Community rallies behind Regina woman battling cervical cancer
REGINA -- A Regina woman’s family is sharing the story of her ongoing seven-month battle with cervical cancer to raise awareness about the disease that affects thousands of Canadian women.
Katie Daschuk was screened for cervical cancer after having her third child, Jack. Sixteen months later, she was diagnosed with the cancer that affects women’s reproductive system.
“We were all very surprised because Katie had actually had a normal pap smear screening just recently before that, after the birth of Jack. So no one was really thinking about that,” Jordan Marit, Daschuk’s brother, said.
The 33-year-old’s cancer went undetected, despite getting the screening within the Canadian Cancer Society’s recommended one to three year pap test window.
“Cervical cancer screening is a great effective tool and we want to believe it works but obviously her case was strange in the fact that the cervical cancer screening didn’t pick up atypical cells,” said Marit, who is an internal medicine physician in Edmonton
Marit and his sister grew up with their parents in Willowbunch, Saskatchewan. He returned to Regina three weeks ago when his sister’s case worsened.
Marit said initially, Daschuk responded well to the radiation and chemotherapy aimed at the stage 3 cancer diagnosis she received in the summer. However, in December, doctors found the cancer had spread to her lungs and bones. The family decided to turn to a new form of treatment, pembrolizumab.
"No drug is a miracle drug but it’s been quite amazing, some of the effects it’s had in people that have melanoma, lung cancers, that kind of stuff,” Marit said.
However, the immunotherapy drug, which has a promising success rate for cancer patients around the world, comes with a steep price tag. One treatment is $10,000 and Daschuk requires 12. The family has set up a GoFundMe page, which has already raised over $200,000. Marit said the family is overwhelmed with the support and the additional money will help pay for extra treatment offered abroad.
Members of the community have also mobilized to offer support. Regina’s Tiffany Lester, a community outreach artist, decided to auction off some of her “Regina Happiness Rocks” to raise money for Daschuk.
“I’m struggling now with pre-cancerous cells in my cervix and I just can’t fathom to think there are still people who have to fundraise this kind of money to get life-saving treatment that they really deserve and they shouldn't have to pay this much money for,” Lester said.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 1,350 Canadian women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and that 410 will die from it.
Marit hopes his sister’s story mobilizes women to get screened or get the vaccine.