A fit and healthy researcher is now fighting for his life after the diagnosis of the rarest form of colon cancer.
Marty Paine, 38, has traveled the world in recent years trying to find a cure for diseases such as ovarian cancer and childhood brain tumors.
He was living and working in northern France in May 2020 when he suddenly started experiencing symptoms similar to those of a stomach ulcer, his aunt Lynn Shaw told Yahoo News Australia on Thursday.
X-rays of his lungs and liver and blood tests showed no irregularities, so the 38-year-old — who grew up in Ulladulla, NSW — moved on with his life.
In June, however, the pain was still persistent and this time, CT scans showed massive tumors on his liver, lungs and lymph nodes.
A colonoscopy later confirmed he has aggressive stage 4 colon cancer with a BRAF DNA mutation.
BRAF mutations are incredibly rare, accounting for only 10 percent of colon cancer cases.
Without treatment, he was told he would have only six months to live.
“It’s a cancer beast,” Mrs. Shaw said, noting how quickly it had grown between the two exams.
She called the diagnosis “a huge shock.”
“More ironic because of the work he’s done in his career — that his life goal is to cure cancer,” she said.
Scientist suffers in silence through hotel quarantine
Dr Paine immediately packed up and tried to book a flight to Australia, but the Covid-19 pandemic delayed his plans.
The 38-year-old’s flights were repeatedly canceled but he was eventually able to board a plane and land in Sydney to endure the two-week hotel quarantine after an exemption was refused.
“It’s been a pretty horrific journey, going from an incredibly fit, perfectly normal and incredibly committed young man to being diagnosed with a particularly aggressive, untreatable, incurable cancer and being on the other side of the world during a pandemic,” Ms Shaw said.
dr. Paine had decided not to tell the majority of his family about his diagnosis until he could see them in person, so the quarantine was “pure emotional hell,” Ms Shaw said.
After his release, he was finally able to start treatment, but after numerous bouts of intensive chemotherapy, the treatment suddenly stopped working.
Clinical Treatment Provides Pain Relief
dr. Paine has just completed his second week of a new treatment called BEACON.
It’s his best and only option right now, Ms. Shaw said.
The medication has been able to relieve some of his pain and appears to be doing its job, she said.
One side effect of the treatment is acne, so Dr. Paine goes to bed every night in the hope that he will “wake up pimpler than ever,” his aunt said.
Dr Paine is inundated with support
The 38-year-old family created a GoFundMe to help pay for more than $50,000 BEACON treatment.
“We love him and want him around. Family is everything. It’s that simple,” they wrote on the fundraiser site, which has since raised more than $100,000.
“It’s hard to find the words to express my gratitude to all of you who have donated to this fundraiser for my treatment,” said Dr Paine.
“To know that I have the love and support of so many people from all over the world – friends, family and people I’ve never met – leaves me so humbled.”
Ms Shaw said all the support has “rekindled Marty in a way cancer treatment can’t – it does the work for his soul.”
dr. Paine said if he doesn’t survive, he will donate the money raised to cancer researchers to continue his work.
“He’s a scientist to the end,” Mrs. Shaw said.
Surfer boy says cancer research ‘chosen him’
dr. Paine, who loves the sun, swimming and surfing, told Yahoo News Australia that his career “chose him”.
“As an analytical chemist, I was able to work on many different projects with different diseases early on.
“I was lucky that some of those were cancer projects.
“These were always the most interesting because they presented the greatest scientific challenges and therefore the research results generally had the greatest scientific impact.”
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