An Aggressive Cancer Requires An Aggressive Treatment
In 2006, Michael Brady was diagnosed with polycythemia, a mild form of blood cancer. At first, it seemed like a manageable disease. With luck, Michael's cancer journey would have ended there. But eight years later, his condition deteriorated.
In January 2014, he was diagnosed with a more aggressive type of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) called myelofibrosis. This situation was much more serious. This, he was told, gave him a possible life expectancy of four years.
“I was taken aback,” says Michael, who was 41 at the time. “My wife was, too. It's hard to describe. It's almost like an out-of-body experience where you're hearing what's being said to you and it's almost like you're monitoring your own reaction to it.”
Michael turned to Dr. Vikas Gupta, an internationally recognized hematologist at The Princess Margaret for help.
“He said that the cancer is not only a fatal form of cancer, but it's also extremely aggressive. But I liked what he said next: ‘Since it is aggressive, we have to be aggressive with how to treat it.'”
Dr. Gupta suggested Michael take part in a clinical trial, one that combined a drug known as a JAK inhibitor with a bone marrow transplant.
He would be the first Canadian, and only the third person ever, to take part in such a trial.
And he was determined to be a model patient.
“Mike did a wonderful job,” says Dr. Gupta. “He asked what he could do from his side and I said, ‘You need to go into the transplant in your best shape' and he said, ‘OK. I'm going to train like I'm going on a space mission.' And he worked very, very hard.”
While the training was both mentally and physically demanding, the most challenging part for Michael was writing letters to his two young sons.
“It was for them to open when they're 16. I wrote, ‘Regardless of how this turns out, I want you both to know how I feel about you today. And hopefully, I'll be able to open this letter with you. But if not, you'll at least know how much I loved you.' That was hard.”
Michael was prepared for the worst, but the trial was a success and his cancer is now in remission.
“I was given a gift. If I think about how vast Canada is, to be located where I was located, in proximity to this great hospital, I'm just so fortunate. The right timing, the right hospital, the right doctor, the right donors that help contribute to the hospital, the right program. So that's a lot of what you'd have to call luck.”
Read more about how Dr. Vikas Gupta is treating patients like Michael Brady