Andy Dalton, his two children, ages 8 and 4, and his partner Amanda O’Connor.
Andy Dalton went to the hospital after struggling to breathe. He would later find out that he had days to live.
The 41-year-old father of two found himself out of breath while running and then when lying down.
On October 11, he went to the emergency department of the Dunedin Hospital where they detected a tumor that was pressing on his trachea.
“He couldn’t get air into his lungs,” said Amanda O’Connor, 36, speaking on behalf of her partner.
* Waikato DHB cyberattack made a serious cancer situation worse for Lynne Kenny
* Proposed Law Change to Administer Unfunded Drugs in Public System Removed from Ballot
* Cost of cancer treatment is ‘crippling’, says Southland advocate
A scan revealed that Dalton was breathing through a gap of only about 3 millimeters. He was transferred to the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) that night.
Surgery to remove the tumor revealed that she had a rare, super-aggressive form of cancer called anaplastic thyroid cancer, which they were unable to remove.
They made a tracheostomy, a hole in the front of her neck and in her windpipe, so she could breathe.
But while he was in the ICU, the tumor continued to grow and began to restrict his airway.
A few days later, Dalton was told he had “days” left.
“We were a little shocked,” O’Connor said.
Dalton’s two children, an 8-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, were doing “as well as could be expected,” he said.
The couple highlighted the incredible support they had at the hospital, which included a consultant who came on his day off to take Dalton home in an ambulance for three hours so he could say goodbye to family and friends.
“We were expecting any minute,” O’Connor said.
Dalton, who communicates via tablet, said Stuff hospital staff had “gone above and beyond in treating me with the utmost care in what has been an incredibly frightening, stressful and emotional experience.”
On Tuesday, Dalton received his final radiation treatment intended to prolong his life, which appeared to help stunt his growth.
Although the cancer was incurable, tests revealed that he had a specific mutation known as the Braf gene.
Unfunded drugs costing $5,500 per month targeted the mutation and slowed tumor growth.
“It slightly improves prognosis, it gives him a little more time, but nothing is a cure for Andy’s cancer,” O’Connor said.
The family wanted him to have more time, especially for his children, so they had set up a Givealittle page, hoping to raise $50,000.
Vickie Hudson-Craig, 42, needs unfunded cancer drugs to stop the growth of tumors in her heart (video posted May 2022).
Another possible treatment option was also the unfunded immunotherapy drug, PDL-1, which cost $100,000 a year.
“Nobody thinks he’s going to get that amount of time,” O’Connor said.
He returned home and the family realized they were “on shaky ground,” he said.
“Every day since then has been a gift.
“It has been a challenge for me, as his partner, to try to put on a positive face every day.”
The best case scenario was for the tumor to shrink around the trachea and be able to speak, albeit quietly, with the tracheostomy still in place.
Dalton was able to talk with the help of an electronic device, as well as “charades” with his children.
His son was desperate for his father to see him play sports, which included futsal and touch.
“It’s about maximizing children’s memories,” O’Connor said.