Sudbury woman chooses alternative treatments for stage 4 cancer
Jazmin Ayotte hopes to raise enough money to cover the costs of naturopathic, immunotherapy treatment
A Sudbury woman is choosing to go the all-natural route in hopes of healing her stage 4 cancer.
Thousands of dollars in donations have already poured in to help her achieve that.
Jazmin Ayotte, 20, is a Laurentian University student, who was diagnosed with stage 4 adrenocortical carcinoma when she was 16. This is a rare type of cancer which ended up spreading to Ayotte's lungs and one of her kidneys.
Ayotte says she was adamant from the beginning that she wanted to take a natural approach to deal with her cancer.
"Up until this day, I've never tried chemotherapy," she says.
Daily pain manageable until recently
Ayotte says she's tried "western medicine," but all of those made her feel worse. Instead, she tried changing her diet and intravenous vitamins. She even travelled to Mexico and the Bahamas for naturopathic treatments.
"I go to school, but it's on and off, or I'll take a semester off depending on how I'm feeling. Day to day, I deal with pain quite a bit."
The natural treatments seemed to help manage the pain until recently.
"I was in the hospital for a week. I was rushed in with extreme pain, and nothing could manage it," Ayotte says.
"That sparked us to research new treatments and get in touch with new doctors."
More than $30,000 for initial testing
Ayotte says her family found a naturopathic treatment centre in Scottsdale, Arizona that seems promising.
Initial genetic testing will cost more than $30,000. After that, continued treatment and supplements will cost approximately $1,000 per month.
Treatment prices weren't immediately available on the facility's website, but an initial office visit costs between $350 and $700.
Although she says she isn't exactly sure what the therapies entail, Ayotte is under the impression they include heat, laser and magnetic therapies which focus on improving the patient's immune system.
Chemotherapy wouldn't 'let me have a life' says Ayotte
Ayotte says she doesn't advocate against chemotherapy. She just doesn't believe it would work for her.
"[My doctors] have given me options for palliative radiation, but that's not killing the cancer, that's dealing with the pain and other things," Ayotte says.
"I don't feel comfortable going through with that when I already have in mind that it would kill my immune system, make me feel horrible, not let me have a life at all, and not really treat it the way I hope to be treated."
Online fundraiser 'definitely not just sticking to Sudbury'
Because alternative treatments in the United States aren't covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, Ayotte and her family have started reaching out to others with fundraising initiatives.
Ayotte's fiancé Eythan Henson started a social media trend called 'Burpees for Jaz.' The idea is to post a video of yourself doing the exercise, then tag the family's GoFundMe page. The page has already raised $15,000.
Superior Maple Syrup, owned by Henson's family, is raising money from the sale of some of the products.
A stag and doe is being held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., later this month, with all proceeds going toward Ayotte's treatment.
A friend from high school wanted to help out too. Lauren Nykilchuk had T-shirts left over from a school project, and is selling them with some of the profits going to Ayotte's trip.
There's already been a widespread response to the shirts.
"It's definitely not just sticking to Sudbury," Nykilchuk says.
"I can't put down my phone for five minutes without getting multiple messages about people wanting to buy shirts, asking questions about the shirts and about Jazmin. It's probably the greatest problem in the world to have, seeing how many people have come together and want to support this cause."
Staying hopeful for treatment
Ayotte and her mother leave for Arizona next week. She says her doctors in Canada have been skeptical of her choices, but she feels they support her in this next trip.
"Ideally, I want to be cancer free," she says.
"But I hope it gets me to be at a point where I don't have to be on painkillers all the time, and be where I can go to school and commit to other things where I don't have to be held back because of pain."