Strength in Each Other – Smiling Eyes Project
I am so glad to have met this family. The afternoon I photographed them in Liberty Village changed me a little, as so often meeting amazing families does. This time it was different. With courage, strength and love, Jason and his family, Kerry and Aidan, are facing Cancer head on. Not only do they show each other love but I felt their kindness, their graciousness and their gratitude for every day we are given. It doesn’t matter what life throws our way, it’s short, it’s meaningful and it can be wonderful if we let it be.
Jason Larkin’s Story in his words;
On April 25th, 2012 my life changed forever. “You have a rare malignant tumor” 5 words I will not soon forget. That was the day I was diagnosed with GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor). A rare form of sarcoma Cancer found in the GI tract.
Weeks leading up to my diagnosis, I had what I thought to be an acid reflux issue. One night during sleep, I woke up feeling dizzy and extremely lethargic, had a hard time finding my way to the washroom and by the time I returned to bed, I had sweat through everything and passed out from exhaustion. Something was wrong. The next day I took myself to the hospital where they ran several blood tests. It was found that my hemoglobin levels were dangerously low (around 86). I was admitted to the hospital, scheduled for a GI scope. I received 2 blood transfusions the following day as I had lost more than half of the blood in my body…..It was after the numerous scopes and scans that my diagnosis was brought to light. They determined that there was an egg sized tumor in my stomach and that it was bleeding from the inside out, which is why I was losing so much blood. I was scheduled for surgery June 1st to remove the 5.7cm tumor from my stomach. 4 hours in surgery, 15% removal of my stomach and 2 hours in recovery (trying to get my heart rate stabilized) and after a 2nd surgery on June 3rd to assess a suspected hernia, I was on the mend to recovery. My hospital stay was long, but the staff at Southlake Regional Health Centre were amazing. I was released about a week after surgery. I met with my surgeon who put me in touch with Dr. Ko, one of the few oncologists at Sunnybrook Cancer Centre who is familiar with GIST. I started my daily chemo pill in August of 2012 and will continue this medication until August of 2015, when funding is no longer available.
Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors are a cancer of the soft tissue otherwise known as Sarcoma Cancer. It is different than your well known cancers as GIST attacks the soft tissue. There are several factors that make this cancer rare, one being it is mostly found in people who are over 50 years of age, another is that it is found only in the GI tract. I was 36 years old when I was diagnosed, which makes this cancer even more rare. It is not well known to the public and there is not much information out there on it. Typical survival rate is 5-7 years after diagnosis.
I receive outstanding care at Sunnybrook Cancer Centre, and have found a support group called Life Raft Group Canada which my wife and I have joined and I have recently become a board member within this organization, this is the only support group for GIST in Canada.
I have a great family, great friends and a great life. There is so much support surrounding me and I will not let this disease take over.
You can be a victim of Cancer or a survivor, it’s a mindset. I choose survivor. –Jason Larkin
You are strong and brave my friend. The love the three of you have will carry you through this battle and leave you a survivor! It was truly an honour.