An Ottawa-area woman battling metastatic breast cancer is flying to Germany on Monday for a second round of a treatment that she is not eligible to receive in Canada. Her husband, meanwhile, is trying to raise $250,000 to cover the cost.
Sarah Haddad, now 30, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 at the age of 26. She underwent chemotherapy and a lumpectomy and was cancer free in 2015. But in March, she learned the cancer was back and it had spread – or metastasized — to her liver and bones.
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“The roughest part was just watching it not work and nobody giving us an alternative option,” her husband, Matthew Haddad told, CTV Ottawa. “They just said, ‘Let’s hope what we’re doing works, and if it doesn’t, then too bad.’”
With no other options in Canada, the couple looked into regional chemotherapy, a treatment in which anti-cancer drugs are pumped through an artery to directly target a tumour, rather than through the body as a whole. While regional chemotherapy is used for some cancers in Canada — such as pancreatic cancer, some abdominal cancers and certain melanomas — it is not an approved treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
Dr. Andrea Eisen, a medical oncologist at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, previously told CTV News that regional chemotherapy for breast cancer is not supported in Ontario because it remains “unproven.”
“We like to have really solid evidence from clinical trials and we simply don’t have that for regional chemotherapy for breast cancer to date,” Eisen said.
German doctors, however, say that the treatment has been successfully used on patients like Haddad for decades.
“If we can prolong a life at a good quality then we reached what we wanted, what we are aiming at,” Dr. Karl R. Aigner, the medical director of Germany’s Medias Klinikum clinic, told CTV News.
The treatment comes with a staggering price tag. The Haddads have already spent about $55,000 on the treatment, and they’re planning to spend another $100,000 on the next round of treatment and related travel expenses.
For Matthew Haddad, it’s worth the cost. “It was just too painful to watch and know there was another thing out there that we could try,” he said.
To raise the money, So far, with the support of nearly 900 friends, neighbours and strangers, they have raised more than $108,000 of their $250,000 goal.
“This stuff chokes me up every time,” Haddad said as he read heartfelt messages of support posted to the GoFundMe page. “It’s amazing to see how far reached it can get nowadays with social media.”
Sarah received her first round of regional chemotherapy in Germany in May. Results, her husband says, were almost immediate.
“An hour after treatment, she’s banging on the table for food,” he recalled. “And here, when we get home from chemo for a day, two days, three days, I couldn’t cook in the house.”
Although Haddad knows there are no guarantees that regional chemotherapy will rid his wife of cancer, he said that it has given them hope.
With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver and files from CTV’s medical affairs specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip