Special to The Record
The family of a young woman battling the odds in a fight against cancer is hoping for community support in their bid to buy a wheelchair-accessible van to return some semblance of normalcy to the 19-year-old’s life.
On Christmas Eve 2014, Angela LaForge was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer called Chordoma and has been in the Palliative Care unit at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) since last November. In March, her doctors determined that she is able to return to her Oyster River home. Because tumours attached to Angela’s spinal cord have paralyzed her from the waist down, her family is trying to raise funds to purchase a second-hand van.
“We don’t know what the future holds, but we’re trying to make the best of a very bad situation,” says Maureen LaForge, Angela’s mother. “Being able to have our own vehicle to get Angela to treatments and appointments would help us have a little bit of control over at least this part of her life.”
Chordoma is a cancer that occurs in the bones of the head and the spine. It affects one person in a million. Of those who get it, only five per cent are young people like Angela.
Since being diagnosed, the 19-year-old GP Vanier grad’s life has been marked by unimaginable challenges. She has endured paralysis, numerous surgeries and countless treatments, with some success. This past fall, however, Angela’s condition took a turn for the worse. In November, she was told she likely had a month to live. Her family began to make end-of-life arrangements and Angela was transferred to VGH.
And then Angela began to improve ever so slightly.
“We knew that her only wish was to fight against this cancer as hard as it was fighting against her,” says Maureen. “There aren’t any standard treatments beyond surgery and radiation, but there have been some success stories utilizing drugs already approved for use in other cancer types. So we lobbied and begged for these to be given to Angela to help her feel like she was fighting back.”
In mid-December the new drug regimen started, and there has been stabilization and even incremental improvement in her condition.
“Angela’s been so strong and shown such resilience through this all, but it’s tough to think about how her life has changed,” says Maureen. “Unfortunately, she’s too old to qualify for help through the Children’s Variety program. It’s difficult to ask for financial help, but with the costs we’ve had due to the illness and making modifications to our home, we’re hoping the community can help us with the purchase of a reliable wheelchair accessible vehicle.”
The LaForges have set up an online fundraising campaign through the compassionate crowdfunding organization YouCaring. To donate to the cause and find out more about her heart-wrenching journey, visit https://www.youcaring.com/angela-laforge-541897.
“We truly appreciate any help in our efforts to allow her as normal a life as possible.”