VANCOUVER, B.C. - Jesse Kaltio was 22 years old when he was working at an elementary school in Carrot River, Saskatchewan, feeling as though he needed antibiotics for what he thought were swollen lymph nodes that just wouldn’t go away. He was shocked when a doctor asked him to look in a mirror and lift up his chin and pointed to a large lump that went up and down as he swallowed.
That mass turned out to be cancer of the thyroid.
Jesse Kaltio, 41, with his three-year-old twins. Kaltio has relied on BC Cancer for help and support throughout his cancer journey, saying the level of care has been “phenomenal.”
After having surgery to remove the tumour, Kaltio had another operation for what turned out to be a cancerous growth on the other side.
That was nearly 20 years ago. Those encounters with the disease would not be his last.
In 2009, after Kaltio had moved to Vancouver, his cancer returned, this time in the form of atypical follicular lymphoma on his face. He needed surgery and radiation. Two years later, just prior to his wedding in South Africa, it came back, on his forehead.
More surgery and more radiation followed.
Just over five years later, he felt a lump on one of his buttocks.
In all, Kaltio has had five surgeries and 39 rounds of radiation.
Now 41, Kaltio is doing well, working as a registered clinical counsellor with downtown street youth and raising his three-year-old twins with his husband.
As a patient of BC Cancer, he has approached his health in a no-nonsense way.
“The types of cancer I’ve been diagnosed with have never been described to me as a life sentence,” Kaltio says. “With vigilant treatment, it’s more of a pain in the ass — literally.
“Vancouver is one of the best places to be if you’re dealing with something like this,” he adds. “I grew up in small-town Saskatchewan, and depending on what you’re dealing with, sometimes the resources aren’t as readily available. The level of care at BC Cancer is phenomenal.”
Vancouver-based Jesse Kaltio has been on his cancer journey for almost 20 years.
In fact, BC Cancer patients have some of the best outcomes in the world.
There are various types of lymphoma, each of which presents and behaves differently and calls for different treatments. Experts at BC Cancer are delving into genetic events that precede the disease, factors that are unique from person to person.
“We’re particularly interested in precision medicine: trying to match the genetic mutations or makeup of the cancer to treatments and identifying what the best treatment would be for the patient,” says Dr. David Scott, BC Cancer clinician-scientist. “We’re also interested in what causes relapse, and how we can do better in treating those patients. It’s important to match the biology of a patient’s tumour to a medication or treatment that will work. It’s really important for patients to get the best response with fewer side effects, and this enables society to maintain a sustainable health care system.”
Scott is proud of BC Cancer’s pursuit of translational medicine. The term describes the process where a discovery made at the lab bench is implemented in patient care to improve outcomes.
A testament to BC Cancer’s renown is that Scott came to Vancouver from his native New Zealand because of his interest in lymphoma. “This place is world-class for lymphoma research and care,” he says. “We take a multidisciplinary approach, and we also have province-wide guidelines. It doesn’t matter if you’re diagnosed in Prince George or Vancouver: you will get the same quality of care.”
Kaltio’s experience is just one example of how donor support of the BC Cancer Foundation is changing the outlook for the one in two British Columbians who will face a cancer diagnosis in his or her lifetime.
One way to show support is by participating in the Workout to Conquer Cancer, which runs throughout the entire month of May. Hundreds of people across the province will commit to move every single day to raise funds for the BC Cancer Foundation.
To show his gratitude to BC Cancer, Kaltio, will run the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 5. “I want to do this to pay it forward and show appreciation,” he says.
The Workout is a feel-good way to be physically active, boost energy and mood, and support the kind of cancer research and care that saved Kaltio’s life. Presented by RYU Apparel, the monthlong event doesn’t require people to run a marathon; any kind of physical activity counts, whether it’s walking, dancing, or going to a fitness class.
To learn more and to register for Workout to Conquer Cancer, please visit www.workouttoconquercancer.ca. To learn more about the BC Cancer Foundation and to donate, please visit www.bccancerfoundation.com. To donate to Jesse's fundraising page, please visit: http://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/bc-cancer-foundation4/jessekaltio
This story was written by G. Marion Johnson, created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of BC Cancer Foundation.