Alberta Cancer Foundation

A Bond Forged in Adversity: The Story of Karla Palardy and Andrew Bell

Karla Palardy and Andrew Bell at the Arthur Child
Karla Palardy

Before her cancer diagnosis, Karla Palardy was a skier, runner and dedicated professional in the oil and gas industry. Life was, in her own words, “pretty normal.”

Everything changed ten months ago when Karla woke up with blurred vision. Assuming she needed a new prescription, she visited the eye doctor and ended up being referred directly to the ER. That night, an MRI revealed a substantive brain tumour. At 38 years old, Karla received the shocking diagnosis of glioblastoma, a very rare form of brain cancer.

“You have to be on the really far end of the severity spectrum to think that there are good kinds of cancer... It’s really highlighted to me how much my community and my loved ones have been there.”

Within a week of her diagnosis, Karla underwent a craniotomy and began subsequent rounds of treatment. Reflecting on the past, she realizes earlier symptoms had been dismissed as professional burnout.
The initial treatment period, following her surgery, was what Karla described as a “three-month blackout.”

The prescribed medications for her craniotomy caused double vision and reduced spatial awareness, compounding the overall challenges of treatment. The surgery also caused the loss of her left peripheral sight.

Ever resilient, Karla finds the bright side even in adversity: “If you have to lose anything in brain surgery, I’d vote for that every time.”

Karla’s treatment journey took her to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, where she felt enveloped in care. “Everyone’s been incredible,” she says with heartfelt gratitude. Her surgeon, Dr. Kelly, holds a special place in her heart as “a fantastic surgeon who saved my life.”

Her journey will continue at the Arthur J.E. Child Comprehensive Cancer Centre later this year, a transition she anticipates with hope. Touring the facility with her friend Andrew Bell by her side in early Spring of 2024, brought a sense of comfort and solidarity.

Karla Palardy and Andrew Bell at the Arthur Child

The Path of Friendship and Shared Struggles

Andrew Bell

Andrew Bell grew up in Ontario, where he enjoyed swimming and spending time outdoors. In 2014, he moved to Calgary and now lives with his partner and daughter.

Andrew’s life took a dramatic turn in February 2021 when he fainted, an incident initially dismissed as COVID-19 or exhaustion from recently becoming a father. A few months later, in May, Andrew was diagnosed with brain cancer, specifically primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma. He was 35 years old, and his daughter, Celeste, was 7 months old.

Following his diagnosis, Andrew was initially placed in palliative care. He recalls the staff’s dark humour, which brought a sense of levity to an otherwise grim situation. By May, the tumour had grown to the size of a fist, a stark reminder of the aggressive nature of his illness. Despite the late discovery and extensive tissue damage, Andrew harbours no blame but emphasizes the importance of self-advocacy.

“Personal advocacy carries a lot of weight,"

Andrew’s treatment involved aggressive chemotherapy and stem cell transplants; a grueling process that saw him lose 50 pounds. His youth and physical fitness played a crucial role in his recovery. It was during this tumultuous period that Andrew reconnected with Karla Palardy, who was also battling brain cancer.

Karla and Andrew had been close friends for years, even before their diagnosis. She had always trusted and valued his opinions and judgments, often seeking his advice on career matters, as they both worked in the same industry. After her diagnosis, Karla found immense reassurance in Andrew’s support, knowing he had already navigated his own cancer journey.

“Andrew was someone I could always call who’s been through a version of what I’m going through,”

At first, it was Karla’s brothers and family who were supporting her through her treatments. Andrew then stepped in to help. He regularly checked on her, ensuring she had eaten and offering support whenever needed. “It’s kind of like a workout,” Andrew explains. “Treating it like that takes a little bit of pressure off.”

Now NED (no evidence of disease), Andrew remains vigilant, aware that his type of cancer is prone to recurrence. Despite this, he maintains a positive outlook, focusing on what he can control—his physical fitness and diet—and accepting the uncertainties of his condition.

“Those are the things that are easy to control, and then the rest is a bit of a gamble,”

Karla Palardy and Andrew Bell
Karla and Andrew’s stories are intertwined a testament to the power of friendship and the unyielding strength of the human spirit. Their journey, marked by shared struggles and mutual support, underscores the profound impact of a compassionate and understanding community. As they continue to navigate their respective paths, their bond serves as a beacon of hope and resilience, inspiring all who hear their story.

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