Sadly, Evan passed away on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 36 years old. He showed strength, courage, perseverance, resilience, and love and made us want to do the same. He touched so many and will continue to do so.
Name: Evan Saulnier
Hometown: Saulnierville, NS
What school did/do you attend? Ecole Secondaire de Clare
Do you work? No, off on Long Term Disability
What are your career goals?
Old goal: Own my own restaurant. I spent 18 years in the food industry. Current: To go back to school to be a counselor for cancer and disabled patients.
Your Cancer experience:
How did you find out you were sick? What led to the diagnosis?
I had some pain in my left hip for which my family doctor recommended some chiropractic therapy. At the chiropractor, my left femur was fractured. This led to x-rays which found the tumor in my left hip. It was some time before they found the larger one in my right scapula.
What was your diagnosis?
Mesenchymal Chondro Sarcoma
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
It was in October of 2009, I was 31-years old.
In which hospitals were you treated?
Queen Elizabeth II & Victoria General
At what level of education were you at diagnosis?
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
How did your family react?
My family has all been really supportive. We have always been a close family so I always knew they would be there for me. It’s always really hard to tell people you really care about news of such things.
How did your friends react? Were you treated any different?
Almost all of my really good friends have all been there but some of the long time and most of the newer acquaintances I have met since I got back to the province have made themselves scarce in a lot of ways. I had one friend for nearly 18 years that would not answer my calls or messages for the first year of treatment. I was so surprised by the utter dismissal I sort of had from him and a few others as I am one who will do anything for his true friends.
What did your treatment consist of?
I started with three surgeries, each one month apart, almost one month exactly after first finding the tumor.
The first surgery was in two parts. First was the biopsy to find out which cancer I have and to pin and screw my femur back together after the fracture from the chiropractor. The second surgery was to remove the majority of my left femur and to replace with a stainless bar.
Just before my second surgery, one doctor noticed a blemish on the edge of the CT scan of my chest. This led to a scan of my scapula and the conclusion that it should go as well. There seemed to be a larger tumor there which had started to spread into soft tissue. So another month later and the removal of my right scapula, glenoid, and top part of the humerus was completed.
Since the tumor had spread to soft tissue the doctors had to remove more of the area than expected and a prosthetic had nothing left to hold on to. To keep my arm from not just hanging, they used muscles from the top part of my arm and wound it around the clavicle. Then they added some fibre mesh over the muscle to make it harden and essentially make a sling out of it all.
Four months of recoup, and chemotherapy was commenced. I did six rounds of three-day in-patient treatment sessions once every three weeks until completion. Cisplatin for the first day and
Adriamycin for the full three days as a ten minute “push,” 24 hours apart.
Currently I have had a nice six-month break but received the news just recently that I shall be starting radiation treatment as some small tumors have been found in my scapular area again.
Describe the non-medical side
My left leg has done very well in healing. I may not be able to walk without my cane but I am not in pain every day from my walks any longer. While my right arm stays close to the body and I have very good control from the elbow down to the arm, I will not be able to lift my arm over my shoulder ever again, but I still have an arm.
Surgery was fairly easy for me once I got over the fact that two large things from my life were going to be done. One was “scrambling” on mountains and the other was my love of working in the food industry. I spent 18 years working every position you can and I have my culinary papers to prove it. I love food and it made me feel so great the first time I was able to make a meal again. I need my wife more as a prep cook than I used to, but it helps to make me feel somewhat more myself again. The scrambles and climbs may be in the past but I still have the outdoors and I realize that I have been blessed to have lived and traveled to so many cliff top vistas that who really can complain?
What is your current medical status? Active Mesenchymal ChondroSarcoma
How is life different for you now post diagnosis?
Physically, my body hurts every day; I have difficulty walking anywhere longer than five minutes in length but I am always getting stronger.
Emotionally, well that depends on the day. I am perfect most days but every once in a while I see or think of something and then I am just a big ball of mess.
Socially, horrid. I rarely see my friends any longer and I miss socializing at the workplace.
Spiritually, pretty much the same. My faith has always been important to me, no matter how much it changes over time.
What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?
Having to learn to accept help from others.
What is/was the best part of your challenge?
Realizing what the important things in my life are.
What really motivates you to keep going?
My wife, Sarah. Without her, I would have been present (in the moment) for treatments but I would not have been so determined to fight throughout everything that came at me.
What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?
To cherish all that I have today.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
I always took cancer very seriously as I lost my uncle to cancer in a very short period of time. When I think of my present situation with having something so rare, I just giggle. What else can you do? One statistic I saw said that there had been less than 44 people diagnosed with this Sarcoma in North America from 1988 until 2004. Statistics are silly but really now, that rare?
I am a healthy individual who enjoys regular exercise, worked as a professional chef for years so I eat well. There’s nothing really abnormal with my life, you just have to take what comes to you and smile. Anything else would not serve me well in any fashion, so just smile and keep on walking.
What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?
The only part of my treatment that could have gone better would have been having all of my doctors and nurses talked to one another. We found out about so many programs after the fact, even though we asked all of the right questions. Push, push, and push some more; you will be bounced around by everyone but keep your head as straight as you can and you will at least prove to yourself that you never gave up.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge? No
If you did not attend a support group, why?
There were no support groups for people my own age group. Everyone is above the age of 65 and these are not the ones I am going to discuss the feelings I am having when it comes to the bedroom. Also with having such a rare type of cancer there is no one for me talk about the same issues.
Would you if one had been available? Do you think attending one would have helped you?
If there was one from Young Adult Cancer Canada being held here in Halifax, I would be there in a heartbeat as I do believe that I have things that I could use getting off of my chest.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?
Just joined the online community.
How did it happen? I tried to find forums where I could talk to others my own age.