Chemainus family’s life turned upside down by leukemia diagnosis

Community support a key contributor in dealing with a difficult situation

Kelly-Ann Argue and Thomas Wahlman after they first got together. (Photo submitted)

It’s been an emotional roller coaster for Kelly-Ann Argue after finding out about her partner Thomas Wahlman’s sudden leukemia diagnosis just last Sunday, Jan. 19 that nearly claimed his life.

Wahlman is clearly not out of the woods yet and Argue, a famous Chemainus Tours operator and woman about town, has garnered overwhelming support from the community in her time of great need.

Friends started a GoFundMe page, donations helped cover travel and medical expenses with Wahlman currently at Vancouver General Hospital, people have made meals for Argue and the couple’s son Doug and the list goes on.

“There’s so much support in this town,” praised Argue.

“I am beside myself with gratitude and overwhelmed by the love and support from so many. Thank you just isn’t enough.”

The whole ordeal started when Wahlman went to emergency at the Cowichan District Hospital.

“His health’s been declining,” noted Argue. “He’s always been tired, but he works graveyard so it’s hard to tell.”

Indeed, there was something seriously wrong in this case and Wahlman was flown by helicopter to Vancouver Sunday at 7 p.m. with a high white blood cell count and hardly any red blood cells.

At 1 a.m. Monday morning, Argue received a shocking phone call, not that you’d expect anything less at that time of the morning.

“I got the call nobody wants to hear,” she said. “I got the call that if his blood cells don’t come down, he’d expire on Tuesday.”

Vancouver General has a leukemia ward that specializes in the treatment of the disease. Wahlman started chemotherapy and was placed in the Burns, Treatment and High Acuity Unit for urgent care.

“It’s so he can be monitored around the clock,” noted Argue.

Wahlman’s white blood cell count came down and his condition improved to precipitate a move to a regular ward. He was doing better Thursday and Argue talked to him the next day when they put a phone in his room and he requested sending out a photo of himself playing his guitar and calling it ‘King of Leukemia.’

“He actually composes a lot, makes up tunes,” explained Argue. “He’s done that a lot since I met him.”

By Saturday laboured breathing resulted in Wahlman going back to the BTHA.

Argue and their son Doug managed to make one trip over to Vancouver to see Wahlman and were planning on returning Thursday.

“It’s still anybody’s game,” said Argue. “His body could go in any direction.”

In the meantime, the community launched into action to lend whatever help it could.

Although she’s not one who would ever ask for it, “I do need it, I do need support and help,” Argue indicated. “It’s nice to know you’re not alone.”

She did her best promotion tour for Chemainus to make the best of the situation while in Vancouver.

“When Doug and I went to Vancouver and spent the night, we told the front desk clerk where we were from, told the waitress at the restaurants, told the nurses and doctors,” explained Argue. “It seemed the more we told people about our beautiful home the more we felt your support. So be prepared this summer, I think we will be getting a few Vancouverites coming to visit. Thank you for everything. We love this town. Oh, and the hospital counselor is jealous that I get to drive horses, too.”

Argue and Wahlman, both 50 now, first met on the Plenty of Fish dating site in October of 2006 under the respective names Horse Lady 3 and Happy Daddy. Wahlman had two daughters from a previous relationship who live in the Vancouver area. Their story was featured at the time on Global National TV.

“I needed an escape because the separation from my marriage was hard,” said Wahlman on the program.

“It was on our first meeting and we hit it off and we haven’t looked back since.”

“If it wasn’t for the site, I would never ever in a million years have met Tom,” noted Argue. “To find your soul mate through a computer screen is amazing.”

Now, they’re just hoping they have a lot more time left together through the strength they’re getting from the prayers coming from friends and all segments of the community.

“This kind of cancer I was told by the doctor has nothing to do with the lifestyle,” Argue noted. “It’s in the genes.

“There’s a possibility for remission. That’s our aim right now.”

Wahlman has five weeks left of chemotherapy. “If he responds, he might be able to be released,” said Argue.


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Kelly-Ann Argue and Thomas Wahlman hit it off from the beginning after they first met through the Plenty of Fish website. (Photo submitted)

Thomas Wahlman looking a little rough around the edges on the guitar and calling himself King of Leukemia. (Photo submitted)

The Coffee for Kelly jar at the Maple Lane Cafe that collected donations to help with expenses. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Julie Stevens behind the counter at Maple Lane Cafe, preparing another contribution for the Coffee for Kelly campaign. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Kelly-Ann Argue has always loved being around horses and finds it particularly therapeutic right now. (Photo submitted)

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