Jasper chef describes his battle against brain cancer
Published Wednesday, October 7, 2020 7:10AM MDT
Friends have launched a GoFundMe to help Chef Stu and his family with the costs of transportation to Edmonton for treatments as well as time away from work. (Source: GoFundMe)
JASPER, ALTA. -- An outpouring of love and support is helping Stu Allen focus on healing.
Stu, who worked as an executive chef for Pursuit Group Banff Jasper Collection in Jasper, is in the midst of treatments at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton for glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
A treatment team there said the tumour is inoperable and gave him an 18-month prognosis.
Stu got the diagnosis in early August. The concurrent therapy includes radiation treatments, which started at the Cross Cancer Institute on Sept. 8, as well as a daily dose of chemotherapy pills.
His wife, Julie Smith-Allen and his stepdaughter, Madeline Neufeld, are with him, along with Stu's canine buddy, a Bernese mountain dog named Niko, and Jade the cat. All live in a hotel that's a 15-minute drive from the Cross Cancer Institute.
Since the diagnosis, Stu has had overwhelming support from many corners. A GoFundMe account has made it possible for the family to be together in Edmonton. Julie is working remotely for Jasper National Park.
The GoFundMe Page has also opened the door to many connections, some with people Stu hasn't talked with since childhood.
“It's amazing, truly amazing,” he said. “To know people are praying, and that I'm the focus of their thoughts, is healing to me.”
Stu's therapy is administered in a specific sequence. An hour after breakfast Stu takes one anti-nausea pill. An hour later he takes four chemotherapy pills all at once. Focused radiation treatments are done an hour after that, sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (his asked-for preference), from Monday to Friday. The treatments last from 15 to 25 minutes each time.
Julie helps keep the timing in order and said, “I have about five or six alarms set on my phone: it's all so important and terrifying.
“I'm fortunate to have a sister-in-law who is an oncology nurse, and I've phoned her on more than once occasion in a panic.”
At the clinic, “The staff is very, very supportive,” Stu said. “You get a lot of one-on-one support from the staff.”
“The volunteer staff is equally supportive,” Julie added. “When we first arrived, we had no idea where to go.”
Fortunately, she said, a red-vested volunteer was standing by watching to see who needs help.
“Like a little cancer robin,” Stu added.
Stu's friends, Stewart Nunn in Arizona and Jason Peeples in Memphis, have been a part of his life since childhood. They kept in contact regularly before Stu's diagnosis and now they connect almost everyday, including video chatting once a week.
On the GoFundMe page, Stu said, “People have popped into my life from my past.”
“One of the most touching ones is Stu's former soccer coach and history teacher, Nick Scully,” Julie said.
Stu noted they've had a couple of phone conversations to reconnect.
“All of the people who have held us in their prayers, we sit back and envision and feel the positivity from people,” Julie said. “We feel like this little hotel room is full of people.”
Stu celebrated his birthday on Sept. 15 at a restaurant, Memphis Blues, and had high praise for the delicious food.
There will be another celebration soon when he and Julie celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary on Oct. 13. They will dine on Indian food, which is what they had at their wedding.
Stu and Julie will return to Jasper when 30 radiation treatments have been done. Around Christmas time, Stu will be able to get an MRI scan and that's when the treatment team will know what's going on.
“It may be a good present for us,” Stu said.
The family continues to move ahead with positivity. Madeline prepares healthy meals each day, and takes Niko on walks. (The Leash Team takes him for morning jaunts too.)
Julie said, “Stu's and my favourite time each day is when we're taking the escalator downstairs to do radiation treatments. Standing behind him with my arms wrapped around his neck, just for a few moments, it's like nothing else matters.”
“They diagnosed 18 months with treatment,” Stu said. “I kind of feel, with everyone's support, love and prayers that I can extend that a little bit, and try to get past that a little bit.”