A Fort Langley mom has seen an outpouring of generosity as she and her family fundraise to help pay for weeks of travel across Canada to seek specialist treatment for a rare cancer.
Tanya du Toit’s GoFundMe campaign has already raised more than $33,000 of a $55,000 goal to help her travel to Toronto for a major surgery.
“It’s been really overwhelming to see so much support,” du Toit said.
After a four-year battle with cancer, and the additional stress of getting through the COVID-19 pandemic, she saw there were still so many good people in the world, du Toit said.
Du Toit’s cancer first appeared four years ago, and it was her OBGYN who originally noticed something was wrong and got her sent for a diagnosis.
She was found to have a stage 4 thymic carcinoma, a cancer that begins on a gland located at the top of the sternum, just between the collarbones.
Pregnant with what she had been hoping would be her second child, du Toit was told she had to make a difficult decision – have an abortion, or wait months until after giving birth to start much-needed chemotherapy. She regretfully had the abortion.
“At the time, I had a two-year-old I needed to think about,” she said.
She was determined to seek treatment, because she wanted as much time as possible with her son Jensen and her husband, Jacques.
After chemotherapy, du Toit was told she was likely a palliative care patient – that nothing could likely be done through surgery. But after meeting with a local surgeon, he said he didn’t feel confident taking on the task himself – but it wasn’t impossible.
Unsatisfied with the options they were getting from local doctors, the du Toit family set out to get more advice farther afield.
A trip to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in the United States – an out of pocket expense for the family – resulted in a referral to a specialist in Toronto. While it was far from B.C., it was hope.
“A month later, I was on the operating table,” du Toit said.
By the time she saw a surgeon, the tumour was about 10 centimeters in size, and it was pushing on and invading her lung and even her heart. She would come out of the surgery with only one working lung, with major scars, and she’d face side effects from radiation and chemo.
“It was a tough recovery, a lot of pain,” du Toit said.
It was also tough on the family’s finances. They had to move to Toronto during the lengthy treatment.
“We lived there for six months that year,” she said.
Du Toit estimates the family has about $100,000 of debt related to travel and medications from the last four years of her struggle with cancer.
The current fundraiser was launched not to pay off the debt, but to make another trip to Toronto for surgery possible.
Du Toit currently has a large and painful tumour in her lower back behind her kidney. She can’t lie on her back or one side, or even sit on the couch, and is taking heavy pain medications.
She’s hoping to have it removed in Toronto.
“Taking out a large tumour will hopefully buy me a little more time with my son,” she said.
Jensen is now seven years old. She’s hoping to hold on as long as possible to be with him, and so he has more memories of her when he’s older.
She’s still encouraged by the support she’s had, saying her colleagues from her job at Langley’s Marlin Travel have been there for her over the last few years.
“They’ve been an amazing support to me,” she said.
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