It’s a grim diagnosis one West St. Paul woman has refused to let win for the past two years.
Now, friends and family are banding together to help raise the money Cindy Chapley needs to continue fighting a rare form of cancer through specialized oncology treatment in the United States.
"She has fast become my hero. I don’t think I would have the type of strength she has," said family friend Rhonda Dorosh-Brown.
Dorosh-Brown recently set up the Chapley Family Trust Fund for Cindy and Warren at TD Canada banks across the country to help offset the $190,000 treatment Chapley began receiving in March at the Envita Medical Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.
In July 2011, Chapley was diagnosed with Stage 4 cholangiocarcinoma, a cancer of the bile ducts that affects about one in 100,000. Doctors gave the mother of two between six to 18 months to live.
Instead of simply taking the chemotherapy and resigning herself to her deathbed, Chapley made a massive change in her dietary lifestyle, husband Warren says.
She became a vegan overnight, and began avoiding dairy, meat and food products loaded with processed sugars. She also connected with a naturopath for a boost of vitamins to supplement her diet.
"It’s probably what’s kept her alive for so long to be honest," said Warren in his Northumberland Road home last week. "The cancer was actually shrinking."
Chapley eventually shunned chemotherapy when she began developing tinnitus and numbness in her hands and feet, Warren said. But when the cancer began growing again last November, doctors offered her more chemotherapy and to put her in palliative care.
And so the couple, who have been married for 14 years, turned their eyes south to Envita on the recommendation of a friend. Chapley began a series of treatment March 18, which include a mix of specialized chemotherapy, intravenous Vitamin C, bile duct draining and natural medicine.
"They’re procedures that doctors won’t do here. It was her only option," Warren said.
"She looks better, she sounds amazing and she’s got more energy already."
Because she wasn’t referred to the clinic by a doctor, the Chapleys are on the hook for the entire cost of treatment, including the $1,700 in monthly expenses to cover her 10-week stay in Arizona.
The family has cashed in RRSPs, life insurance, and even borrowed money to help with the costs, Warren said, noting he has taken a leave of absence from his warehouse job to look after his six-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter.
"She’s bound and determined to beat this," he said.
"She has two young kids. There’s no way she’s going to let this happen to her."
Meanwhile, Dorosh-Brown is aiming to hold a fundraising social in May or June, well aware of the lofty goal she’s trying to achieve.
"My seven-year-old offered me 27 pennies and asked if it would help save my friend’s life," she said.
"If my child can understand the necessity here, everybody can. This is someone’s life we’re trying to save."
Last week, the IGA on Jefferson Avenue in The Maples, where Chapley has worked for years as a baker, began drumming up donations from staff and is raffling off prizes, manager Gail Allard said.
"I don’t think I’ve met anybody with such a strong will," Allard said.
"She’s been knocked down a couple of times and she’s fought. She’s a fighter. If anyone can come through this, it’s going to be her."
For more information, contact Dorosh-Brown at email@example.com.