Survivor Stories

Barb Hall, Stage IV

Date Diagnosed – 05/16/2007

It seems that every second or third person has a cancer story.  A journey, a lot of people call it, and I suppose in a way it is.  But my cynical side says “Really!!??”  A journey for me would be a little more fun with a dash of adventure.  However, to be truthful as with a journey I did discover much about: myself, my husband, my family and friends, acquaintances, the medical system, and my fellow journey mates.  I learned that everyone suffers, and I was never alone in that.  I learned that suffering takes all sorts of forms many invisible, mental, physical, emotional.  The amount of visible suffering that I observed was sometimes staggering and very eye-opening.

This story began on January 9, 2014 and I was out walking during my coffee break.  All seemed perfectly normal. Then I experienced this weird bright kaleidoscope vision out my left eye, and I thought “geez hope this goes away soon”.  My husband left work and came to take me to the ER.

It is interesting that a few weeks earlier my vision changed.  I had difficulty reading as I moved my eyes along a line and the last few letters of the word would be blurry.  I made an appointment with my optometrist and he didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.  At one point he asked me to follow the moving pencil.  It all seemed fine, but I remember saying to him “So no brain tumor” haha.

In the ER the doctor on call did a quick assessment and sent us to the optometrist.  He did some quick tests, including shining a light in my eyes that I could not see.  I was blind.  Doctors decided I needed to go to Terrace, 2 hours away, by ambulance on treacherous winter roads for a CT scan.  Somewhere along the way my vision somewhat returned.  But there were still lights and a headache was starting to tighten its grip around my brain. The CT revealed 4 brain tumors!!  Needless to say my husband, Kelly and I were shocked.  After several days I was medevaced (by plane) to VGH in Vancouver.  Another CT and the neurosurgeons confirmed they were likely metastatic melanoma tumors, which probably traveled from a mole removed from my leg in 2007.  We remained optimistic.  Surely our wonderful medical system can fix this.  Of course as time went by and we received bad news after bad news, the conclusion was to remove the remains of the one tumor and leave the others as the doctors thought that it would be too risky to remove them as they might burst and cause bleeding in the brain.

Remaining positive, the surgery was completed with really no complications, other than lights in my brain and headaches.  A few days later I was discharged and an appointment was made with an oncologist (Dr. Savage).  Dr Savage was pleasant, although not really sincere, she briefly explained the situation and left us with me having 3-5 months with the possibility of chemo therapy, if I qualified for it.  That meant that the pathology of the tumor would have to show I was Braff gene positive, which would take 6 weeks.  This whole scenario was like a nightmare, as most of you have probably experienced the same thing.

The positivity momentarily melted away.  Then I heard a voice in my head, “YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF MY RESOURCES”, repeated severals time.

From that moment in time I felt guided to eventually find Doctor Frank Arguello.  Kelly had done all the research and googling to find a well experienced Doctor in cancer research and treatment who lived in Maryland and had a clinic in Mexico.  He was offering a treatment called “Ativistic Chemotherapy and Immunology”.  There was no doubt, we had to go with him, it felt very right.

Today, August 2015, I have no brain tumors and I feel great.

I am so so thankful for Dr. Frank (as we like to call him).  He is an amazing doctor and person.  He has an incredible drive and passion to help people and find a cure for cancer.  Who knows, he may have found it with me, time will tell.

I want to sign off with a huge thank you to my, friends, neighbors, work colleagues and my family.  And there are no words to express my deep love and gratitude for my rock, my partner, Kelly.