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Okanagan woman grateful for cancer treatment advances

Carla Schutte has been battling a rare form of adrenal cancer for nearly a decade
Armstrong’s Carla Schutte, left, with husband, Jerry, continues to battle a rare form of adrenal cancer. Her condition is listed as ‘stable,’ thanks to some advances in cancer treatment. (Contributed)

Carla Schutte is grateful for medical advances leading to more chances.

The Armstrong resident has been a patient at BC Cancer – Kelowna and the Vernon satellite cancer centre since 2014. She has adrenal cortical carcinoma — a rare form of adrenal cancer.

For four years, Schutte underwent numerous surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, but tumours continued to grow and spread, including to her peritoneum and brain.

Dr. Edward Hardy, Schutte’s oncologist in Vernon, remained determined. Schutte’s cancer has a specific mutation that is not often seen in adrenocortical carcinoma. Hardy stayed up-to-date on the latest research and in 2018 found a new, global clinical trial studying this mutation.

“It’s amazing. Every time you think there’s nothing more they can do, there’s another advance that comes around and that gives you chances,” said Schutte.

In another stroke of good fortune (or a reflection of Kelowna’s research capabilities), BC Cancer’s Dr. Susan Ellard was running this very trial in Kelowna, just an hour away from Schutte’s home. Donor support helps bring more clinical trials to BC Cancer’s regional centres – making these life-saving treatments more accessible to patients in every corner of the province.

Ellard’s calming and reassuring presence helped assuage some of Schutte’s concerns.

“There are some people you meet, and you know they are in the right field; Dr. Ellard is one of those people,” she said.

During the height of her treatment, Schutte was at the Kelowna clinic nearly every week and the personal connections made with her doctors and nurses made all the difference in her experience. Both the big and the seemingly small things make a difference for those facing cancer, said Schutte. From accessing life-saving treatments to a simple, friendly hello.

“They know how to take care of you, they really do,” she said. Her treatment on the trial is currently on hold, but she is touched her former nurses still recognize her and stop by to say hello.

Today, Schutte’s cancer is stable. She has “graduated” to CT scans every three months, instead of every six weeks. Her grandchildren keep her busy and she’s thankful for the time she has to spend with them.

The BC Cancer Foundation is fundraising for a new world-class systemic therapy suite in Kelowna that will increase the centre’s capacity to deliver treatments by 40 per cent and bring more innovative, life-saving clinical trials to the Interior.

Learn more about supporting the BC Cancer Foundation’s work in the Interior here.

World Cancer Day, Saturday, Feb. 4, is the global uniting initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

On Feb. 4, millions of people around the world will unite to move closer to a world where no one dies from preventable cancer or suffers unnecessarily. A place where everyone has access to the cancer care they need. World Cancer Day 2023 marks the second year of the three-year ‘Close the care gap’ campaign centred on the issue of equity.

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