Barry Marchi’s spirits are high as he continues treatment in the United States.
The Sparwood resident has been battling diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) since 2015. When he was told by doctors in Canada after countless treatments that they could no longer treat him, he turned to look for other options.
The 54-year-old has his hopes pinned on CAR T-cell therapy, which involves genetically altering the patients T-cells – a type of immune system cell – so that they attack the cancer cells. For this he travelled to Seattle, Washington.
A week after the community of Sparwood raised over $80k in a fundraiser for the local man at the end of June, Marchi received the call to go south. In addition to this, Marchi was extremely grateful that the government confirmed they would cover the cost of his treatment, which will add up to a hefty $1.1 million.
Since July 1 Marchi has been state-side. He has since undergone over 20 treatments including bridging chemotherapy, and he will soon undergo lymphocyte depletion chemo, with the 22nd of August tentatively set for his CAR T-cell insertion. For this he will be admitted to the University of Washington Medical Center. Last week he underwent a bone marrow biopsy, a PET scan, and more.
“They’ve run me through the gauntlet,” said Marchi, laughing. “They’ve been on top – it’s an excellent facility.”
As of Monday, Marchi was on track to be assessed Wednesday for lymphocyte depletion chemo, and if ready, treatment will start Saturday. This is a process of reducing the red blood cell count to make room for the new CAR T-cells, so that they’re not overcrowded.
Marchi is very much looking forward to this final stage of treatment.
“I’m ready to rock-and-roll,” he said.
Marchi’s blood cancer, which presents itself in bulging tumours in every place imaginable, flared up again while he was in Seattle, one the size of a hockey puck, another the size of a golf ball under his foot. Unable to walk, he started using crutches, and was immediately put on chemotherapy drugs. Ten days later, it was ‘flattened out’ and Marchi threw the crutches away.
Marchi’s doctor continues to encourage him, saying they need to stay ahead of the disease until the CAR-T cells arrive.
“The cavalry’s coming, was his quote” said Marchi.
Marchi says he feels very fortunate to be in the states receiving this treatment.
“And I think I’m pretty lucky. Because if I was up in Canada, I believe it’d be a totally different scenario for me,” he added.
Marchi explained that previous articles led him to get in touch with a man from Vancouver Island who is in a similar situation as he.
“I’ve been in contact with him, and he’s been approved to come down here,” he said.
“I’ve talked to him three or four times, to a great extent over my experience so far. I try and keep him up to date with how things are going.”
Marchi is grateful that his story has helped shed light on the disease, and help other people. This, he said, was the main reason he wanted to share his story in the first place.
“It’s something that us as the valley can be proud of,” said Marchi.
Marchi says he has been in constant contact with friends and family, and that the support from the community hasn’t stopped.
“I’ve had a lot of texts and calls, sometimes it’s hard to keep up,” he said. “I’ve had four or five people visit me while I’ve been down here.”
Now, Marchi is in it for the long haul. A few days ago he was presented with a piece of paper which stated that if he backed out now, he would be responsible for covering the $375,000 USD for the last stage of treatment.
“If I were to say today, I’m done, the Province won’t pick up that tab, and I’m on the hook for it,” he said.
Without hesitation, Marchi signed it.
“I’m not going to back out,” he said. “I can’t put a dollar sign on my life.”
Spending all this time state-side has reminded Marchi how much he loves the Elk Valley.
“I’m missing out on the beautiful Elk Valley summer to try and get many more,” he said.
Marchi hopes to be home in Sparwood by October.