Until a few months ago, I was completely naive about cancer. Last summer, my family found out my aunt had breast cancer. Fortunately, though, doctors caught her cancer very early and we are hopeful that the treatment she has undergone has saved her.
On March 9, 2015, however, my family was struck with cancer once again. We found out my husband, Mark, has two, six-centimetre tumours in his lower spine. This was a shock! My husband had an MRI in December 2014 that showed nothing in his lower spine. Where could this cancer have come from?
My husband had an appointment at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie the very next day. He was first treated at Royal Victoria and underwent emergency radiation to his lower spine, as the tumors were impacting his ability to walk.
We then found out Mark had a tumor in his chest wall, which was growing rapidly. After a biopsy on the tumour in his chest, doctors informed us that my husband had lymphoma. Initially, the working diagnosis was diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, so doctors urged my husband to undergo chemotherapy. However, we were shocked to learn that after the first round of chemotherapy, the tumour in Mark's chest was still growing!
As if it wasn't enough to hear that, doctors then found lymphoma in Mark's sinuses and leg. Suddenly, his right arm began malfunctioning, but no tests could tell us why.
Now, doctors believed my husband had lymphoblastic lymphoma and booked Mark an appointment at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.
On April 23 of this year, Mark was admitted into The Princess Margaret and remained there for over a month. He had radiation to his neck, where doctors found the tumour that caused his arm to stop working, and chemotherapy for lymphoblastic lymphoma.
Doctors at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre also completed two new biopsies and scans, as something was telling them Mark's diagnosis was not correct.
Ultimately, we found out Mark has a very aggressive uncharacterized lymphoma. His cancer is so rare that there is no protocol or standard of treatment.
Mark is in the midst of his chemotherapy treatment at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, but is able to come home between chemotherapy cycles.
Mark is 52. We have a blended family of three children, Sam is 23, Josh is 22 and Alexandra is 21.
Our family cannot thank The Princess Margaret enough. They give us hope and we are confident in their care and treatment direction. The nurses have been incredible and the doctors on the lymphoma team are brilliant.
Even during Mark's treatment at Royal Victoria Hospital, the doctors were contacting The Princess Margaret for their expertise. It is clear to me that even if you are not treated at this top cancer research centre, your treatment is a direct result of experts, research, education and care at The Princess Margaret.
To give back to this outstanding cancer centre that is saving Mark's life, I am participating in the inaugural Shoppers Drug Mart OneWalk to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre on Team Cancer Crusaders
When this cancer journey began, it was a crazy whirlwind and I was terrified and had no grounding. Although we are just in the middle of this journey, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre has allowed me to breathe again - if that makes any sense. When we walk into The Princess Margaret, it's like our second home. I'm comfortable and confident the right things are being done and I trust them to care for Mark.
With that, I will help raise thousands of dollars with Team Cancer Crusaders and walk 25-kilometres on September 12 to support The Princess Margaret's goal to conquer cancer in this lifetime. Join me by visiting onewalk.ca.