Symptom-Free and Enjoying Life
About 10 years ago, Robert Haughian began experiencing some mysterious symptoms. He had flushing of the skin and general discomfort but neither he, nor a team of doctors and specialists, could figure out what was wrong.
Even though it was a long shot, his doctor at the time suggested a test for neuroendocrine cancer, a disease of the hormone-producing cells. The results came back positive.
“The problem is that most doctors have no idea how to treat this disease,” says Robert. “I remember one doctor saying, and it kind of shocked me, ‘There's not much we can do for you. However, you're in good shape. You've got 10 good years left. Enjoy them.'”
After a referral to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Robert was eventually diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) with primary tumours in the small bowels as well as others that had travelled elsewhere in his body.
After receiving standard treatment, he was enrolled in a Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT) clinical trial in 2016 under the direction of Radiation Oncologist Rebecca Wong.
The trial would change his life.
“What this means is that we can damage the cancer cells while sparing the normal cells – exploiting the cancer cells' unique characteristics to attract radiation to them,” says Dr. Wong. “And that results in shrinkage of the tumours, delay of cancer progression and hopefully prolonged life as well.”
A few months after the treatment, Robert was symptom-free. He is now a fierce advocate for more doctors being educated about neuroendocrine cancer and making the PRRT he received more widely available.
“For somebody who was declared to be Stage 4, my life is very good.”
Robert says he is planning a trip to Greece in the fall and Palm Springs in the winter. He wants people to know that he feels almost born again, but he also wants them to know that he isn't being unrealistic.
“This treatment, wonderful as it is, does not cure the disease. I still have it, and that's OK. Life is good. I'm enjoying it.”