Deb Martin knew that something was seriously wrong. She had difficulty swallowing and she felt an uncomfortable pressure in her upper abdomen. That was in 1999, when Deb’s journey with cancer began and she was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“My immediate thought was that I was going to die,” recalls Deb. “Surgery wasn’t an option for the grapefruit-sized mass in my abdomen, so I underwent nine rounds of chemotherapy in Guelph. Luckily I was in remission less than a year later, but it was always in the back of my mind that the cancer could return someday.”
When Deb’s oncologist retired a few years later, he referred her to Dr. Tom Kouroukis at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC) for regular follow-up appointments. In 2008, Deb’s worst fear became a reality when the cancer became active again.
The second time
“A CT scan showed that the cancer had spread to multiple nodes throughout my abdomen,” she explains. “I immediately had a sick feeling because I dreaded the thought of going through more chemotherapy.”
Dr. Kouroukis suggested that Deb participate in a clinical trial at JHCC involving infusions of an antibody. She felt relieved when testing indicated that she was a good match for the trial.
“I had weekly intravenous infusions for one month. To my delight, the trial was successful and my cancer was in remission again. That was 10 years ago and the cancer has not become active again.”
Ten years cancer-free
Instead of dwelling on the difficult aspects of her cancer journey, Deb chooses to keep a positive outlook on life and celebrate her 10-year milestone.
“My experience with cancer has definitely made me stronger,” she says. “I never take anything for granted anymore and I enjoy the simple pleasures in life. By sharing my story, I hope to give hope to other people on their cancer journey and help show them that positive outcomes are possible.”
“Donors make an enormous difference for cancer patients like me.”
Deb still visits JHCC annually for checkups and she is always happy to see the friendly faces of those who made such a difference in her life.
“The people there are amazing and I feel so lucky to have received such quality care. I always felt like I was in good hands. Thanks to Dr. Kouroukis and the amazing staff, I’m now able to enjoy retirement.”
Thankful for donor support
She is also grateful to donors who help to enhance the patient experience with their support.
“Donors make an enormous difference for cancer patients like me. They help to fund important equipment and research to ensure that JHCC stays on the leading edge of care. That can make all the difference in the world.”
Deb is proud to be a patient ambassador for Illuminight, a new fundraising event supporting the cancer program at JHCC. For more information about the event, which will be held on October 26 at Earth to Table: The Farm in Flamborough, visit hamiltonhealth.ca/illuminight.