ALBANY, N.Y. — The end of the government shutdown has many people breathing a sigh of relief, but for local cancer patient Robert Duncan it means life-saving clinical trials resume across the country.
Duncan is one of only four people alive with a rare type of cancer, and his entry into the trial was put on hold because of the shutdown. His fight paid off on Monday when he boarded a plane bound for Maryland where doctors gave him potentially lifesaving medication that isn't available outside of the trial.
“This holds so much promise this drug, in the fact that there are other people out there who could utilize it. Without it they may die. They're certainly in a fragile condition right now, and I pray that they will be able to get an opportunity as well,” he said upon his return to the Capital Region on Tuesday.
Now Duncan says he's determined to not let other people fall through the cracks if lawmakers find themselves in a similar situation.
“That these experimental treatments that he's going to be a part of, these trials, that they're successful, this is part of the reason why that we need the government open,” says Congressman Chris Gibson.
Duncan received his 288th blood transfusion on Thursday.
“If I didn't get these today, and I had to go through this weekend — I might not make it,” he says.
But other critical patients found themselves coming up short during the shutdown because they were denied access to medication through clinical trials. That's why Duncan says the country can no longer gamble with lives if the government is shutdown.
“These people need to be protected, and the only way to protect them is to say this is an essential service, for now and forever,” he says.
It's something Gibson acknowledges.
“Well that's certainly something that should be looked at in great detail,” he says.
It's an effort Duncan refuses to give up on.
“The ultimate goal, and were going for it, and we will not stop, we will go forward until it's achieved,” he says.
He adds that he will continue to reach out to his congressman and senators in hopes of rallying support to make NIH personnel completely essential.
Duncan will return to Maryland every four weeks, and he'll meet with doctor's locally every week to track his condition.