After a long four years and two months, Barry Marchi’s treatment stage in his battle against blood cancer has finally concluded.
Since September 2015 the Sparwood resident has been battling diffuse large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The Free Press previously reported that Marchi was southbound to receive a groundbreaking treatment for his sickness, CAR T-cell therapy, in Seattle, Washington. The new treatment cost $1.1M, but was covered by the provincial government.
After bone marrow biopsy’s, pet scans, bridging chemotherapy, lymphocyte depletion chemo, CAR T-cell insertion and more, Marchi returned to home soil and relished in his newfound freedom.
It’s Friday morning and Marchi is sitting in a coffee shop, bound for Cranbrook to receive a blood test.
In reflection of the past several months, Marchi said his 90-day trip to the U.S. was good – as good as could be. Sixty of the 90 days were spent at the University of Washington hospital, and 30 at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Although he is now visiting the hospital less, Marchi remains prescribed to several different drugs, meant to protect him from Pneumococcal pneumonia, of which he is highly susceptible.
Aside from avoiding big crowds and sick people, Marchi is a hypothetically a free man. Now, it’s a waiting game. Speaking to his recent CAR T-cell treatment, Marchi said it’s a one-shot deal.
“It’s a one-shot deal right now,” he said. “Time will tell.”
When Marchi left Seattle, he received a pet scan, which showed that the CAR T-cell therapy had been extremely effective. Several tumours on his body had receded, which his doctors were happy to see.
“They were quite happy with the way the therapy went,” said Marchi. “They didn’t expect a clean slate.”
In one month’s time, Marchi will travel to Vancouver for further examinations, which will allow time to show the true effectiveness of the treatment.
“It’s running about a 70 per cent success rate, and out of that 70 per cent, about 50 per cent have had a prolonged remission,” said Marchi. “Whether it’s a cure or not – in the cancer world they don’t really say you’re free or cured until after five years.”
Now that the dust has temporarily settled, Marchi said it feels good to still be fighting.
“I’ll be honest with you, there’s a lot of people that don’t make it that far, and their battle is short-lived,” said Marchi. “I feel pretty grateful to have the chance to still be fighting it, and keep fighting, and possibly cured, or (have a) substantial remission.
“A substantial remission of 20 or 25 years, hey… at this stage what more (does) a guy want?”
Although his battle is not yet over, Marchi thanked those who have been with him on his journey thus far. In June, a fundraiser for the Sparwood man raised over $80k, which helped Marchi recover from years of unemployment due to his battle with cancer.
“The support I’ve had, you know, pre, during and post… the community, the whole valley, the people from across the country… as far as California, all supported me,” said Marchi.
“Just the gratitude that you feel from knowing that, and having that done to you, it’s quite amazing, overwhelming. How do you pay back, tell people, or show your appreciation for that kind of stuff?”
Since it has consumed his life, Marchi has kept up-to-date with any medical news in Canada. He was excited to hear that CAR T-cell therapy has officially begun in Quebec; a first for the country.
Over the past four years, Marchi has made many friends; not just the members of his medical team, which he profusely thanked for never giving up on him, but friendships also formed with those battling similar diseases.
After the story surfaced about Marchi’s pursuance toward treatment in the United States, a man from Vancouver Island seeking guidance contacted him. Last week they again spoke, and Marchi was excited to find out that the man was home from his treatment in the United States, and in good spirits.
“It gives people a new hope, of beating this, and surviving it,” said Marchi.