Despite having an uncertain future, Chris Sargent is grateful for every moment he gets to spend with his family. This father’s day he shares his story.
In August 2018, when Chris Sargent had gone to see a doctor for what he thought were gallstones, tests revealed that his liver was covered in tumors and that it metastasized and spread to his lymph nodes. “Cancer never crossed my mind at all. It was a complete gut punch, it just didn’t make sense. I couldn’t believe it.” says the father of two. After weeks of tests, he was diagnosed with bile duct cancer, a rare and deadly form of cancer. In the same week that Chris received his diagnosis, his wife Sofia found that she was pregnant. Chris wanted to do everything he could to live to see the birth of his second child “It was a huge motivation, a week after I was diagnosed we found out Sofie was pregnant. So I was like ‘Okay, nine months!’”. Chris started his treatments immediately and underwent clinical trials and chemotherapy at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. But his prognosis showed no signs of improvement. “Every time I had a CT scan it just showed further tumor growth and so I started looking at other options that might give me more longevity.”
In March 2019, Chris was accepted into another clinical trial, this time at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary. After eight weeks of treatment and being on medication, his CT scans showed a decrease in the size of his tumors “To see them to have shrunk is just beyond what I could expect. It was more than the best case scenario,” says Chris. Though he is hopeful, he’s also aware that there’s still a long way to go as they don’t know how long the medication will be effective. It could be a few months or a few years.
During his treatment and the hard days in between, Chris focused on his goal of being there for the birth of his baby and all the stages along the way. And he was. On April 22nd, Chris and his family welcomed their second child, Lucia. “None of the doctors would tell me that, “Yeah, we are confident that you will be around.” … and to still be here and to be part of the process in the delivery room, part of the birth. It was pretty big for me, a big milestone.”
Another milestone Chris celebrated was his 40th birthday in June. He spent his birthday weekend with his family at Lac La Biche and fishing with his two-year-old daughter, Juliana. Chris loves spending time with his daughters. He and Juliana are inseparable and share a love for the outdoors and adventure. “We’re like best buddies. We’re so close. She loves fishing and is obsessed with anything outdoors or anything adventurous.” says Chris. The father-daughter duo has travelled a lot together, from Argentina, New York, Tofino and Vancouver Island to camping in southern Alberta. Chris hopes that his youngest, Lucia, will share the same interest.
Doctors told Chris that the average survival for his type of cancer was about 11 months. This June, it will be 10 months since his diagnosis. “When I was diagnosed I had no idea that I would be here right now and be able to see the spring, to go fishing again and to a cabin and to do different things – it’s pretty cool and I don’t know what’s to come but I’m here now. I’m able to be with my girls and my wife, so it’s pretty awesome.”
With his future uncertain, Sargent’s priority now is to spend as much time with his family as he can. “It’s made me appreciate things more. If I look at the science behind it I probably won’t even be on the first day of school for either of them. Odds are that I won’t be there at their high school graduation. I won’t be there for everything but before it was always assumed that I would be. That I’ll be there for the wedding, and all the big moments in their life like my parents have been there for me. I try not to think much about the future at all, I just focus on the present. It’s hard sometimes because my medications have side effects and I don’t have as much energy as I used to. I’m just tired and I can’t take her for the bike ride or go play in the playground like I wanted but I just have to take what I can get and try to enjoy it and be thankful that I get to wake up every morning and that I can go and change the diaper and hang out with them and just be there for them. Especially with cuddles and kisses, bedtime stories, wrestling around and all that stuff. I love that.”
When asked how he would like his daughters to remember him, Chris admits that he thinks about it often. “Number one is that I love them. A lot. And I never wanted this to end. If I do pass on then I want them to know that I never wanted to leave them and I fought really hard to be there as long as possible. That I was a good person, good to my wife and my family. That I loved adventure, I loved to travel and spending time outdoors. And I hope that’s something they will enjoy too. The main thing is that they were loved.”
– Chris Sargent
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