support her family finances, and take necessary time away from trauma focused work, but this will run out in early 2020. In a time of grave illness, we all need the sense of support that comes from knowing our family’s basic needs are met, and the hope that comes from knowing the most effective treatment options are available to us.
It is only with your support that Christine can have the best possible cancer care and treatment. Christine’s husband, Kevin and their two daughters, Maya, 19, and Samara, 15 are asking for your donations so their wife and mom can extend her survival, improve her quality of life, and become the statistical outlier.
With deep, heartfelt gratitude….The MacLean Family.
- Jennifer Chow
- Diane Page
- James Eakins
- Alicia & Brianna Marshall
- Cameron Mitchell