Fintan's Fight: Stage 3C Metastatic Melanoma

$46,814 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 371 people in 9 months
***The best support you can give us is to protect yourself and your loved ones from sun damage so you don't have to go through what we are experiencing. Melanoma is one of the most deadly cancers out there -if something doesn't look right, please see a doctor right away.

In the event that any funds are not used, they will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society. ***

My name is Katie and I am writing this on behalf of my husband & best friend, Fintan Ward. 

On August 15, Fintan had a suspicious mole removed for biopsy from his left chest. Within a matter of days, we learned the mole came back positive for melanoma at a 2.6mm depth - staging him at 2a. 

He was referred to an oncologist who performed major surgery on September 25. The surgery was a wide excision of the left chest as well as removal of three sentinel nodes from the left armpit.

On October 15, our lives changed when we received the news that no one wants to hear. Extracted from the oncology report:

"Pathology showed quite significant findings. There is no residual melanoma on the chest wall; however, there was metastatic melanoma in two out of the three lymph nodes with quite significant burden of disease". 

We left with heavy hearts as Fintan was staged at a 3C, an extremely advanced and aggressive stage of melanoma. He is only 39 years old. 

Shortly after, Fintan underwent a PET scan, MRI scan, as well as additional node testing to determine whether he is B-RAF negative or positive. The B-RAF mutation is genetic and occurs in about half of melanoma patients. 

On November 19, during a consult with our surgical oncologist, we were relieved to find out that both the PET and MRI scans showed no visible signs of metastasis through the body. The relief was short lived - we also learned that Fintan's case had been presented at oncology rounds and given the aggressive nature and concerning results of pathology, a unanimous decision was made that he needed another major surgery to remove all lymph nodes from the left armpit. This surgery is scheduled for December 10. 

Radiation may be required, but we won't know more until the results of the upcoming surgery are relayed to us. 

On November 21, during a consult with our medical oncologist, we were given Fintan's treatment plan (to begin as soon as possible after surgery). His B-RAF mutation came back negative, which is both good and bad. New research is showing that B-RAF negative patients do have a slightly better overall prognosis that B-RAF positive patients. However, there is only one treatment option available to B-RAF negative patients - immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is administered every 2 weeks by IV for 1 year. 

We had yet another blow when we learned that Immunotherapy is not covered by OHIP. The treatment costs $100, 000/year. The team of drug navigators at the Queensway Carleton Hospital are currently working to find alternate ways of coverage for the costs for Fintan. 

Just days before we learned what we were about to embark on earlier this fall, Fintan was excited to start a new job. Shortly after starting, it became quickly apparent that he would not be able to maintain employment for the imminent future. Because we got the news while he was still in a probationary period, there was no short term or long term disability insurance available to him. 

Any donations we receive will be used to help with some of the many expenses we will be faced with over the coming months. We appreciate your support and will never be able to express our continued gratitude.

If you happen to know the guy who coined the term "luck of the Irish",  let me know, so I can give him a good hard kick in the shins.  

I would like to thank Dr. Anne-Marie Pelletier, Dr. Kate Kelly, Dr. Carolyn Nessim, Dr Sandeep Sehdev, all of their staff and nurses we have worked with and will continue to work with at the The Ottawa General Hospital Cancer Center & Queensway Carleton Cancer Center.

Hold the people you love a little tighter tonight & remember... we are all just walking each other home.
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Hi everyone!

Katie here - hoping this update finds you well!

Fintan has completed just under half of his treatments. It’s been going as well as we could have hoped - his weeks are jam packed with appointments (oncology, dermatology, immunotherapy, regular testing, etc) but otherwise he’s experiencing minimal side effects. The worst of it so far has been (sometimes severe) fatigue and some skin sensitivity, both of which are manageable.

Fintan had his first CT scan since his initial diagnosis on May 3. The purpose of this was to assess if the cancer has spread to any other parts of the body.

Today we met with Fintan’s medical oncologist to review the results. We carried a worlds' weight of anxiety with us walking in - if the scan lit up (in other words, if the scan showed that cancer had spread) his prognosis would be severely affected and treatment options would be limited, if any.

That’s why we are so, so happy and relieved to let you know that the first words out of our oncologists mouth were: “Your CT scan was all clear!”

Talk about a sigh of relief!

So what are the next steps? Fintan will continue with treatment until January 2020. He will have a CT scan done every 6 months for the next 5 years to assess metastatic spread, if any. While the news today doesn’t change his diagnosis, it indicates a positive prognosis and gives us renewed hope as he continues to fight to beat this.

This picture is the both of us earlier today right after we got this amazing news.

As always, thanks to Dr. Sehdev and all the staff at the Irving Greenberg Family Cancer Center, The Ottawa Hospital, and all our family and friends for unwavering, ongoing support. We love sending you positive updates almost as much as we love you all.
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Hi everyone!

Happy New Year - and what a happy one it's been so far!

The holidays were a little rocky - our dear friend, Wayne the Drain (Fintan's lymphatic drain) developed quite a nasty infection which resulted in Fintan being admitted to hospital for IV antibiotic therapy & pain management. Because of this, treatment had to be delayed.

Being in the hospital is never fun, but the treatment was successful - the infection cleared and Wayne the Drain was removed for good!

During the stay, pathology from the December 10th node removal came back - and all lymph nodes were NEGATIVE for cancer. On top of that, the pharmaceutical company pitched in to provide funding for Fintan's treatment out of compassion. It's the best news we had in a long time.

Fintan's surgical oncologist downgraded him to a Stage 3A - which has a 93% survival rate after 5 years.

He will be starting physio soon to help overcome the limited range of motion & numbness in the left arm due to the surgery.

Immunotherapy started yesterday (see picture) and will continue every 2 weeks for the next year. We are hopeful side effects will be minimal, but we know we can tackle anything that comes our way. We still have a long road ahead but it's hard not to smile a little with all the good news as of late.

Oh, and Fintan? Through all of this the smile hasn't left his face. His positivity is contagious.

Sending so much love & gratitude to all of you.
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This guy made it out of surgery #2! Rocking a fun & stylish lymphatic drainage bag that yours truly will get the honour of changing.
On Saturday, December 8, Fintan’s mother, Agnes Ward, was called home. It pains us to be in the hospital instead of saying goodbye, but we are so grateful that Fintan was able to travel back to Ireland to spend time with the family pre-surgery. She was an amazing woman who raised 4 wonderful children - one of which became my best friend and life partner.
Back when I was a young pup in university, I took a spring-break trip to Cuba. I started talking to a local girl my age about the hardships of living in communism and poverty. She said to me: “It’s like riding a bike. You have to keep going - you can’t stop. If you do, you’ll fall off.” I never forgot her or what she told me. It was years, however, before I realized she wasn’t talking about life in Cuba, but life in general.
For everyone who continues to support us through this - we thank you.
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We met our revised goal in less than 12 hours and we are in awe.

As per Fintan’s wishes, I will not be extending the goal for now. We appreciate your donations more than you can ever imagine.

If you are still interested in supporting, please continue to donate to this fund.

We love you all so much.
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