Community

Cancer patient still counting blessings

Anneke Searcy (centre) and Sam Caviglia are planning a fundraiser for April 6 to raise money in support of her father, Edwin (left) who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  - Contributed photo
Anneke Searcy (centre) and Sam Caviglia are planning a fundraiser for April 6 to raise money in support of her father, Edwin (left) who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
— image credit: Contributed photo

When Edwin Searcy was told further tests were needed following a prostate biopsy two years ago, he wasn’t concerned.

The healthy father of four, 57 at the time, had no symptoms of being ill and was even reassured by his doctor that the results would most likely show a clean bill of health.

However, when the results came in a month later, the Crescent Beach resident was hit with the news that he had multiple myeloma – a rare and incurable blood cancer that can lead to bone tumours, organ failure and a weakened immune system.

“It wasn’t like something had been wrong with me and you’re wondering what it could be. It was out of nowhere. I’ve basically been diagnosed with an increasingly chronic, somewhat manageable but incurable cancer,” Searcy said.

After the diagnosis, Searcy had to face another obstacle: breaking the news to his family.

“It was definitely a shock and it was hard to understand, because with this type of cancer, everyone’s case is so different,” Searcy’s daughter, Anneke, said.

“We wanted to look for answers, but it’s hard to get any. That made it really hard, and knowing there was no cure for it.”

In the two years since her father was diagnosed, Anneke said there have been many ups and downs –including a stem-cell transplant that failed to put the cancer in remission. But Searcy, a former Crescent United Church minister, credits researchers with developing medication and methods to treat and manage the disease.

Through chemotherapy and drug treatments, Searcy – who is now minister of University Hill Congregation of the United Church in Vancouver – has been able to live his life almost as he did before, with the exception of medical visits and checkups.

“The good news of this story is that for the first time in history, really, they’ve been figuring out how to treat this disease,” Searcy said.

Searcy also noted that two new drugs have been approved in the United States and will be making their way to Canada within the next year or so. As well, a number of drugs are being put through clinical trials, with patients testing out the effectiveness and side effects.

“Eventually some drugs wear off, and cancer finds a way around them. So when those drugs are proven not to work anymore, you go to the frontline to try other drugs,” Searcy said. “You’re basically a guinea pig. You have the benefit of accessing a drug that can help you, but there is more of a risk.

“I’m benefitting from people who tested the drugs I use now, so it’s kind of like a team effort. It’s patients, families, doctors and researchers, all working in concert around the world.”

With Searcy to soon undergo clinical trials, Anneke wanted to find a way to support her father and others going through the same situation.

The 25-year-old South Surrey resident – who was adopted as a baby from Korea in 1988 – and her friend, local musician Sam Caviglia, have organized a fundraiser for Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital Foundations’ hematology clinical trials unit at VGH, which enables patients to receive promising new drugs in order to assist research into multiple myeloma and other related blood cancers.

“The whole process from being diagnosed to now, it leaves you feeling a little bit shattered,” Anneke said. “But this seemed very fitting, as my dad was finishing up with a drug and about to start clinical trials, to do a fundraiser to support him.”

The fundraiser is set for April 5 at Elgin Hall, and will include live music from popular Peninsula performers – including the Sumner Brothers, Phil Dickson and CavigliaMillerWangWilliams Band – a silent auction and barbecue. Initially the goal was to raise $5,000, but after a donation page was set up with help from VGH staff, the fundraiser has already brought in $4,700.

“You sort of wonder what would happen if I was diagnosed with an incurable cancer, and then you are. You kind of have to live with the shock for a while, but eventually it just becomes part of your life,” Searcy said. “In a way, it just gives you the opportunity to enjoy the blessing of all the people around you who care about you.”

For tickets ($20), call or email Anneke at 778-891-9664 or anneke05@hotmail.com

To donate online, visit http://tinyurl.com/myleomafundraiser

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