'I'm not packing it in': Edmonton father hopes to beat the odds after cancer diagnosis

An Edmonton father recently diagnosed with a stage four cancer isn't letting his prognosis dampen what could be his last months with his family.

Chris Sargent wants to live long enough to see the birth of his second child

Chris Sargent's cancer diagnosis was shocking, since the 39-year-old father was otherwise in great health. (Go Fund Me )

An Edmonton father recently diagnosed with a stage four cancer isn't letting his prognosis dampen what could be his last months with his family. 

"I hear lots of good stories every day of people that have been diagnosed with stage four cancer and have made it," said Chris Sargent. 

"This one is a particularly lethal one, but let's see how it goes. I'm definitely holding out hope, I'm not packing it in."

The 39 year old was diagnosed with incurable bile duct cancer in August and has started chemotherapy treatments to prolong his life. 

The odds are against him. People diagnosed with stage four bile duct cancer only have a two per cent chance of survival, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Shocking diagnosis 

Sargent had gone to see a doctor for what he thought were gallstones. Further testing revealed his liver was covered in tumours and the cancer had metastasized.  

"It's hard to wrap my mind around what's going on, but I can feel it," Sargent said. "Sitting in a chair getting chemo makes it pretty real."

The diagnosis came as a shock to Sargent and his wife Sofìa Pastorino, since he had shown none of the symptoms typically associated with the disease, like weight loss or jaundiced skin. 

"It was hard to belive, I really thought it was a mistake," Pastorino said. "This should be something else."

That's because Sargent is the picture of health: a marathon runner who loves the outdoors, and to travel with his wife whenever he can. 

Expecting a baby

The couple now wants to focus on enjoying their time together with Julianna, their two-year-old daughter.

The family is also poised to grow. Pastorino found out she was pregnant the same week that Sargent received his diagnosis.

Learning that he will be a father for a second time has given Sargent even more motivation in his battle against cancer. 

"It gives me one more thing to fight for, to be there for the birth and all the stages along the way."

Sofia Pastorino and Chris Sargent are focusing on his treatment and enjoying their time together as a family. (CBC)

But Sargent is also struggling with how his death will impact his family.

"I don't want to leave a mom, with now two kids, without a father and a husband."

Complicating the matter further is the fact that Pastorino is from Argentina, where her large tight-knit family still lives.

She's torn between wanting to be close to them, and wanting to maintain her ties with Sargent's family and the birthplace of her children. 

"Ideally, I would like to give her both things, but I don't know how," said Pastorino, who wants little Julianna to experience the things that are important to her father, like fishing and spending time at the family cabin. 

"I think that will be my aim, to honour him as much as I can," she said. 

Fighting cancer as a team

Sargent is focused on staying healthy and completing his treatment. He is also open to participating in clinical drug trials. 

But he worries that his fight against cancer will leave his family in a precarious financial situation. 

"To be able to travel back and forth from Argentina to Canada, that's something that I wanted to provide," Sargent said. "That might not be so easy with me gone."

The couple is grateful for family and friends that have rallied around them.

"Fighting cancer is a team sport," Pastorino said. 

The families that know Sargent through his daughter's day home are raising money through a Go Fund Me campaign.

They want to give Pastorino a financial cushion, explained Rose Duchesne, the day care owner. 

"Just to remove the financial stress on her if she wants to be with her husband during the treatment," Duchesne said. 

Sargent's friends are also participating in Kathy's Run at the end of October to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research.

Coincidentally, Sargent has participated in the run for years, raising money for a cancer very similar to his own. 

"I never, ever thought that my name would be on the back of someone's shirt, that they would be running for me."  

About the Author

Josee St-Onge

Journalist

Josee St-Onge is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has also reported in French for Radio-Canada in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Reach her at josee.st-onge@cbc.ca