Around the same time the world was shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Luke Harris’s world came crashing down when he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.
In the last week of February, the normally healthy 36-year-old started feeling off. He thought he had the flu so started taking Tylenol and kept working. When things didn’t improve he took himself to a walk-in clinic where the doctor ordered blood work and a CT scan. By this stage, Harris had developed excruciating stomach pains.
The doctor called Harris back to his office.
“My proteins were really high so I either had an infection or I had a blood clot or something. He told me I need to go to the hospital ASAP,” Harris said.
Another round of testing at the hospital showed his blood work to be normal, so they handed over the clinic test results and he was rushed in for emergency surgery.
Harris had a four centimetre-wide tumour removed that had broken through the side of his colon wall. The cancer had also spread to his bowel and lymph nodes.
His girlfriend, Ashley Ferguson, was with him through it all.
“His body was going septic and that’s why he had such excruciating abdominal pains,” she said.
Harris is now back home with a colostomy bag. “I call it my poop bag,” he says.
“We try to make light of it, try to make some humour out of it,” Ferguson adds.
But the full scope of the situation was still to come.
“The cancer spread to my liver, and into my lymph nodes. I’m starting chemo on Monday and doing some naturopath things to try and combat it the best I can,” Harris said.
The prognosis at this stage is sobering. Without chemotherapy treatment, he was given three months left to live.
“If I do the chemo and it stops everything where it’s supposed to be I might get five years, which is kind of a hard pill to swallow,” he said.
Harris is a truck driver and is now on medical Employment Insurance. When that runs out, he’s hoping to get on disability. Ferguson owns a residential cleaning business but she says that with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and Harris’ treatments, “I haven’t worked pretty much since we went into the hospital.”
The diagnosis combined with the COVID-19 pandemic have made things not only emotionally tough, but financially.
“COVID-19 has just made everything harder, you know just even financially to try and sell something like a vehicle or something to help with the cost of things, nobody will come look at anything,” Harris said “It’s more stressful just to add everything together and it’s a lot to take.”
Harris says he is determined to beat his diagnosis. One of the biggest changes is switching up his diet.
“The doctor says you need to eat plant based foods and cut out meats and do all that,” Harris said. “I’ve done it and it wasn’t easy at first but i’m getting used to it.”
The couple has also set up a GoFundMe to help with the cost of specialized treatments, medications, medical supplies etc.