Sean’s Story

It was only a month before Sean’s wedding, when life as he knew it changed forever.

Diagnosed with a rare form of aggressive, incurable thyroid cancer, the future now looked uncertain for Sean and his fiancé Aly.

Our donors generous past support helped fund the genetic testing that eventually led to Sean’s diagnosis.

Over the last two years doctors and scientists have been building infrastructure in the genomics lab to enable genetic testing at CancerCare Manitoba. They could not have done it without the help of our donors. The earlier patients are diagnosed, the better their chance at recovery – and donor-funded local testing helps speed their time to diagnosis.

In the fall of 2017, after qualifying for genetic testing, Sean learned that he carried the hereditary gene – MEN2A – which increased his chances of developing thyroid cancer.

Immediate surgery was recommended and within a few months Sean underwent a complete thyroidectomy. With the support of Aly, his family and friends, he seemingly made a full recovery and had one of the busiest years of his life. Preparing for a wedding, starting a new job and travelling the world, Sean was truly making the most of every day.

Sean & Aly at Their Wedding

Then Sean’s life was once again turned upside down.

At his one-year follow up appointment, testing showed abnormal levels of calcitonin in his blood – a possible sign of thyroid cancer. Sean and Aly feared the worst. After undergoing more in-depth testing in June 2019, just over a month before his wedding, doctors gave Sean the heartbreaking news that he had advanced cancer.

“We met with Dr. Gordon, and that was the day everything crumbled apart.”

Sean’s cancer was in his lymph nodes, chest, trachea, lungs and liver. It was rare. It was aggressive. And there was no cure. The only treatment available could slow the cancer, but it would still progress. With a prognosis of one to four years, Sean knew he had to live his life to its fullest. His wedding to Aly proceeded 36 days after his diagnosis and is one of the happiest days of his life.

Sean’s cancer journey then took a turn in the right direction.

He was accepted into a clinical trial for a therapy that would specifically target the MEN2A genes causing his cancer. Incredibly, within four months of starting on the trial the tumours in Sean’s body had shrunk significantly, showcasing the tremendous power of treatments based on an individual’s genetic profile.

Our donors loyal support, which enabled Sean to be tested for this rare gene mutation at CancerCare Manitoba, has made a real difference.

The next, critical step in improving and expanding genomic testing for Manitobans requires support from donors like YOU . Processing genome sequences requires a tremendous amount of computer processing power – more than humans could ever do.

Gifts from donors will fund the $64,000 data platform that will enable research scientists to analyze a wider variety of genomic sequences and to do so much more quickly.

Doctors will use the software on an almost daily basis as they work to uncover rare and abnormal gene sequences. This data will help them identify appropriate cancer treatments and develop new therapies.

Drs. Spriggs & Banerji in genomics lab

You can help expand genomic testing in Manitoba and help save lives.

Expanding the genomic testing program will allow more patients to be provided with treatments directly linked to their individual genetic circumstances – improving patient outcomes and ultimately saving lives.

Today Sean is focused on living his life to the fullest. He continues to undergo regular scans and bloodwork to monitor the cancer in his body. On his last scan, the cancer cells were nearly undetectable.

While this is promising news, it’s time-limited.

Eventually Sean’s body will become immune to the cancer therapy treatments and start to fight back. His levels of calcitonin will increase. The cancer will return.

Your gift today will ensure advancements in genomics research continue at CancerCare Manitoba so there will be another option available in the future for Sean, and for other Manitobans like him.

Being diagnosed with cancer has changed Sean’s outlook on life. The small things don’t matter as much anymore and he’s focused on what’s most important – making the best of every day along with his supportive wife Aly and his loved ones.

Please consider making a donation today in support of advancing research in Manitoba, and in support of Manitobans living with cancer like Sean.