Allie Karpiuk informed Discover Airdrie, that her father George passed away on Friday, June 17.
In 2017, when Allie Karpiuk learned that her father, George, had stage four lung cancer in both lungs and that doctors estimated he had anywhere from six months to a year to live, the news was agonizing. With surgery off the table, her father would immediately start chemotherapy. True to George's proud and stoic nature he went into treatment ready to beat cancer and win the battle, no questions asked.
"The way dad thought was, it's just one more hurdle in life. We've jumped through how many of these? This is just one more we've got to clear," Karpiuk said. "We actually ended up taking some family pictures, shortly after dad started chemo and that's when we actually noticed a lump on mom's chest. She mentioned it couldn't be cancer. There's no way; the world doesn't work like that."
The family tragedy would continue when Karpiuk's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and would also start chemotherapy.
"It was difficult because my parents are divorced, so I couldn't stay with both of them. It was always mom or dad, it wasn't together."
George would eventually go on immunotherapy as his wife continued her own chemotherapy treatments. While Karpiuk's father's health improved and he was able to partake in a sport he found pure delight in; golf, her mother ended up in palliative care after a staph infection spread to her blood. But Kari, Karpiuk's mom, would not be outdone.
"She battled, she battled, she battled, she fought so hard and she got out of that palliative care ward and she came home," she said. "She was able to get through her breast cancer and she is now in remission."
While there were many health complications for Kari, including a gall bladder that fused with her bowels, nearly killing her, she managed to beat it all back. For some time it seemed the family's ongoing tragedies had ceased and things returned to normal; that is until COVID-19 began.
"A lot of us forgot that dad was dying. He was working, he was living. And then right around the time that COVID came into the world, dad started having some pain in his shoulder," Karpiuk said. "He was a Ukrainian [folk] dancer, so for him to have pain in his knees or in his shoulders wasn't anything new."
The pain became so unbearable that George gave up golfing with friends. He withdrew more and more, giving up cooking, something his daughter says he adored.
"You knew that pain was getting bad when the social butterfly wasn't a social butterfly anymore. The pain ended up putting him in bed and then he stopped eating. From there, it just progressed and kept progressing."
COVID-19 severely reduced procedures and in George's case, the ability to get various scans that might have detected the cause of the pain. After numerous attempts, Karpiuk's dad was finally able to see a doctor and have a CT scan performed. That scan revealed a horrifying truth. George's lung had collapsed.
"Not even two days later after that consultation, the ambulance was at my dad's house, taking him to the hospital. I never thought in a million years when he left that day that he wouldn't be coming home."
Whilst in the hospital doctors tried to repair his lung, however, the procedure didn't go as planned.
"A whole bunch of air was introduced into dad's body, and there was nowhere for it to go, so it got trapped within his skin. When it did that, it cut off his airways, so he couldn't breathe," she said. "About a week later, dad got pneumonia. He has pneumonia in the only lung that's working; it's not working so great anymore."
These days Karpiuk splits her time between Airdrie and Calgary, trying to take care of both parents and trying to spend time with a father who has little precious time left.
"He's passing away on us slowly. It's a horrible way to have to watch him go and it's just such a shame because he was everybody's best friend," she said. "Cancer is a horrible disease and now it's in his liver, it's in his lymph nodes, it's in his bones."
Living expenses however didn't cease for Karpiuk as she grappled with losing her father. Life continued to roll forward and so did the monthly bills and expenses.
"I realized it's either: I go to work every day and I'm not there with my dad or I figure out figure out a way out that I can be there with my dad," she said. "There are some amazing people in the world that we are very lucky to call friends and family and they have always said when push comes to shove, we'll always be here."
With a bit of encouragement from one of her father's co-workers, Karpiuk set up a gofundme page. While the campaign was created a mere seven days ago, it has a total of over $5,000 of donations, from friends and strangers alike.
"I wasn't expecting the response that we got. I was never expecting it. It's made it easier for us to make those commutes back and forth, for the gas, for the food. It's helped more than I can even begin to explain. I'm so thankful for everyone that took the time to read that story, but to those who also donated."
Although there are days when Karpiuk does shed tears for all that she has watched her parents go through, she has also found remarkable strength in that very suffering.
"It's my parents. It was watching them deal with cancer and doing it so gracefully and keeping their positivity high," she said. "The way that they handled the situation, where most of us would want to crawl into a hole and never come out. They did more for me than they realize. Because of their strength and how they've walked through this journey: they've taught me how."
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