In the late Spring of 2019, David Lahey experienced symptoms of a sore throat and decided to visit his GP for a quick check up. The doctor didn’t like the look of things and sent David over to Mount Sinai for a biopsy–shortly afterwards, he got a call from Dr. Eric Monteiro and received what he calls “the shock of my life.” David had Stage 4 throat cancer.
By summer, a team of doctors and oncologists at The Princess Margaret quickly assembled to develop a strategy for David, one of them being Dr. Lillian Siu. The initial plan included 35 radiation treatments and three rounds of chemotherapy that began immediately. Over the next three months David lost weight along with his appetite, but the tumour started to shrink.
By December, he went back in for an examination and the tumour had returned with a vengeance, growing 3x its original size. The tumour was closing in on his windpipe and required an emergency tracheotomy. By this point, he was shaken. He had lost close to 30 pounds, his ability to speak and was administered to palliative care after being told that things were just too delicate for further surgery and that the tumour was growing far too fast to manage. Enter Dr. Lillian Siu, along with a return to his faith. “Faith versus fear” is a motto David has lived by throughout his cancer journey.
David Lahey was given just three weeks to live, but thanks to immunotherapy and Dr. Lillian Siu, he is 99% cancer free.
Dr. Lillian Siu refused to give up hope. As the clinical lead for The Princess Margaret’s Tumor Immunotherapy Program–the first program of its kind in Canada and one of a handful that exists worldwide–she investigated ways to harness David’s own immune system to attack and kill his tumor. In December 2020, she put David on an immunotherapy drug and sent him home with 24/7 care in January, just after his 60th birthday. By February, the treatment started working and by March, the tumour started to recede. Decreasing in size by 95%.
This December, David’s scans came up NED (no evidence of disease). His weight is back up, his colour is back, his voice is back, and he is back to work as President and CEO of Predictive Success. He can’t believe that one year ago he was asking his best friend to help plan his funeral and this winter, he was playing pond hockey on the lake at his family cottage.
David says he owes his entire recovery to The Princess Margaret team, particularly Dr. Lillian Siu, who David refers to as “the innovator”, he admires her tenacity and says that she found a unique solution that gave him his life back. He would also like to acknowledge the many great nurses and staff on the 18th floor where “he lived for a month, who were so caring and very good at their trade.” Noting that they must be the very best in the world based on his experience.
“I am not a statistic. I am a survivor.”
Recently, David and his wife Patty gave back in a big way, generously donating $100K to the “Dr. Lillian Siu Research Fund” supporting immunotherapy and throat cancer research. David wants anyone in a tough state to know that they too can get through this. And gently reminds anyone who is thinking of donating that the funds are what get us through. “The Princess Margaret is a leader of the leaders in immunotherapy. I am an example that the research is working. I am not a statistic. I am a survivor.”
David would like to send special thanks to Father Lazlo of Holy Family Church and Dr. Jon Hunter of Mount Sinai for their council. Along with his family, Kelly Anne Curtis, Jennifer and wife Patty who took turns sleeping in his room to assist his care.