SURREY, B.C. — “If I don’t do this, I’m going to die.”
A former Peninsula Daily News bureau chief has fought multiple myeloma — a cancer of the plasma cells — for 14 years.
Through chemo therapies, a stem cell transplant and “miracle drugs,” Keven Drews, 45, has outlived the American Cancer Society’s four-year life expectancy associated with multiple myeloma by a decade.
But the latest treatments are failing.
Drews, 45, needs an appointment in Seattle and $500,000. Maybe more.
That would allow the Surrey, B.C., husband and father of twins to participate in a clinical trial developing CAR T cell therapy at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. His friends and family launched a GoFundMe page, “Multiple Myeloma: Mad at Myeloma,” to raise money for Drews’ medical bills one week ago, and it has raised $26,008 as of Sunday.
Because Drews does not have private insurance in the United States, he will need to pay the anticipated costs upfront.
“I’ve gotta be ready to pay,” he said. “It’s pay-to-play, right?”
“What if I end up in the ICU?” Drews added, noting that more costs would be incurred.
The therapy would remove Drews’ T cells, the immune system’s killer cells, re-engineer them in a lab and infuse them back into his blood stream to attack the cancer.
The best outcome would provide Drews more time, he said.
Drews would relish 10 more years with his wife Yvette and seven-year-old twins, Elleree and Tristan, the latter of whom is on the autism spectrum, he said.
“I’d really like to get some more years. I’m willing to tolerate the pain but I’m not willing to depart from my kids,” he said. “I really want to be there to help my wife because autism is really, really hard.”
“Autism can be all-consuming,” he continued.
But Drews would rather be consumed by concern for his son than consumed by cancer.
“That’s actually welcome to me — to forget about the cancer. I’d like to be in a position where I don’t have to worry about the cancer, and I can worry about my son, and I can worry about my daughter.”
Drews documents his fundraising efforts on Facebook.
It reads — perhaps unsurprisingly — as a column of the journalist’s battle with cancer.
Currently on medical leave from the Canadian Press, Drews worked as the Port Townsend bureau chief of the Peninsula Daily News from December 2002 to March 2003.
He received a multiple myeloma diagnosis while on staff in 2003.
“I came down with a backache and thought it was a slipped disc,” he said.
“That’s when they gave me the coffin.”
Fourteen years later, Drews still resolves to fight the diagnosis.
“The secret to it is that you put your head down and do it. You don’t stop,” he said. “What happens if you quit on yourself? If you quit on yourself, you’re going to die.”
Reporter Sarah Sharp can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at ssharp@peninsula dailynews.com.