On December 27th, 2015 the world lost an incredible man whose courage was remarkable, matching his passion for life. The founder of a long-term care facility, he continued even after his shocking cancer diagnosis to focus on making a difference to better the lives of others. I'm proud to say this man was my father, Paul Flumian.
When my dad was diagnosed with ureter cancer in July 2014, our world was rocked. The tumour was localized and the size of a small grape -- surgery recommended as the best option. Within a month, the grape grew to the size of a plum. The tumour was removed from the ureter along with one-third of the bladder during a four-hour intervention.
A post-operative pathology report indicated that the margins and lymph nodes tested negative. Dad was in the clear...or so we thought. I remember the relief, the sense of gratitude expressed in my father's face as he sat in the examination room with my mom and I hearing the words, "you're cancer-free."
Despite the great news, chemotherapy was recommended as a precautionary therapy. Prior to starting, preliminary blood work showed abnormal creatinine levels and just four weeks post-op, a CT scan detected that the cancer had returned -- same location, two tumours: four and seven centimetres respectively. The words, "you're cancer-free" haunted us.
Doctors confirmed this was an aggressive cancer -- one they see every three to five years. My dad persevered and moved forward. He began a gemcitabine-cisplatin chemotherapy regime right away. During treatment, he developed a six-inch blood clot in his left arm where the PICC line had been inserted and accepted this as a small challenge that he would overcome.
After countless treatments, routine blood work, Lovenox blood thinner injections and CT scans, our Christmas wish came true. Dad's tumours had reduced to one centimetre and he was a candidate for a second surgery.
In February 2015, Dad underwent a 17.5 hour surgery at Toronto General Hospital. Lead surgeon Dr. Tony Finelli, with Dr. Neil Fleshner, Dr. Sean Cleary and Dr. Leonard Tse performed complicated surgery. The left ureter, kidney, bladder and prostate were removed to give Dad the best possible chance. He was given an ileal conduit, and ileostomy (as the tumour had begun to invade the rectum).
Surgery is hard. Chemotherapy is hard. Radiation is hard.
Several weeks post-op, Dad developed a 12-inch blood clot in his leg where the tumour had wrapped itself around the iliac vein. He rose to the challenge and received Tinzaparin blood thinner daily injections. When Dad finally came home following a two-month hospital recovery, he suffered symptoms that brought us to emergency at Toronto General only to learn that the cancer had returned and was localized in his pelvic region. Dr. Sridhar offered a chemotherapy trial and radiation. Dad was committed to anything that gave him the opportunity to fight.
I wanted to give my dad a memorable birthday celebration and wanted Dad to know that despite being confined to a hospital bed, he was still inspiring others.
So last year, I signed up for OneWalk to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre because I knew this initiative would help me to raise funds that would directly support the cancer he was fighting. I will never forget the sparkle in his eye when I told him -- he was honoured.
Together, we decided to name the team Finelli's Tumorators and designed the team t-shirt -- Dad loved being creative. Dr. Tony Finelli from Princess Margaret Cancer Centre was incredible, his unwavering commitment gave my dad strength, courage and hope to continue with treatment.
The 2015 OneWalk route included a stop at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Our team ran upstairs to bring hugs and smiles to my dad who inspired me to take on this challenge.
Surgery is hard. Chemotherapy is hard. Radiation is hard. But, when you experience what cancer patients like my dad are faced with and the courage they demonstrate to fight the battle, you realize that walking 25-kilometres is not hard.
As time went on, Dad's situation deteriorated and treatment was no longer effective. He made the decision to suspend intervention accepting only pain management therapy. We made this a very special time for my dad filled with laughter, smiles, story-telling and singing! Dad was proud of the life he lived, and we are blessed to have had him part of ours.
This Saturday, September 10th, I will participate in the 2016 Rexall OneWalk to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre as a birthday gift to my best friend, my hero, my guardian angel -- my dad.
Cancer has become a far too familiar word for many of us -- and so, we walk because we can't walk away.
It is truly remarkable to be brought together by so many individuals who have been victim to the disease -- whether they have suffered themselves or witnessed loved ones battle with conviction. Cancer doesn't just affect patients. Cancer affects families.
But, no matter how aggressive the cancer may be, it cannot impact the ability to love, enjoy life's wonderful blessings, or shatter faith. It is only when we come together and embrace the challenge that we can-cer vive.
This one's for you Dad -- Love you forever!
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