Now Or Never

Faced with incurable cancer, this Winnipeg couple took a leap for love

Sean Tam was diagnosed with cancer just two months before his 2019 wedding.

Sean Tam was diagnosed with cancer just 2 months before his 2019 wedding

The Tam family: Sean, Ruca the Boxer and Aly. (Sara Tate/CBC)

Just two months before getting married, Sean and Aly Tam were sitting in a doctor's office.

It was supposed to be a routine checkup. Instead, the doctor told Sean he had familial medullary thyroid carcinoma. Sean had beaten cancer before, but this one was different. It's a rare and aggressive form of cancer — with no cure. 

"[The doctor] told me that I had a year to four years [to live], that now was the time to see the people you want to see, to hang out with your friends and family, and check things off your bucket list," said Sean.

With their nuptials only a matter of weeks away, the Tams were left reeling with little idea how to move forward. Sitting alone in the doctor's office, Sean and Aly's first instincts were to cancel their wedding entirely. 

"I felt like I was in the most heartbroken love story," said Aly. "It was really hard."

But when the doctor returned, she advised them to live life and go forward with the wedding. So that's what they did.

Sean and Aly at their August 2019 wedding. (Luckygirl Photography)

Prior to the wedding, all of the guests had been told about Sean's diagnosis. Their hope was to get the topic out of the way, so the day could be focused on the young couple and the love they share.

"That day, nothing else mattered except for my bride-to-be," said Sean.

Just two days after their wedding, Sean and Aly were ready for another leap. They drove to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. 

There, they hoped he'd be approved for an experimental drug — one that could buy him more time with the woman he loves. 

Sean Tam travels monthly to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (Sean Tam/GoFundMe)

"What I have is incurable," said Sean. "So they've told me that this drug will not cure the cancer. But it can shrink it down and keep it hopefully at bay."

Today, things are looking up. Sean's tumours are shrinking, and he's feeling few side effects from the many pills he has to take every day.

But Sean and Aly are bracing themselves for things to change. Doctors expect the drug's effects to wear off some time in the next few years. And even if the experimental drug is approved for use in the United States, it will cost approximately $200,000 a year — far out of reach for the newlyweds.

Regardless of the highs and lows the future brings, Sean and Aly are sure of one thing: they're glad to be together on the journey. Being together has helped make them brave.

"This wasn't part of my plan for the future. I didn't see this coming. When I'm told to jump or when I need to jump, I take the leap and hope for the best — [this would] all be for nothing, if not." 

"It's definitely changed our view on life," said Aly. "We just want to enjoy every day."

This segment originally aired in February 2020.


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