'I just want to keep going': Abbotsford father with brain cancer needs funds for treatment in U.S.
ABBOTSFORD - Estelize Masales calls her husband Ryan her "idol."
"I can’t think of a single day where he’s complained about having been dealt this card, which seems so unfair," Estelize told CTV News Vancouver as she swallowed back tears.
Ryan has been living with a devastating diagnosis for more than three years now. The 45-year-old veteran police officer and father has a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme, and recently, he and Estelize learned the tumour has grown.
"It’s terminal brain cancer. It’s the same cancer that Gord Downie had, and I believe Senator John McCain," Estelize said.
He was diagnosed after experiencing a grand mal seizure in August 2016. Estelize said they received the news after a brain scan, surgery, and a biopsy were performed.
"Ryan has always been, besides the best thing I ever found, also the strongest person I know, and it was hard sitting in his neurosurgeon's office and hearing those words," Estelize said.
Ryan’s eyesight has also become affected recently. He’s now lost peripheral vision and most of the sight in his right eye.
"Ultimately, I just want to always, every day, keep fighting through what’s happening. So I’m always that mind over matter," Ryan said. "I just want to keep going and hope that it’s going to change."
However, the treatment Ryan is currently receiving is only slowing the progress of the disease as opposed to stopping it. Estelize said Ryan has already had more than 55 doses of chemotherapy, the maximum amount of radiation he could ever have, and two brain surgeries.
"We’ve exhausted everything that’s available to us in the world of conventional treatments," Estelize said.
The family’s next hope is a study being conducted at the Ivy Brain Tumour Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Estelize said it’s a trial specifically geared towards people with glioblastoma multiforme and incorporates two types of drugs that have already been approved for breast cancer treatment. She said they are having great results with the people they are treating so far, and Ryan’s cancer has the exact characteristics the study is looking for.
"That means that the treatment there could potentially, if not be extremely effective for him, save his life," Estelize said.
Ryan would have to undergo another surgery as part of the study, and he wants to give it a try in the hopes of extending his time with his wife and his seven-year-old son, Ryder.
"If it’s going to last longer for me, and it gives me three more years, then that’s awesome. If it gives me 10 years, that’s even better," Ryan said.
"To be there when Ryder’s 12 years-old, 15 years, 20—I wish I could be there. I hope I can," he said. "But also there’s realism with everything that happens, so it’s a tough thing for me."
Estelize said the medical services plan will not provide funding, so they are hoping to raise $200,000 so Ryan can participate in the study. An online fundraiser has already raised more than $60,000.
"When you’re in our situation, and you have exhausted all conventional treatments, you are left with two options: one is to give up, which has never been an option for us, and I know Ryan’s biggest motivation is our seven year-old. And your other option is to look at what’s out there, and fight to stay alive," Estelize said.
Estelize recalled the experience of going to their mailbox on Wednesday and opening it to find a letter and a $50 bill.
"The letter was the official letter from the medical services plan saying that they won’t fund Ryan’s treatment, and the other was a $50 bill dropped off anonymously by somebody who wants to help Ryan get the treatment that he needs," Estelize said.
The couple are grateful for the support they’ve received so far. Ryan said it’s like he has an army around him.
"They’re always there with Estelize, my son, me, and they’re there to fight with us. And that’s the best thing that I’ve ever had," Ryan said.
The support is also evident around their home, from signed photographs with messages of encouragement to drawings by Ryder telling his dad to fight, using his longtime policing nickname "Chopper." The words "knuckles up" are also tattooed on Ryan's hands as another reminder, he said, to keep fighting and never stop.