PORT DUFFERIN – Following a two-month stay in Boston for lifesaving CAR T-cell therapy – Dale Pye and his daughter Shelly returned to his home in Port Dufferin on Apr. 10, where they are now completing the two-week quarantine required after out-of-province travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last May, Pye was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and told, without treatment that was only available to him at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, the prognosis was imminent death.
Community fundraising was initiated to help them make the journey. They left for Boston on Feb. 9 and Pye started treatment immediately, which included collecting his T cells – a type of immune system cell – that were sent to California, where they were altered in a lab so they would attack cancer cells.
Shelly says that while her father is well on the road to recovery, he did experience side effects after the cells were returned to his body.
“Dad is currently feeling okay. He is extremely weak and tired. He still hasn’t gotten his appetite back yet but these are all normal side effects from the CAR T-cell infusion.”
The treatment was, Shelly explains, “really tough” and her father spent 10 days in the hospital due to side effects, which included loss of appetite, fevers and low blood counts that required transfusions.
The two had to undergo COVID-19 tests before departing Boston.
On April 7, Pye had blood work, a positron emission tomography (PET scan) and a final consultation with his physician.
Shelly says, “Dad had his 30-day PET scan and Dr. Crombie said the results were excellent and Dad had a complete response.”
Back home, Pye will require regular blood work and will undergo another PET scan in two months. It will be necessary for him to see a urologist and a cardiologist due to side effects he received from the CAR T-cell infusion.
Considering the effects of the treatment, Shelly says her 59-year-old father’s health is good.
“He feels excited about coming home and knowing the PET scan results were excellent.”
Challenges the father and daughter endured during their time away from home included finding their way around the large city of Boston and trying not to get lost in the massive hospital.
“Dad’s mobility and being a caregiver has been challenging at times. To see your parent so weak and tired is very hard,” Shelly says. “Trying to encourage eating and drinking is a challenge when someone isn’t feeling well. The amount of medications is overwhelming.”
Shelly notes accompanying her father on this journey, which literally saved his life, has been an experience she’ll never forget.
“Seeing Dad on a plane for the first time and being involved with him being given the opportunity to go to Boston and become better … I got to spend two months with my father to try and make him better and it worked. It’s been extremely hard at times. Being away from my fiancé, dogs, family and friends has been really hard.”
Shelly effuses about staff at the hotel and the shuttle driver being both helpful and amazing.
“The hospital is second to none. Words can’t say how accommodating everyone is … You get to talk to the doctor and nurses and get test results emailed to you. You also have full access to medical reports and get every question answered.”
The two appreciate the local community for their donations to enable Pye to travel to Boston for treatment.
“Without all the support from our family and friends – and even people we don’t even know – this wouldn’t have been possible,” Shelly says.
“Thanks isn’t even the right word to say to everyone. Dad was given a second chance in life. Me and my sister were given more time with our Dad and Jackson was given more time with Poppa. The hope is that this continues to work and there is a break in constant hospital visits and no more chemotherapy.”
Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal