I’ve been a handful ever since I was little. I’m drawn to extreme sports and I love to test my limits. My mother used to say my battery was always charged to 150%!
Then in September 2014, when I was 10, I went to see Foresta Lumina with my grandparents. On our way back, my stomach started to hurt. But everybody just thought I’d had too much ice cream to eat.
The next day, I was supposed to go to speed skating practice, but I didn’t have any energy. And I still had a stomach ache. My battery was all the way down to 50%. That night, my dad noticed a lump in my belly while I was lying down in bed. We went to the emergency room. They drew some of my blood, did an ultrasound and a scan, and then took a biopsy of my liver…
Not long after that, we heard the words “liver cancer.”
They told me that I’d have to do some pretty serious chemo if we wanted to increase my chances of getting operated on. It was really hard. By the end of it, I was worn out. I couldn’t eat anything. They had to feed me through a tube in my nose.
Even after the chemo, the tumour couldn’t be operated on. So they put me on a waiting list for a liver transplant. I was on my way home on a day pass from the hospital when my mom got the call. My new liver came in on Christmas Day. I barely had time to pet my two cats before we had to hurry back to Sainte-Justine.
Unfortunately, there ended up being a problem with how the blood flowed through the hepatic artery. So I had to have a second transplant two days later. While I was recovering, I tried to build up my muscles. I didn’t even have enough energy to walk around my bed. They put me on enormous doses of magnesium. A pill every two hours. That’s when I noticed I was getting a little stronger…
By spring 2015, things were going well. I was back doing all sorts of things, from cooking to biking.
Then, right after summer started, Dr. Marzouki spotted something at one of my routine scans: the tumour was back, only this time in my lungs. I had to have another operation to remove a nodule from my left lung. And do even MORE chemo to keep the disease from spreading.
It sapped the life right out of me, and I had to put up with a bunch of side effects too. I ended up spending the holidays at Sainte-Justine for the second year in a row.
My folks would often say stuff like we were on a kind of adventure and that we’d soon see the top of the mountain. But it wasn’t so much an adventure for me as an ordeal.
That’s when I started dreaming about a pill that would cure my cancer…
In spring 2016, I was getting better, but there was still something off with my right lung. Oh, no… not chemo again!
Instead, Dr. Marzouki suggested a new treatment that was still at the experimental stage. It was called “targeted therapy.” It’s got a more complicated name too: oncogenomics. The idea is to fight cancer cells by using their genetic code against them. It’s a bit complicated, but it seemed like a very promising avenue, with a lot less side effects.
I said yes right away.
For the first time in two years, I was strong enough to go back to school and see my friends. Instead of having them hang around my hospital room, I went out biking with them all the way around the park. I even got back into my extreme sports and I went to my grad.
The reasons I can do all this is because of the donations people give to support research at Sainte-Justine. That’s what made it possible for me to get the targeted therapy I needed.
Today, I’m feeling pretty good. I have a thousand things on the go. I keep pushing my limits in my favourite sports. I’m really making the most out of life!
When I’m older, I’d love to go to MIT to learn about new technology, virtual reality, robotics and programming. I’d like to get into inventing things.
I was hoping that the doctors would find a pill to cure my cancer. It turns out we’re not that far off – and it’s all because of you.
Thank you for helping to keep me alive!
*The remarks expressed in this article reflect the opinion solely of the author and should not be considered as representative of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.