Richard and Tracy Stuart would give the shirt off their backs to someone in need if they could.
But the Nanaimo couple, who have been together for nearly 25 years, are facing problems of their own right now.
Richard has diabetes and last summer, his kidney function dropped rapidly. He was told to find a kidney donor.
His wife Tracy was more than willing to donate her kidney to her husband and found out she was the perfect match after some blood work. She continued with the rest of the tests necessary to donate but the tests revealed something unexpected.
Tracy has myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells which are a type of white blood cell that produce antibodies.
“I just put my head down and apologized because I felt so guilty having cancer and not being able to save his live,” Tracy said. “You can’t imagine the feeling of guilt that went through me.”
Before the diagnoses, Tracy was a manager at PetSmart in Nanaimo and Richard worked at London Drugs in both Nanaimo and Duncan.
The couple now spends their time caring for each other and managing the several appointments they each have to go to. They bought planners to keep track of everything and left their jobs.
“It’s almost overwhelming,” Richard said. “We try to plan what’s next and what we have to do.”
Richard began kidney dialysis earlier this month while Tracy begins chemotherapy at the end of January. Her chemotherapy is expected to take at least five months after which a stem cell transplant will require her to stay in Vancouver for a month.
“I don’t want to leave him for a month,” Tracy said.
As Richard prepared for dialysis, he also found out he has heart problems (requiring stent implants) as well as a hernia.
Graham Bunn, a Langford resident, is Tracy’s son and Richard’s stepson.
He said dealing with the news of Tracy and Richard has been difficult on him and his brother.
“It felt like you got punched in the face once with my stepdad’s kidney and then you find out your mom has cancer and get punched in the face again,” Bunn said. “They’re my family, they’re my loved ones.”
A friend of Tracy and Richard’s set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the couple’s everyday costs as well as costs to go to Vancouver for treatment. But they are also in search of a kidney donor.
“You can have all the money in the world but in the end you still have cancer, you still need a kidney,” Tracy said.
A few people have been tested to see if they could donate a kidney but none have worked out so far.
According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, everyone has two kidneys but can live a healthy life with just one. Living donations give someone an alternative to dialysis or a deceased donor transplant.
Donating a kidney is the most frequent type of living organ donation and most successful of all transplant procedures.
At the moment, Bunn is in the process of being tested as is another friend of the family.
“We’ve had huge support from friends and family members,” Bunn said.
Tracy and Richard are also receiving a great deal of support from Tracy’s parents, they said. Tracy’s father beat three separate bouts of cancer and has been able to speak with Tracy about what to expect.
“We went down to the cancer clinic yesterday,” Tracy said. “I looked at my father and he was starting to tear up because he knew what was to come for me and he didn’t want that.”
Despite everything the couple is going through, Tracy said she is still willing to speak on Richard’s behalf and find him a kidney.
“We’re so worried about each other that we’re not worried about ourselves…it’s hard to explain,” Tracy said. “We’re so tired, we have no energy, it’s just so much stress.”