An Edmonton father has a rare and deadly cancer but he’s determined to live as long as possible for his young family.
Chris Sargent, 39, was hiking with his family in B.C. this summer, oblivious to the cancer that was wreaking havoc inside his body.
“Everything was normal,” Sargent explained. “I was ready to go back to work. Our family had lots of plans. We were looking at Christmas plans and everything stopped.”
In August, he started feeling a dull pain in his stomach. He thought it was gallstones. It turned out to be Stage 4 bile duct cancer.
“There’s no words to describe it. It’s such a shock,” he said.
Tests revealed a tumour on his liver the size of a grapefruit. It had spread too, impacting both his lungs and lymph nodes.
“Surgery to say, remove some of the tumours, isn’t an option for me right now because there’s too many and they’re in places that are really difficult to operate.”
A few days later, Sargent was still trying to digest the news when his world was rocked once again. His wife, Sofia Pastorino, was pregnant.
“The emotions were overwhelming already, and then to learn you have a baby coming, it was pretty cool,” he said.
“It was some good news. But as the same time, it makes things even more scary.”
Sargent is worried about leaving his wife as a single mother of two. He’s concerned about their finances without his income and is in the process of filling out life insurance papers, reviewing his health benefits and transferring the utilities to Pastorino’s name. He also wrote a will.
Sargent says when he spends time with his toddler, Juliana, he wonders if each memory could be the last they share.
“You start thinking about: ‘What are those things that I have left to do?’ And most of it is spending time with certain people,” he said.
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Sargent’s oncologist, Dr. Hatim Karachiwala, said the outlook for him is bleak.
“Unfortunately, survival is measured in months for these patients because it progresses quite fast and the chemotherapy regiments are not as good as we want,” Karachiwala said.
Bile duct cancer is rare and deadly.
“The most common symptoms patients usually show up with are jaundice, weight loss, fatigue and having some abdominal pain,” Karachiwala explained. “The problem is these symptoms don’t show up until the cancer is at an advanced stage.”
Sargent is undergoing chemotherapy and is involved in clinical trials at the Cross Cancer Institute to try and extend his life. His baby is due at the end of April and he wants to meet her.
“I’m a positive person and I just keep thinking, ‘This can’t be the end.'”
He sent a biopsy for testing to see if his cancer can potentially be cured with any alternative treatments outside of Canada. But that would be at his own expense. A GoFundMe page has been started to help the Sargents with any costs associated with his illness.
As an avid hiker, marathon runner and healthy eater, Sargent doesn’t know why he got this cancer. However, he’s hopeful that sharing his battle will inspire others to live each day like it could be their last.
“I think about it now, in a practical way. Each morning, I’m glad I woke up. I’m glad I’m here,” he said.
“All of our lives are precious and they could be short-lived. There’s a lot that we should be thankful for.”