Jason Kom-Tong is defying the odds and living beyond the terminal cancer time frame doctors gave him.
Every day is something special for the Red Deer man, whose birthday — St. Patrick’s Day — might just be helping to bring him a little much-needed luck.
Jason is back in the city for a short visit with his wife Bambi and two young children, through the upcoming Family Day weekend. He has been undergoing experimental immuno-therapy treatment in Vancouver that has resulted in measurable and remarkable improvements in his health.
Reaching his 36th birthday seemed impossible last October when doctors said he had only three months left to live. In fact, his doctors in Edmonton had not scheduled him for any future appointments. Now another birthday doesn’t seem so unreasonable.
Bambi, 33, said on Tuesday that her husband’s immuno-therapy treatment was really just going to buy him time so he could make it to Arizona for more specialized cancer treatment. They still don’t know what the future holds — but Jason’s condition has improved.
Jason has aggressive Stage 4 tongue cancer, diagnosed in 2013. He underwent extensive surgery at University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, including tongue reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He had a second surgery to remove his tongue, and a second reconstruction. His lower jaw was removed. He had to learn how to walk again after a bone from his leg was used to reconstruct his jaw.
It is still difficult for him to speak because of a tube in his throat and most people cannot understand him, said Bambi.
In December, Jason was accepted into an experimental treatment program at Vancouver Centre: B.C. Cancer Agency, because he was considered terminal. He began the treatment while Bambi, and their two children, Zack, six, and Kisenya, five, stayed home in Red Deer. He has received five rounds of the immuno-therapy, administered intravenously, and has been staying with relatives in Vancouver. His next treatment is a week away with seven more to follow.
Jason came home on Saturday when he drove here with a friend. He returns to Vancouver on Monday.
“Oh my goodness. They’re so great,” Bambi said, regarding how things have been going.
Bambi said that when Jason left for Vancouver, he weighed 111 pounds. He’s gained 20 pounds. The cancer that was building in his neck and face is completely gone. The cancer at the base of his skull has shrunk.
“That’s not usually supposed to happen with immuno-therapy. The immuno-therapy is just to slow the progression of cancer so that it’s not growing bigger or creating new tumours. For Jason, it’s working even better than that.”
Still, doctors won’t make any predictions about Jason.
“He’s feeling really good,’ said Bambi.
“The fact that the sores on his face are down makes him more comfortable with going out in public, whereas before it was, very, honestly, damaging to his self-esteem.”
“He’s able to do things with the kids, he’s able to do little bits of grocery shopping, which seems so small to us because we do this every day but for him. … Before he left for Vancouver, I had to help him down the stairs, he needed assistance with everything and now he’s able to do things on his own.
“Now that the immuno-therapy has bought us more time, it gives us a little bit more time to do some fundraising and try to get enough money and send him down to Arizona.”
They need about $175,000 to get him specialized individual chemotherapy treatment in Arizona.
Through fundraising events, about $70,000 has been raised, of which about $4,000 has been spent on flights, medicine and food supplements for Jason, Bambi said. Jason cannot eat normal food.
“Our goal is $100,000 more to go to Arizona for the individualized chemo treatment he would get there,” she said. They hope to be able to do that in mid-May, right after he has completed the treatments in Vancouver.
“They always tell you not to get your hopes up … but it’s so difficult not to get your hopes up when you see him and see how much he’s changed from where he was.
“He was knocking on death’s door. It was scary. It’s terrifying. I can’t even put into words how terrifying it is to be in that situation and know that something terrible is going to happen and see it slowly happening every day.
“But with everybody’s prayers and thoughts and well wishes, I truly believe that if you just think positively, positive things will happen,” said Bambi, who sounds as bubbly as she talks.
A special kind of interpreter, she understands what her husband says. She asks him: “Jason, is there anything else you would like to tell people? “ There’s a pause. “Thank you. He says thank you.”
People can donate online at ‘Help Jason get treatment in Arizona’ at http://www.gofundme.com/hdrsdw.
For anyone wishing to donate, there is more information as an update posted by Bambi on the Facebook page ,Online Auction to support the Kom-tong family.,
As well, a trust account has been established at the CIBC bank, called ‘Jason Kom-Tong Trust.’