A City man fighting terminal cancer is desperately seeking support from the community for further treatment.
Jason Kom-Tong, 35, is battling stage four cancer and has been given months to live.
He and his family are hoping that he can travel to Arizona for specialized treatment, but it’s costly. They are trying to raise about $175,000.
“My drive is to be a father for my kids, and to able to also dance at my daughter’s wedding,” he writes on a board as he is unable to speak.
Kom-Tong, husband to Bambi and dad to six-year-old Zack and four-year-old Kisenya, was diagnosed with stage four squamous cell carcinoma or tongue cancer.
It has now spread into his blood stream.
It was back in 2006 that he first noticed an unusual mark on his tongue.
Since then, he has been going to doctors asking them to help him figure out what was wrong.
“It was just a little tiny line – a little white spot at the very back and along the side,” recalls Bambi. Jason was told to simply keep an eye on it at the time.
In 2008, it started to change shape and move closer to the front of his tongue.
A biopsy was done, which came back negative.
Another biopsy was done in 2009, again with negative results.
In 2011, he went for another as the sore wasn’t healing, and in fact was becoming more painful.
“Between 2006 and 2009, it would come and go. The spot was always there, but it would be a little painful, and then it would go away. He was able to go about his daily normal functions. It was like a paper cut in his mouth – that is what he would always say it felt like.”
In 2011, it became like a persistent cut that pretty much always hurt.
A biopsy was done in Vancouver.
Unfortunately, the report never, for some reason, made it to the local physicians.
Nobody got any information. At that point, it was called dysplasia which is described as a kind of pre-cancerous condition. “It still wasn’t cancer at that time, but it was a pre-curser.”
Over the next while, his conditioned worsened. More tests were done.
“The first biopsy they did was negative.” But shortly after that, another one was done a bit further back and a bit deeper on his tongue.
“It was cancer.”
That was at the beginning of 2013.
It’s been a devastating, grueling process for the family to say the least.
Jason has had major surgery in November of last year as well, as doctors removed part of his tongue and essentially replaced the cancerous part with muscle from his arm.
He then underwent 33 sessions of radiation and three sessions of chemotherapy.
“They thought they had it all, but unfortunately there were some cells left behind.”
This past May, they discovered cancer had returned to his mouth and had also spread to his jawbone.
A second surgery in July was done to remove his tongue (glossectomy), and again re-build it using his own muscles and then permanently attaching his new muscle to the floor of his mouth.
In September, he had sores on his face and eventually learned they were cancerous as well. They had also metastasized into his blood stream.
“It has the potential to move anywhere,” said Bambi, adding it’s been described as an aggressive form of cancer.
Doctors have also since told Jason there is nothing more they can do for him. But he and Bambi aren’t about to give up the fight.
“You just keep looking – he’s such fighter, he has such a fighting spirit, there wasn’t anyway that he was going to give up.”
Through extensive research, they learned of a treatment facility in Arizona called the Envita Medical Centre where one of the treatments includes a chemotherapy that zeros in on the precise affected area.
Instead of a generalized treatment, this type of chemotherapy is based on a specific biopsy zeroing in on the area.
“Everyone’s genetic make-up is different; everyone’s cancer will react differently to the different chemotherapies.”
It’s estimated he would need to be at the facility for about four months to receive the various treatments which also include immuno-therapies, nutritional therapy and detoxification therapy.
Meanwhile, every day is a struggle.
Jason communicates by writing on a board. He cannot eat normally, but receives his nutrition through a stomach tube. His weight has dropped to about 111 lbs.
And in the last few weeks he has encountered difficulty breathing due to severe swelling where his jaw was removed and his floor of his mouth was rebuilt.
It was deemed necessary to put an opening (tracheotomy) in his neck so he can breathe.
Meanwhile, they’ve raised about $45,000 to date and Bambi said the treatment centre is willing to work with them in terms of a payment plan.
For more details about how to support Jason and Bambi, visit http://www.gofundme.com/hdrsdw.
Coming up is a fundraising event at Bo’s Bar and Grill on Dec. 6th starting at 7 p.m.
An online silent auction is being held to raise funds as well.
Check out the facebook link at ‘Online Auction to support the Kom-Tong family’.
Meanwhile, Bambi and Jason are very thankful for the outpouring of support they’ve witnessed thus far.
“Red Deerians have been amazing. To see Red Deer come together to help our family, it’s more than I could have ever imagined. It’s been staggering – the support we have received. We thought a few friends and family would help us out, or get a bit of the word out. But this has been above and beyond.”