A ONE-OF-A-KIND FATHER
It all started with pain in the right knee. Terry Chow, Mandy’s father, was an active 46 year old, so pain in the knee wasn’t at all alarming.
Mandy was just 17 years old and in her last year of high school. She was contemplating where to go to university, moving away from home for school was always a dream, a dream both of her parents supported.
Terry went for an x-ray and ultrasound, which all showed normal results. An MRI, blood work, CT scan and tissue biopsy later confirmed otherwise; Terry was diagnosed with B-Cell Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in November of 2008. “We were all surprised to say the least. My dad rocked a full head of hair, played badminton regularly, ate a balanced diet, and was only ever out of breath when laughing at my brother, Ryan, and I. Though our family was nervous, we were confident both in science and our dad.”
Terry underwent 4 gruelling months of chemotherapy at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. For the next couple of years, he was considered to be in remission and continued with regular check-ups. Flash forward to February 2014, a bump on his right elbow was biopsied and confirmed the cancer was back. He was just shy of his 5 year milestone.
“This experience brought our family together as strange as that sounds. Our family typically took a trip once a year, but when my dad was sick we started doing regular weekend trips together; this was a way for our family to connect on a more positive front.” Terry's next treatment steps included a stem cell transplant and GDP chemotherapy - both were a success and he was cleared of cancer.
While Terry was in and out of treatment, Mandy made the difficult decision to go to Western University in London, Ontario, a 90 minute drive from home. “This was a big decision, do I move away from home? Do I stay? In the end I think it was important for my dad to see me grow up and take chances, we didn’t want cancer to change our lives in more ways than it already had, so I made the decision to go, but over the 4 years I came home a lot.”
In 2016 Terry began feeling pain in his right shoulder; once biopsied, it was confirmed the lymphoma was back yet again. Terry started his first clinical trial in August 2016, which helped to shrink the tumour to undetectable levels on CT and PET scans. 5 month later, he was unable to move his right shoulder and doctors confirmed the tumour had started growing. After 3 weeks of daily radiation treatment, Terry decided to try another clinical trial. It worked for a few cycles; however the tumour began to grow again.
The doctors told Terry that there was no treatment in the world that would help him get better, so he should go travel and do the things he loved to do. Terry and his wife went to England and then later to Japan.
“Even though my dad looked physical heathy, we knew he was progressively getting worse. We had 3 months with him in palliative care and I believe that’s more than most families get, I am grateful for that time.” On New Year’s Eve of 2017 Terry passed away after a courageous 9-year battle with cancer.
Mandy and her family continue to grieve the loss of Terry; a wonderful husband, father and friend. “Looking back, it was a good 10 years. It’s just hard to think about no new memories being made. I know that the memories I have will fade over time, or be less vivid.”
“We talk about my dad whenever we think of him; he will be a huge part of our lives forever.”
Mandy and her family continue to support the cancer community. Mandy participates in The Ride to Conquer Cancer, she is also involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada’s Ambassador Leadership Committee; a group of dedicated individuals that advocate, engage, and raise funds for blood cancer research and patients support programs. “My dad had an incredible support network over the past 10 years. I want to continue to give back.” – Mandy Chow