UPDATE: Cancer fighter admitted to health study despite shutdown - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Cancer fighter admitted to health study despite shutdown setbacks

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Photo: Robert and his wife Dawn Photo: Robert and his wife Dawn
Photo: Robert and his wife Dawn Photo: Robert and his wife Dawn

SCHAGHTICOKE, N.Y. -- Relief has come for Robert Duncan, a Schaghticoke man battling a rare form of cancer who has been determined to show lawmakers in Washington how the shutdown is threatening people's lives.

It has been a little more than a week since the government shutdown caused three fourths of the staff at the National Institute of Health to be furloughed, and for people like Robert Duncan to be disconnected from their doctors that are undertaking life-saving clinical trials.

[STORY: Local man fights on after gov't shutdown puts clinical trial on hold]

But on Tuesday, Duncan received the greatest call he could hope for – and it came on his 24th wedding anniversary. Amid the government shutdown he fought to get in contact with his lawmakers – ultimately speaking with several and securing their support in getting the National Institute of Health reopened.

[STORY: Leaders take notice of local man's shutdown plight]

"That's wonderful, thank you. Goodbye now. That was the doctor. I'm just being accepted into the study," he said after answering a phone call while visiting his wife's grave on their wedding anniversary.

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

"I can't imagine coming here, and having it happen when I'm celebrating my anniversary with my wife, life doesn't get any better than this. It's incredible," he said.

[STORY: Update on a local man's fight for cancer treatment]

It's been an incredible journey for Duncan, who has been trying for years to get into a clinical trial at NIH so doctors could study his rare form of bone marrow cancer. He is one of only four people alive who have this rare type of cancer, and Duncan hopes his clinical trial can help doctors learn more about the disease and use that knowledge to help treat and one day find a cure.

"This facility is the last hope for many people," he said.

His doctor at NIH told him Tuesday that his tests had been completed, and they want him to visit next week for further tests.

"I can't fathom how all these things are happening, and in such a short time," he said.

That's because just last Wednesday, Duncan couldn't reach his doctors, his congressman, or senators, and he didn't know if he was going to be accepted into NIH -- his last hope.

"Dawn had to be there with me, had to be. It's just so extraordinary," he said. "I want to make sure that no one else, because of the shutdown, ever ends up here because of that."

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