‘I will not give up’: Cancer patient turns to international treatment to live longer

Click to play video: 'Montreal-area woman not willing to give up despite terminal cancer diagnosis'
Montreal-area woman not willing to give up despite terminal cancer diagnosis
WATCH: A 36-year-old woman living just west of Montreal is in a fight for her life. Melanie Roussel has qualified for a medical procedure that she and her family believe will buy her some time. But in order to access the treatment, which is performed in Honduras, she needs to come up with tens of thousands of dollars to cover the cost. As Global’s Phil Carpenter reports, it's considered Roussel’s last hope. – Jan 29, 2024

Mélanie Roussel just wants to live as long as possible.

The 36-year-old woman from Vaudreuil, Que., was first diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in March 2022. After grueling chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, she found out that the cancer had come back and metastasized to her liver in spring 2023.

“I am in pain. I’m tired but I keep finding ways to keep going,” Roussel said in an interview Monday.

Different forms of chemotherapy have been unsuccessful in shrinking her tumours, leaving Roussel in agony. Since December, she has been hospitalized every two weeks for the excruciating pain.

“They gave me maybe three months,” Roussel said of her time left to live as she wiped away tears. Her medical team in Quebec has “done everything.”

Since she was first diagnosed, Roussel has advocated for herself and delved into research. While she knows she can’t cure her aggressive form of cancer, she is determined to change the timeline she has been handed.

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In the last few months, she has sought out different medical teams for alternative treatments in other countries like Germany and Portugal.

Now, she has finally found an option that won’t cure her cancer — but could at least give Roussel more time to spend with her wonderful family and friends, including her boyfriend and his nine-year-old son.

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“Everybody wants to live, right?” she said.

Mélanie Roussel, 36, was first diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in March 2022. GoFundMe campaign

Through a clinic based in the United States, Roussel was recently approved for a treatment called targeted osmotic lysis, a procedure used to target advanced cancers that have already spread. The treatment— which is likely Roussel’s last hope to prolong her life — begins in February in Honduras.

The costs of the treatment, along with the plane ride and a place to stay have quickly added up, though. Each treatment costs about $12,000 US, which is roughly $16,000. Roussel will undergo at least three rounds in the coming weeks but she may need as many as six rounds of treatment in total.

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Kalila Rahaman started an online fundraiser last year to help her best friend after it became clear the cancer was going to be difficult to treat. They have been inseparable since they met at a summer fair when they were both nine years old.

At just 36 years old, she says Roussel is too young to die.

“We know she won’t have a full life ahead of her but I want her to have the next couple of years,” Rahaman said.

The last two years have been devastating, but Rahaman is proud of Roussel who has been positive and energetic, even somehow finding a way to make it easier for her worried loved ones.

“She has been so strong,” Rahaman said. “She’s literally the strongest person I know.”

The goal is to ensure Roussel makes it to Honduras and doesn’t have to worry about mounting costs. The expenses for the clinic need to be paid in full before the treatment.

With Roussel expected to board an airplane in just over a week’s time, they have raised over $27,000 but at least $50,000 is needed.

“We need help,” Rahaman said. “So I’m just pleading for any amount, from anyone possible to help us.”

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The entire experience has been mentally and physically draining for Roussel, but she said she thinks she deserves the chance to live longer than three months.

“I will not give up,” Roussel said.

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