Coaldale woman takes her fight with cancer across the border

Katie Norman has been battling cancer for almost four years.

It began with a gastrointestinal stromal tumour, also known as GIST, a rare cancer that forms in the digestive system.

Norman, 34, found out about her diagnosis after an MRI found a large tumour obstructing her bowels had grown into her pancreas. She underwent emergency surgery in February 2021.

While she dealt with major complications after the procedure, doctors informed her the cancer wasn’t receptive to chemo or radiation.

Her body eventually started to reject the oral medication she was prescribed. By May 2023, the cancer returned — this time, in her liver.

“Since then, I was able to get into a brand new trial that came to Canada, there is just under 500 people in the world on this trial and I was the first one in Alberta, so I was kind of the guinea pig here for it,” said Norman.

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But lately, Norman’s scans show the cancer is still progressing — even on the trial medication.

“So, we’ve had to stop,” she said.

“In the last two months alone, my tumors have grown 18 per cent. They’ve now over doubled in size in the last year since I was diagnosed again, and I’m kind of running out of options at this point.”

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Norman said she’s been working with a palliative and oncology team at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary to come up with solutions.

They’re at a standstill coming up with next steps.

“At this point, they’re not willing to do surgery just because of the severity of it,” said Norman.

“We’ve kind of been getting different answers … I’ve tried to ask and fight for surgery here, but I’m hitting a wall (and) I’m also running out of time.”

Despite not having many options, Norman has decided to take the fight into her own hands.

She has made appointments in Arizona to meet with medical professionals at the Mayo Clinic and Banner Medical Clinic.

However, the costs are mounting, she said.

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“They charge to review my medical documents, and of course MRI’s cost more,” Norman said.

“They charge for the actual appointments, they charge for me to see the doctor, everything, so it’s going to be quite costly, but it’s what we’re willing to do if it means helping me.”

Over the weekend, Norman’s father, Bill, set up a GoFundMe to support his daughter while she navigates the financial hardships that come with accessing care in the United States.

“Kind of a last effort to generate some funds for Katie that’ll help get her get into the states and get the treatment that she deserves and requires to save her life,” he said.

“We’re just trying everything we can to keep our daughter alive at this point.”

Cruise for Katie fundraiser in Coaldale on June 1.

Cruise for Katie fundraiser in Coaldale on June 1.

Bill Norman

Friends and family have also come together to set up another fundraising event in Coaldale, Alta., on June 1.

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Cruise for Katie will see motorcyclists ride around Lethbridge, Picture Butte and Coalhurst before returning to Coaldale for a silent auction, 50/50 draw and raffle.

Katie Norman said the support from the community gives her strength.

She jets off to Arizona on June 4 to see if doctors can schedule her for surgery.

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