Seven surgeries. That is how many Rob Burridge has had to endure since his cancer diagnosis in June 2016 at the age of just 32.
Rewind to March 15, 2015. After experiencing abdominal pain for the good part of a day, Rob’s wife Marcy convinced him to go to the Emergency Department at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH). It is one of Vancouver Island’s busiest and that day in March was no exception. A CT scan showed a thickening of his colon wall and Ulcerative Colitis was the suspected cause. Rob spent the night at NRGH and discharged the following morning.
Rob visited his family doctor soon after and was told that hemorrhoids were the cause of his rectal bleeding. Given the possibility of Ulcerative Colitis based on the CT scan, his doctor requested a colonoscopy for a definitive answer and then the wait began.
Rob continued to eat his regular diet with no complications. Even enjoying the rich food and variety of wines at the Tofino Wine Festival had no negative impact. He was beginning to wonder if Ulcerative Colitis was not the issue. The colonoscopy would determine this either way. Unfortunately, Rob’s colonoscopy was postponed twice.
In June 2016, the day finally arrived for Rob to have the colonoscopy. The results were devastating for this young father and his family. Cancer was found in his rectum and a CT scan shortly thereafter found lesions in his liver; lesions that were not there when he had the first CT scan in spring 2015.
Fast forward to September 2019. In addition to the seven surgeries, the most recent of which was done on September 24th, Rob has undergone a number of other treatments since 2016 including:
- 28 rounds (so far) of IV chemotherapy – the first round started just a few days after his wedding
- 25 rounds of oral chemotherapy with 5 weeks of radiation treatment in Victoria
- 7 doses of an experimental drug at $10,000 per infusion which was ultimately covered after some uncertainty
- Plus a wide range of alternative supplements and off label medications designed to complement his standard of care cancer treatment
Rob receives his chemotherapy at NRGH but must travel to Vancouver regularly to see a team of medical specialists who are guiding his ongoing cancer treatment and monitoring his overall health.
As many have experienced, such a serious diagnosis impacts more than just the individual patient. Rob’s cancer also affects his family. Throughout Rob’s aggressive treatment regime, he has been unable to work at his trade as a heavy-duty mechanic. Marcy, a hairstylist, now works out of their house so she can help him when he needs her. Being there for him is important to her and their son Elijah. In a lighthearted moment, she said that it also means Rob is around all the time; looking for things to keep him busy while she is trying to get her work done! Throughout the interview however, the tremendous emotional toll it has had is apparent. The stressors over the past three years have affected Marcy’s mental health as well as her physical health.
Rob’s cancer diagnosis has changed their lives in so many ways and the future remains uncertain. Despite this, Rob is determined to create something positive from this ordeal. This includes sharing his story to help people understand the importance of colonoscopies and the need for increased access to them. What could potentially have been a routine colonoscopy with the removal of pre-cancerous polyps in 2015 is, instead, years of treatment with no immediate end in sight.
We can only assume what could have been for Rob. What we do know for sure is that when the new surgical suite for the Endoscopy Department at NRGH is completed, capacity will increase by up to 35%, dramatically reducing wait times for patients of all ages across Central Vancouver Island. Colon cancer can be prevented when pre-cancerous polyps are detected and removed before they turn into cancer cells. The sooner we can get our loved ones in for a colonoscopy, the sooner their diagnosis and treatment.
We thank Rob and Marcy for sharing their story with us. By raising funds to build the new surgical suite, we are reducing the chance of someone having the same story. Please click here to learn more about our campaign to raise the remaining $1 million needed to build a new surgical suite for the Endoscopy Department at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.
Thank you for your support!