Spruce Grove man fighting for U.S. medical care.
Cory Kaminsky is raising a newborn son he may not live to see graduate high school.
The Spruce Grove resident and father of four is 44, a husband and was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer earlier this year. He and wife Alanna Sinclair did not realize anything was wrong at first. What began as an odd feeling when swallowing turned into regurgitating food and has now become an exercise in frustration over dealing with Canadian medical policy while fighting hard to save Cory’s life.
They first went to the doctor this past December. The visit was brought on by Cory being unable to keep food down and expelling it without warning during dinner one evening. Sinclair says they knew something was off, but practitioners proved to be unable to resolve the mystery.
“Our family doctor ruled out heart issues,” she said. “So the night after we went into the emergency room and the doctor asked us what we thought they could do. I did not know what to say and it was embarrassing to go in and not be treated like this was an emergency.”
Subsequent tests showed Kaminsky’s lymph nodes were grossly swollen. The doctor the couple were using at the time told them the reason for the swelling was potentially cancer, but could not say for certain. He scheduled an emergency CT scan in the next 24 hours, but those higher up in the medical system instead slotted the couple for a procedure three months later than his initial referral from the doctor.
They were frustrated by the decision and ultimately opted for a private procedure that cost $1,500 and revealed his diagnosis in March instead of waiting and waiting. The timeline, at its most optimistic, was another 11 months for Cory to live and be with his family and friends.
Sinclair was shattered and Kaminsky was in disbelief. His relatives had had issues with the disease as well as other physical problems, but he kept healthy. Documents show he told officials he never smoked, drank rarely and stayed active through his employment in the oil industry.
Neither knew how this happened and they waited tensely for information about what could be done next to save or prolong Kaminsky’s life.
The troubles with treatment
They did not like what they heard.
The pair say they were told he could only extend his life from six to 12 months through traditional chemotherapy or radiation.
At one early meeting an official even went beyond that and advised the husband and wife to begin preparing for him to be on his deathbed.
“They were already referencing palliative care,” Kaminsky said. “That is totally unacceptable. We have children.”
Sinclair was undeterred. Armed with a philosophy of “if it can be done, it will be done,” she began to research. She discovered the developing immunotherapy treatment field. It trains the immune system to target small mutations on the surface of cancer cells instead of hitting cells directly like other methods.
It does not work for everyone, but can make a difference in some cases. They presented this information to medical officials and found Kaminsky could not get access to the field in Canada because his type of cancer was not one of those approved for it by the government. Health Canada confirmed this in an email and noted clinical trials were available in Canada, but Sinclair and Kaminsky say these are strictly regulated and can only be entered into at early stages in contrast to the United States where the medicine is more accessible to patients.
“In the U.S. apparently it is curable,” Kaminsky said. “I feel they are trying to get me to die slow enough that my family is OK with it.”
With grim news in front of them they turned to a GoFundMe campaign. The aim of the fundraiser is to earn $60,000. Once it is obtained the family intends to go to facilities in Arizona where they can get immunotherapy drugs for free through compassionate programs. The money will cover lodging, flights, transit and lab work. They have raised more than $40,000 so far and Sinclair says the response has been moving.
“It is so amazing,” she said. “Some donors are people who do not even know us.”
The road ahead is uncertain, but they are steely in their determination. Kaminsky says before his diagnosis, he thought Canada’s healthcare system was better than most. But now, he is fighting to get better and ensure no one goes through in the future what he is dealing with now.
“One thing making me want to live is so I can lobby,” he said. “There needs to be some change.”
The Alberta government wished Kaminsky and Sinclair well in an email and said they were bound by national standards.
“We support effective and proven health services for Albertans, as determined by Canada’s medical experts,” Tom McMillan, assistant communications director, wrote. “The type of drug in question is not approved for this type of cancer by Health Canada and is therefore not funded. We recognize the tragic challenges that Cory is facing and his family’s wish to explore every possible option.”
Kaminsky and Sinclair’s campaign can be found on GoFundMe by searching for Help Cory Kaminsky Beat Cancer #fightwithcory.