Local man fights on after gov’t shutdown puts clinical trial on hold

SCHAGHTICOKE, N.Y. — The government shutdown is forcing one man to fight for his life and his hope that a rare form of cancer could one day be curable. 

For Robert Duncan, a man staring down death, the shutdown means clinical cancer research at the National Institute of Health has been put on hold – and his dream of saving others is left hanging in the balance. 

“I'm the man with the responsibility now, so I have got to be strong, I can't back down, it's on me,” says Duncan.

At 67-years old, Robert Duncan looks healthy.  He plays with dogs and loves to share memories of good times. But since 1995 he's been fighting a rare form of bone marrow cancer.

“There was no treatment,” he says.

Doctors told him had less than two years to live — he's lived nearly two decades.

“I have to accomplish things for other people that have these kinds of orphan diseases,' he says.

He's had nearly 300 blood transfusions, crediting donors with helping him say alive.   

But now the shutdown has suspended clinical research Duncan is a part of.  For months he's been getting tests done, part of an acceptance period, before he becomes a candidate for life saving research.

“If I go down, I am going down going forward, I'm not going to just stop and lay down, and I will go forward,” he says.

Duncan lost his wife, a woman who encouraged him to fight on, to cancer this summer.

“It's tough then, it's very tough,” he says.

He's scared the research could be dropped all together, and wants political leaders to put people first.

“Some of the things that are being done now, politically, I don't really care about, but you don't do things detrimental to the country,” he says. “You don't hurt the American people for a political reason.”

Even though the door has been shut in his face, he's not giving up, and says he will fight on in hopes of saving other lives – something he and his wife dedicated their lives to.  

“Certainly they got my shoe laces tied together for the moment, but I can still walk, and if I have to crawl I will,” he says.

Duncan has tried to contact local senators and congressmen to encourage them to continue to fund clinical research.   But since the shutdown, his calls have gone unanswered. 

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