Calgarians with asbestos cancers deserve more treatment options, says patient's family

Even though he was an ideal candidate for a mesothelioma clinical trial in Toronto, Carrie Cassidy says her father’s doctors gave him “no hope” and told him to “go home and enjoy what time he had left.”

Local doctors gave Lyle Cassidy ‘no hope,’ family says life extended by mesothelioma clinical trial in Toronto

Lyle Cassidy ended up being an ideal candidate for a clinical trial to treat his mesothelioma in Toronto, but his daughter Cassidy (right) said Calgary doctors were quick to tell him that his options were limited to palliative care. (Submitted by Carrie Cassidy)

A Calgary woman says doctors in the city treating patients with asbestos cancers should be offering more treatment options, even if those options are risky.

Carrie Cassidy says her father Lyle was given "no hope" when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer that develops in the lining of the chest and lungs and has been connected to repetitive exposure to asbestos.

While there is no cure for the disease, Alberta Health Services does have guidelines for treatment, which include surgery and recruitment into clinical trials.

But when the Cassidy family asked Lyle's oncologist about those options, they were dismissed.

"Really, anything we asked about — he said that it wasn't proven," Carrie Cassidy told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.

"He was told to go home and enjoy what time he had left."

Doctors gave him less than 2 years to live

In January 2013, Lye Cassidy's doctors gave him six to 18 months to live and told him surgery would be "invasive and wouldn't prolong his life," his daughter said.

"I don't like to put down our healthcare system, but they really didn't give us any other hope ... Or tell us to get a second opinion."

Not convinced that palliative care was her father's only option, Carrie Cassidy dived into researching the disease and found out about a clinical trial in Toronto.

It turned out that Lyle Cassidy was an ideal candidate for SMART, Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy, headed by Dr. Marc de Perrot at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

In March, 2016 Lyle Cassidy was well enough to go on vacation to Palm Springs with his wife Gayle. Calgary doctors had told him he probably wouldn't live past the summer of 2015.

7 months in hospital

The treatment Lyle Cassidy received in Toronto was no walk in the park.

In fact Calgary respirologist Dr. Alain Tremblay said most doctors don't recommend it because it's "extremely invasive" and so "horrendous."

First, Lyle Cassidy had his lungs zapped with radiation, then had the surgery — which involved removing the lining of his lungs and cutting into his heart and diaphragm.

"We knew him going out there was a huge risk," said Carrie Cassidy.

"Like we knew he might not make it through the surgery. But his thoughts were 'I would rather go trying to fight this than letting it just take me.'"

Lyle Cassidy had plenty of complications after the surgery, including a hole in his heart, and was in hospital for seven months.

Prolonged life

Even though Lyle Cassidy's surgery proved very risky, his daughter says her dad has no regrets.

"Probably through those seven months he thought — 'What did it do?' But now he would tell you 'Thank God we went to Toronto,' because you know, he wouldn't be here," said Cassidy, who is now the secretary of the Canadian Mesothelioma Foundation.

She believes if her family hadn't taken the initiative to sign up for the clinical trial, her dad would have missed many important family events such as the birth of his twin granddaughters.

And while he still needs to be on oxygen, Lyle Cassidy is working at the  Feeder Association of Alberta and going to the gym twice a week.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener