My name is Danielle Balfour; Danie. I am a caregiver. Not just any caregiver but the sole caregiver of a loving and caring husband with stage-4 lung cancer!
After 38 years as a federal public servant in Ottawa, Ontario; the last years as the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for Ecosystems and Fisheries Management across Canada, my husband David Balfour retired in August 2014. Four months later, he was diagnosed with inoperable stage-4 lung cancer. The cancer involved a large tumor in his left lung, two smaller tumors in his right lung, a small tumor on the back of his left shoulder and one on his hip. The prognosis was 6 months without treatment and 10 to 12 months with treatment. Over the next few months, the Oncologist made it very clear that the treatment was palliative.
David is determined to beat the odds; after all he is his own statistic. After some soul searching, he developed what he calls an “integrated approach” to his cancer. In addition to conventional medicine, David changed his eating habits, started “imaging” in order to create his desired result, practiced meditation, crystal healing and started Kundalini yoga (the yoga of awareness). Those who knew David were surprised that he embraced these approaches; they asked me where did David go?
In 2015, David endured six treatments of Cysplatin and Pemetrexed, and eight “maintenance” treatments of Pemetrexed – both intravenous chemotherapies. The results were incredible. His tumors reduced by over 50%.
After the maintenance program, David just got sicker and weaker. He could not do much of anything. The treatment just kicked him right down. But we did not give up hope and stayed positive.
On March 31st 2016, David started on a new intravenous immunotherapy lung cancer drug named Optivo. After eight treatments the overall reduction in his tumors was about 65%. He was starting to feel like himself again. I was relieved. It was like a huge weight released from my shoulders. I had my husband back!
In early July 2016, David started coughing up blood; something he had never experienced. Long story short, after invasive bronchoscopy and surgery for a pulmonary embolism, he was quickly moved to ICU due to a lack of oxygen flowing through his lungs. The plan was to put him on a breathing machine; of which the doctor indicated he might never be taken off. To everyone’s surprise, he left the hospital, breathing on his own after 11 days. Another sigh of relief.
Back home, another setback. David got sick… and sicker… and sicker. I brought him to our family doctor. Tests confirmed that he contracted a parasite. He was put on a strong dose of antibiotics that resulted in dizziness and nausea. He fell three times in one day! Luckily he only got cuts and bruises – no bumps to the head. For me, the stress and worry were back.
On August 24, 2016, after a MRI of the brain, we were told that 6 small brain tumors were found. David underwent 5 whole brain radiation treatments. What a scary and worrisome process.
After the radiation, David had major headaches, dizziness and fatigue. He had less appetite and was totally “out of commission”.
One week after the radiation treatment and a CT scan of his lungs and stomach, we received positive news. The lymph nodes, nodules and tumors in his lungs had shrunk and there was no further spread.
David was reassured that the headaches and other symptoms would slowly go away.
He continued with the immunotherapy, Optivo. By November 2016 they had given him a total of 16 Optivo treatments.
In January 2017, he started a chemotherapy treatment of Docetaxel. After the fourth treatment, he had a brain MRI and a CT-Scan. We saw his oncologist after his 6th treatment. We were told that his lung tumour had shrunk a little more and his bone mets were gone. However, there were a few very small brain tumours for which we will be seeing the Radiologist.
David approach and results have inspired people who have been told his story and gives hope to those in the face of such a devastating disease.
As for us, the integrated approach to our battle with lung cancer continues!