Christina Lee was eight months pregnant when her husband Eric Chartrand was told he may not make it to his unborn son’s first birthday.
In October, Eric was diagnosed with Glioblastomas, with stage four tumours on three areas of his brain.
The 40-year-old first-time dad had been complaining about suffering a sore neck and headaches since July, but had brushed it off as bad ergonomics due to working from home because of Covid-19.
He didn’t become alarmed until his left hand went numb while he was driving home from the beach with his 33-year-old wife.
The sensation disappeared after a few minutes, but Christina thought he was having stroke.
Days later, the pair knew something wasn’t right when Eric experienced a few visual disturbances while having dinner with Christina’s family.
After going to the doctors and undergoing scans, a neurologist confirmed the Canadian had multiple brain tumours and rushed him into surgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.
“We've always just imagined a long future together,” Christina told Yahoo News Australia on Boxing Day.
“So, having heard that [the diagnosis] at eight months pregnant was pretty tough.”
“The median survival being only 12 months made us angry and resentful at first,” she admitted on the GoFundMe she set up.
“We were just about to become a family and we just couldn't believe this could be happening to us.”
Upon learning of his diagnosis, the couple, who have been together for 12 years and married two years ago, have vowed to fight.
First child is couple’s ‘biggest motivation’
After the diagnosis, Eric became concerned about making sure Christina wasn’t too stressed while she was pregnant.
“The pregnancy was really hard to take because I wanted to focus on Eric and completely focus my energy there,” Christina said.
“But then after we accepted the diagnosis and went through the rollercoaster of emotions I think, for, for us now it's a miracle that Elliot is with us.”
On Monday, their son Elliot Chartrand was born, Christina said he is their biggest motivation.
Christina said the pair are delighted and would do anything to keep their family together for as long as possible.
Christina and Eric are taking it one day at a time, with each being different from the last. She said the diagnosis is always on her mind, but you can’t let it get the best of you.
“We just needed to find ways be emotional when we want to be,” Christina said
“And to talk about it. There's so many different stages of grief, I think we went through, you know, anger, resentment denial.”
Treatment in Germany is the ‘best option’
While the tumours on Eric’s brain are classified as Grade Four, they are methylated, which means chemotherapy will hopefully be more effective, Christina explained.
Eric has completed five weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, however, Christina has since learned of a treatment available in Germany that could be promising.
The couple has been communicating with a clinic that offers immunotherapy, which consists of vaccines to trigger an immune response to fight against the cancer.
Christina, Eric and Elliot are planning on moving to Germany in February.
The new mother admits she is anxious but also excited about the leap of faith, but after seeing some of Eric’s results, the clinic is optimistic.
Christina has set up a GoFundMe to help Eric’s fight against brain cancer and are extremely appreciative of any donations, which will cover the cost of treatment and accomodation expenses overseas.
Christina says she has looked into other treatments over in Germany and other trials to pursue if Eric does not respond to immunotherapy, but she believes right now it is best option for them.
‘Don’t ignore symptoms’
Christina said that if she could offer any advice to anyone, it would be to not ignore symptoms and put your health first.
She admits to pushing back going to the doctors or making time to get a routine test, but now sees the importance of listening to your body.
“Just take one hour out of your workday, and go to the doctors and, and just get it checked out,” she said.
“Don't take no for an answer, you know your body more than anyone else.”
She urges people to not underestimate or ignore any symptoms and hopes their story will encourage people to prioritise their health.
“Don't underestimate the symptoms you have, you need to make sure you really prioritise your health,” she said, adding that given Eric’s symptoms they never would have imagined it would be such an aggressive form of cancer.
You can donate to Christina and Eric’s GoFundMe here.
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