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Diagnosed with an extremely rare form of bone cancer, a Claresholm man is undergoing a unique treatment regime in Calgary, vowing to beat the disease.
Suffering from metastatic small blue cell cancer, Devin McCutcheon, 29, underwent the first of two stem cell transplants Thursday at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, part of a rigorous treatment campaign created by doctors here in conjunction with Dr. Jonathan Finlay, a Los Angeles-based oncologist who has successfully treated this type of cancer in the past.
What makes McCutcheon’s case rare is the fact Finlay had only seen metastatic small blue cell cancer in children under five, meaning there was no treatment protocol for adults.
“It’s totally different (chemotherapy) recipes than what they’ve seen here before,” said McCutcheon.
“In one way it’s good because now they know a lot from what I’ve had and what they’ve had to do.”
The second transplant is scheduled for two months from now.
This is actually McCutcheon’s second battle against the disease, his first diagnosis coming two years ago while he was working in the northern Alberta oilsands.
Suffering from chronic headaches he thought was the result of an abscessed tooth, McCutcheon went for further tests after removing the tooth didn’t stop the pain.
It was then doctors discovered he had an aggressive brain tumour — called a medulloblastoma — which was removed in December 2009, followed by nearly six weeks of intense radiation therapy.
One year later, McCutcheon was given a clean bill of health on what he calls “the best day of my life.”
Cleared to return to work, McCutcheon was back in the oilsands for just a few weeks when he developed intense pain in his hip.
Further tests revealed the worst — bone cancer in both hips, his pelvis, spine, left shoulder blade and collar bone.
At first doctors told McCutcheon he would likely die from the disease, but that “just wasn’t an option” for him.
“I’m just doing what I gotta do to get through it,” he said.
“You can’t just lay down or you won’t win and I’m winning.
Along with beating the disease, McCutcheon said his goal is to one day meet Finlay.
“I would love to shake that man’s hand and say ‘thank you very much,’ because I was told by two specialists here I wouldn’t make it.”