On the back of a horse, Parksville’s Loni Atwood still has full command, directing the powerful animal she’s astride and teaching riding students competitive dressage.
On the ground, the 43-year-old equestrian’s body is struggling. She’s battling a rare stage 4 adrenal cancer that statistically offers just two years of life after diagnosis.
“This one is within two years, so I’ll be at my two years in February,” said Atwood.
But the single mother of two refuses to give up or leave her two sons, aged 16 and 19, behind.
“I am not leaving them. That is not an option,” said the Parksville woman.
According to Atwood, without a family doctor, she endured long waits for lab results that were never sent to her and referrals for treatment that came a year after her diagnosis. She says it ended with her cancer spreading aggressively through her body.
“I went to BC Cancer (Agency), had my first meeting, and was told the news that I was not going to be getting chemo and that they were going to be doing nothing, and that was a pretty hard pill to swallow and to hear, especially coming home to tell the boys that there is no plan,” Atwood told CHEK News.
She says B.C.’s overwhelmed medical system, which CHEK News has profiled with multiple B.C. cancer patients choosing to head to the United States for costly private treatment, sidelined her and then seemed to give up on her.
“That’s the scary part because you are really leaving your life in someone else’s hands, and they left me for a year, and I was declined chemotherapy,” she said.
Atwood later received chemotherapy but said she has been declined three times for clinical trials and wonders if those could help her.
“If you’re waiting too long, you’re rolling the dice. They rolled the dice with my life, and I took their word that they were on top of it, and it ended up being a bad mistake. I do have regret about that,” said Atwood.
Now, she’s seeking alternative therapies to treat her cancer and find some hope that she isn’t too late to be saved.