Shanti’s family loves spending time outside. Taking advantage of their home state of Colorado, they love to go horseback riding, walking as a family and playing with their dogs. They also love to ski and to travel. However, much of their activities together have been derailed by a cancer diagnosis… and travel is no longer a family pastime, it has become a lifeline.
In November 2018 Shanti and his wife Leslie were on the way home from Leslie’s final breast reconstruction procedure following her cancer journey. “We were in a pharmacy when the left side of Shanti’s body went numb,” Leslie recalls. “We called 911 and an ambulance immediately whisked Shanti off to the hospital.” Doctors would find a mass in Shanti’s brain – it was a glioblastoma. The diagnosis would turn their world upside down.
With three young children and a wife who was recovering from her own cancer diagnosis, Shanti had become the primary breadwinner. Leslie had scaled back her real estate business while she battled breast cancer, but now, the tables were turning.
Shanti’s brain cancer deteriorated rapidly. He was experiencing seizures and was no longer able to work. To make matters even more challenging, as a resident of Colorado, he was far from any renowned cancer centers. “We couldn’t find a doctor willing to operate on him,” Leslie explains. “We knew we needed him in the hands of someone at MD Anderson.” So they flew to Houston, Texas.
At MD Anderson, Shanti found a doctor willing to remove the mass. That’s also where he entered a clinical trial. But being part of that trial also meant frequent returns to MD Anderson – and travel expenses that would add up quickly.
Before cancer devastated their family, Leslie says she and Shanti built their dream home. However, following his cancer diagnosis, they sold it. “We cut way back,” Leslie recalls. “But we could never cut back enough to comfortably afford all the travel to Houston.” Every three weeks they’d go from Denver to Houston for three days at a time. One trip alone could cost as much as $2500 for flights, hotel, parking and Ubers combined. The travel costs to get to MD Anderson from Colorado were draining their finances.
Moving to Texas wasn’t an option. Their whole family is in Colorado and they need the support more than ever. So, Leslie went to a social worker at MD Anderson, telling her that the mounting bills were burying them. The social worker suggested they look into various organizations, including Lazarex Cancer Foundation.
“There were a few different programs that offered some money here and there. One offered money for one or two flights. But then we reached out to Lazarex – and they came through for us in a big way.” The Foundation reimburses Shanti for most, if not all travel costs to get to the trial, lifting the financial burden and easing the stress.
Leslie says she’s not sure Shanti would have been able to stay enrolled in the clinical trial had it not been for Lazarex. “The thought of having to make that decision of whether to keep him going in a clinical trial was excruciating. The help from Lazarex just made that terrible decision go away. We‘ve been fighting insurance and dealing with other stress so it was such a relief when Lazarex was there for us.”
Because of the clinical trial and the travel reimbursements that allowed Shanti to stay enrolled, Leslie says her kids have had bonus time with Shanti. “We are 28 months into a disease that has an average lifespan of 14 to 15 months. We’ve been able to get precious time.”