Carla Schutte, a resident of Armstrong, is sharing her story to bring awareness to the life-saving work being done at BC Cancer-Kelowna and shed light on the real impact the centre has on Interior cancer patients like herself.
Schutte was first diagnosed with adrenal cortical carcinoma—a rare form of adrenal cancer—in 2014 after finding a lump under her ribcage. For four years, she underwent numerous surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, but tumours continued to grow and spread, including to her peritoneum and brain.
Dr. Edward Hardy, Schutte’s oncologist in Vernon, remained determined to find a treatment that would work, and Schutte credits him for always staying up to date on the latest research. This paid off when, in 2018, he found a new, global clinical trial that Schutte fit the criteria for.
In a stroke of good fortune, Dr. Susan Ellard was running this very trial at BC Cancer-Kelowna, just an hour from Schutte’s home.
Donor support has helped make clinical trials available at all BC Cancer’s regional centres, and the Kelowna centre is the now second busiest clinical trial unit in the province. Its leading-edge research gives hope to local patients, like Schutte, who otherwise would not have access to these innovative, life-saving treatments.
“It’s amazing,” she says. “Every time you think there’s nothing more they can do, there’s another advance that comes around and gives you chances.”
Schutte was nervous to start the new treatment but says Dr. Ellard’s reassuring presence eased her concerns.
“The word ‘trial’ in itself was scary at first. You think ‘Will this work?’ But Dr. Ellard was so calming. There are some people you meet, and you know they are in the right field. Dr. Ellard is one of those people.”
Schutte’s care team closely monitored her with frequent blood work, CT scans and questionnaires. During the height of her treatment, she was at BC Cancer-Kelowna nearly every week and says the connections made with her doctors and nurses made all the difference in her experience.
“The staff in Kelowna know how to take care of you, they really do,” says Schutte. “The nurses talk to you and listen to all your fears or questions. It’s a scary place in the beginning, but it’s not a cold place. You walk in and even the receptionist knows you.”
The trial treatment has stopped Schutte’s cancer from growing and today she is stable, “graduating” to CT scans every three months instead of every six weeks.
And now Schutte is encouraging the Okanagan community to consider supporting BC Cancer-Kelowna to help ensure Interior residents diagnosed in the future have access to the same quality of care she received.
BC Cancer Foundation is currently fundraising for a new $6.1 million world-class systemic therapy suite. This facility will increase Kelowna’s capacity to deliver treatments by 40% and bring more innovative, life-saving clinical trials to the Interior.
“It’s been incredible to see how the Okanagan community has rallied to support the centre over the years,” says Pardeep Khrod, BC Cancer Foundation’s executive director for the Interior. “With our aging and growing population, the demand for cancer care is only expected to grow. The new systemic therapy suite will not only help meet this need, but will also ensure Interior patients have access to the latest, most effective therapies.”
This World Cancer Day support BC Cancer-Kelowna at bccancerfoundation.com as it goes beyond barriers for B.C.’s Interior.
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.