Leon D'Silva

For as long as he can remember, the then 62-year-old Leon D’Silva had always been a self-motivated gym fanatic and physical fitness guy throughout his adult life. He usually used to hit the gym 4 days per week for about 2 hours at a time doing intense workouts, from which he built up a lot of shape and muscle and a very strong and physically fit body. His career was also important to him in that he had been working full-time for 34+ years specializing in sales and corporate training across India and the Middle East. Being such a positive, upbeat, fit, and healthy guy conquering such a fulfilling lifestyle with his wife and two sons, he thought he was swinging the world by the tail, and illness / least of all, cancer was the last thing on his landscape outlook.

However, life had it different for him when in October 2018, he had some mild lower back pain that initially wasn’t too bothersome, but thereafter started getting worse over the course of 5 months. After visiting 5 different doctors in Dubai where he lived, Leon was told they were stress fractures and was prescribed pain killers and physiotherapy. However all the visits to the doctors and orthopedic surgeons had no avail because it was just the run of the mill x-rays, physiotherapies, etc that was prescribed. Finally in Feb 2019, one doctor agreed with Leon to do an MRI. The MRI was done, which did not look good, and a CT scan was done, only to reveal a strong possibility of two tumors in the lower lung that was secreting a fluid down on to the lower rib cage and spine.

Fast forward, Leon was recommended to consult with one of India’s top oncologists in Bombay, wherein after consultation and a PET scan revealed that there were tumors in both the lungs, the liver, vertebrae, lower rib cage, etc. By Feb 18th, 2019  it was confirmed Leon had been diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which was a huge shock to him and his family and friends. His initial prognosis was only 3-6 months as he had metastases everywhere in his body (hence the back pain), including his bones, ribs, shoulder, femur, hip, 13 vertebrae, liver and both lungs; to say he was in pain was “an extreme understatement”. He had difficulty standing up for long, yet even sitting and lying down was uncomfortable because of the extent of the metastases across his body.

Chemotherapy was immediately started in the hospital in Bombay, which was hard on him but effective at clearing many tumours while others remained stubborn. His physician then recommended immunotherapy called Keytruda, which he started soon after his chemo treatments were complete. “Having an active lifestyle and being such a crazy gym guy before my diagnosis gave me incredible strength and strong immune system to endure the nearly 20 difficult sessions of chemotherapy and immunotherapy”.

After having taken the 20 odd treatments with the illness being stubborn, so to say, Leon experienced a distinct calling from God that told him to go to back to Canada. So with his wife in August 2020 after nearly 20 years away from the country, he left his two sons and moved to Canada. Once he settled in Toronto, he started on radiation and chemotherapy again, but after a few sessions it ultimately was not working. His oncologist at Credit Valley Hospital, Dr. Rother, then recommended a clinical trial happening at Princess Margaret Cancer Center, and under the able and professional care of Dr Natasha Leighl he was put on for a new RET-fusion targeted therapy medication - pralsetinib. Leon saw it as an act of God when it seemed like the end of the road, and was extremely grateful to be accepted into the clinical trial. He started on this new treatment in March 2021, and has continued to be on it ever since. It has worked like a miracle for him, and as of February 2022, scans revealed most tumours in his lungs and spine were gone, and the two lesions in his liver had reduced to just about 2 to 3 cm in diameter from earlier bigger sizes. It was a remarkable change that has allowed Leon to go from having trouble simply turning on his side in bed because of extreme pain, to being able to walk close to 3 km every other day, slowly and with caution. He attributes the great success he had with his new treatment to the “3 P’s: extreme prayer, extreme positivity, and physical activity of the past”. 

“I have always been an extremely positive and optimistic individual, and especially after being diagnosed with cancer, which seems like a dead end, it’s important to just stay positive as much as you can. No one can win the war on their own, it takes teamwork between God the doctors, nurses, everyone around me who helped out, my family, true friends and of course, you have to believe in yourself too. I continued to fight the cancer and stayed positive throughout, because what will negativity do? To everyone who has lung cancer, the extreme positivity is very much needed. You have to visualize the outcome you desire with extreme positivity. It will help the medicine work, and God’s will fall into place to heal the wounds.”

With the success Leon has found with his targeted therapy treatment, it has started allowing him to look forward to a healing life in the future. He recently started documenting his journey on social media, and even took on a new hobby of oil painting that he tries doing as long as he has no pain. He’s eager to soon get back to normal physical activities he used to love doing, thanks to the new research and thanks to the watchful eye of Dr. Leighl and her dedicated team. In fact, even the nurses, the people who carry out the scans, x-rays and bloodwork etc all have been just ‘kind and professional’ to say the least. New targeted therapies have allowed patients like Leon to enjoy their quality of life. He is still under treatment happily living one day at a time here in this great country called Canada. Last but definitely not the least rather the foremost, Leon believes the doctors dress the wounds and prescribe medicines and have a watchful eye with God / Christ doing the healing. Without faith in God and faith in the doctors and medicine, healing is far away.