An Aldergrove truck driver was recently diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, a battle made increasingly more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luke Harris – after visiting a local walk-in clinic Feb. 26 – was told to head straight to Langley Memorial Hospital’s emergency room.
His partner of five years, Ashley Ferguson, said when she got there “he was dripping sweat, with a puddle of it on the ground and he was white as a ghost” from abdominal pain.
It was seeing “the strongest person she knows” collapse in tears, that Ferguson knew something was terribly wrong.
“It was really disheartening when nobody listens to you and just looks at you like just another number in the ER and tries to get you in-and-out quickly,” Ferguson related.
Eventually, blood test results from the walk-in clinic proved Harris had some sort of infection due to high protein concentrations discovered in his blood.
An ER doctor sent Harris for a CT scan, which revealed he had spots on his liver that appeared cancerous.
After two more CT scans on Feb. 27, a surgeon told Harris they wanted to perform surgery to tackle what they thought was diverticulitis; infected pouches in his intestines.
After six-and-a-half hours in surgery, Harris came out with a stage four colon cancer diagnosis and a colostomy bag.
There had been a tumour that broke through Harris’ colon wall, causing the extreme abdominal pain and a host of other symptoms.
“He was shocked to come out with a colostomy bag,” his girlfriend said, but the hospital’s post-op nurses and porters were very supportive as Harris navigated the new territory.
The cancer has also spread to his liver, she added. Harris’ prognosis is that without chemotherapy he would have three months left to live.
“It has made him realize how precious time is and how important the people around you really are,” Ferguson said.
Fighting cancer in self-isolation
Harris isn’t giving up his fight with cancer, he said.
He started oral chemotherapy on Monday, and has switched to a plant-based diet at the advice of his BC Cancer Agency doctor.
Harris will start liquid chemotherapy treatment at Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s cancer centre in just over a week.
“I’m doing everything I can to fight this,” he said.
Though, both Harris and his girlfriend have been out of work due in part to the diagnosis.
Harris is now on medical Employment Insurance (EI) and Ferguson hasn’t been able to operate her house cleaning business due to the impacts of COVID-19.
The diagnosis, combined with complications from the pandemic, have compounded bills the couple still has to pay for their home and mortgage.
The couple has started a GoFundMe campaign to help with the cost of his naturopathic oncologist treatments and supplements not covered on MSP.
So far the web page has raised over $11,000 for Harris’ fight to live.
“It would mean so much to have help to alleviate the financial strain due to being off work,” Ferguson added.
The couple is currently self-isolating at home, with their two dogs, during Harris’ first weeks of treatment.
“We take walks, wear masks, make memories, and laugh and eat delicious vegetarian food. It is not so bad,” Ferguson said.
But Ferguson said she doesn’t want to do this life without him.
As of now, “the unknown is really scary and still lingers in the back of our minds. But we are being positive and praying for the best,” she said.
Harris has also used his time in recovery to urge people with a family history of cancer to get screened for the disease.
Both of his grandparents had bowel and colorectal cancer, he said.