George Ocampo has always been active and healthy. He works out in the gym regularly, plays basketball and softball, goes bowling every week and coaches kid sports. So, when he had some pain and swelling in his stomach, he didn’t pay close attention.
The pain, however, persisted. After 10 days, he went to the ER with what he thought was a kidney stone. Sure enough, tests revealed what George referred to as “a rock”. But that “rock” turned out to be a tumor… in his pancreas.
That was April 2018. George was forced to quit his job in order to focus on his health. Doctors immediately put him on standard chemo and radiation, a course of therapy that would last 6 months. The good news? The first 6 rounds worked, shrinking his tumor by 50 percent. However, the second 6 did not. George says it was clear he needed a Hail Mary.
“My oncologist found a clinical trial for me at UCSF,” George said. The catch was, he had to get himself there every week. Since he wasn’t feeling well, his wife took time off from work to make the drive with him; 4 hours round trip. “My wife and I would leave Sunday, spend the night and drive home the next day. It was tough both financially and mentally. But we said ok we’ll do what we can do and hope for the best.”
After two trips the travel costs were already adding up. A clinical trial coordinator at UCSF offered George an option: Lazarex Cancer Foundation. He learned they would provide reimbursements for gas, parking and hotel stays to alleviate the growing financial stress. “It was such a relief,” recalls George. “We immediately started taking advantage of the resources Lazarex offers and I was so happy. There had been a tremendous strain on us already since we haven’t been able to work. Lazarex lifted the strain.”
The clinical trial combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy started in July. At first things looked good, however, George had a recent setback causing him to take a break from the trial. His oncologists are now searching for other options. George is optimistic a new trial will surface. He is looking forward to eventually getting back to his active lifestyle. In the meantime, he says he’s eternally thankful for Lazarex. “Without their help, another clinical trial might not even be an option because we can’t afford the travel costs.”