Barry Marchi says treatments in Canada have largely been unsuccessful, so he is turning to a new form of care in hopes of finally leaving his condition in the past.
Marchi, a 56-year-old man from Sparwood, was diagnosed in September 2015 with Stage-4 Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the lymph system. The lymph system is part of the immune system and helps to fight infections and certain diseases, while also helping fluids to move throughout the body.
He says his prognosis was Stage-4 Aggressive and Extensive, essentially meaning that his doctors told him his condition is unmanageable.
"None of the standard therapies have proven [to be] effective on it. I've always relapsed, so I'm refractory is what they call it. You have six months then the disease starts to show again."
Marchi says he has taken every kind of standard care treatments that are available in Canada, adding that even typical stem cell therapy did not do much to help.
Due to the ongoing transborder healthcare issue carrying on between the governments of B.C. and Alberta, he has been unable to access facilities in Calgary, which would have normally been one of the better cities to go in Western Canada.
There is some hope, however, as he is set to undergo CAR T Cell therapy in the United States.
"It's not available in Canada, there are a couple of small clinical trials that are happening now in Vancouver and Toronto, but down there, it's a standard of care."
The American National Cancer Centre says CAR T Cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy treatment approved by the U.S. in 2017 that involves "adoptive cell transfer", where the patients' own immune cells are used to treat cancer.
"Mine will be going to San Jose," says Marchi. "They're altered and grown there, it takes about three weeks, and then they re-insert them. Then I will be brought back to Seattle for some conditioning therapy, which is basically just a high-dose chemotherapy and then they re-insert and then you're hospitalized."
Cost, however, will be a significant hurdle, as he says healthcare, especially for foreigners in the United States, is extremely expensive.
He estimates that the final bill will be as much as $1.1-million.
Marchi will not have to bear all of the costs himself, though, as Kootenay-East MLA Tom Shpyitka was able to get out-of-country care approved, while the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is doing what they can to help.
There will still be a lot left to pay out of pocket, so friends of Marchi have organized a fundraising event titled "Barry Marchi Fighting the Fight Against Cancer."
It will include a golf scramble, BBQ, and silent auction at the Sparwood Golf Club. It starts at 2:00 pm on Friday, June 21st at the Sparwood Golf Club.
Update: According to a new post from the official event page, the event is now sold out.
Audio: Barry Marchi (on cancer treatments in Canada)
Audio: Barry Marchi (on timelines for the CAR T Cell therapy)