The McAlpines share their story about their journey through lung cancer since Ian's diagnosis.

The McAlpines share their story about their journey through lung cancer since Ian's diagnosis.

Breaking the stigma; Montrose man puts a face to lung cancer

Ian and Kathy McAlpine of Montrose are featured in the 2016 Lung Cancer Canada 2016 ‘The Faces of Lung Cancer Report.’

Lung cancer kills more people every year than breast, prostate and colorectal cancer combined.

“We all have lungs so we are all susceptible to lung cancer,” says Ian McAlpine.

Ian is a well known family man from Montrose. With his wife of 42 years, Cathy, by his side, the two have become champion advocates for lung cancer awareness, lung cancer research, more timely lung cancer treatment and the absolute need for a national lung cancer screening program.

Bronchogenic (lung) carcinomas are very aggressive, so the scary truth is that survival rates could hinge on where a person actually lives.

“It’s not the same province to province,” said Ian. “There is no standard, and it comes down to the dollar what the province is willing to sponsor as far as paying for testing. It is really awful.”

The McAlpine’s fight to keep Ian alive is laden with all the twists and turns of silver-screen drama. Their intense battle through the healthcare system is one they are sharing with medical professionals, drug company panels, and the community-at-large. The very private couple is willing to put their face to the highly stigmatized form of cancer for one reason they want to help and encourage others who have been, or will be, diagnosed with the terminal illness.

Their story of never-ending perseverance is featured by Lung Cancer Canada in “The Faces of Lung Cancer Report,” a 2016 summary of research and analysis of the lung cancer “waiting game.”

“They never call it remission with cancer, this nasty little tumour has never gone away,” Cathy began. “We were running out of options in early 2016 and that’s when we starting hunting down and really trying to know the next phases of what was going on with his particular (cancer) mutation.”

As you can see, he’s doing awesome, Cathy said during a Jan. 6 Trail Times interview.

“Yesterday, we got the results of his CT that he is still stable our new favourite word is ‘stable’ because the cancer is never gone.”

That’s the Coles-notes version of the family’s journey through Ian’s diagnosis he’s currently part of a clinical trial for a breakthrough drug called Tagrisso. When he first became “subject number eight” on the Tagrisso trial list, he and Cathy had to fly across the country to Oshawa every six weeks for the oral chemotherapy pill. Now, they travel to the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver for the medication, which is defined as “targeted therapy.”

Accessing the drug was no easy feat the McAlpine’s had their family and friends scouring the Internet for the latest treatments logistics like how to get the newest drug to Canada was an afterthought. Time was of the essence because Ian’s condition rapidly deteriorated after his cancer developed resistance to available chemotherapy.

And here’s where frustration sets in. Tagrisso has been available in the U.S. since 2015, but Canada requires its own years of data before the drug will be approved in this country and people with lung cancer do not have that kind of time.

“You are talking about people who are dying, it’s not like it’s the newest thing for a hangover or something,” said Cathy. “Sometimes it’s frustrating as all get out, when you know there is something out there and you can’t get it,” she added. “That is also something that annoys Lung Cancer Canada the difference between the States and Canada and how long things are available down there before they are available here.”

Cathy and Ian McAlpine

This year 28,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer and 20,000 will die from the disease. The reality is that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in Canada. But these truths may not be known or widely talked about because lung cancer carries shame, some call it prejudice, about smoking.

Ian has been living with the disease for a little over three years and let’s just get this out of the way he has never been a smoker.

In fact, he did everything “right.” He was a dedicated instructor of Adult Basic Education at Selkirk College until his 2013 retirement. The husband and father was always active in the community or at the gym working on his six-pack Ian is a self-professed kickboxing

Just Posted

The Trail Smoke Eaters fell 6-1 to the Penticton Vees on Sunday, their third loss to the perennial BCHL powerhouse six games into the 20-game season. Photo: Stephen Piccolo
Penticton Vees dominant in win over Trail Smoke Eaters

Trail Smoke Eaters enjoy two day break until their fourth meeting with Penticton Vees on Wednesday

Kalesnikoff Lumber will be providing materials for a 21-storey apartment building in Vancouver. Rendering: Henriquez Partners Architects
Kalesnikoff supplying mass timber for several major projects

The West Kootenay lumber company will be making the products at South Slocan facility

This painting is a piece from Young Visions 2021, opening April 22 at the Kootenay Gallery. Photo: S. Painter
Showcase of artwork by Kootenay Columbia students opens April 22

Young Visions 2021 runs April 22 to May 29 in the Kootenay Gallery of Art, Castlegar

Selkirk College has received provincial funding to assist students. File photo
Selkirk College receives funding to assist students

Provincial funding is available to West Kootenay students

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

Interior Health improves access to mental health supports amid COVID-19 pandemic. (Stock)
Interior Health connects people to mental health resources amid COVID

310-MHSU line receives positive feedback in early months of rollout

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

Most Read