Dave and Leanne Savage with their five children. Dave Savage, a firefighter with the Victoria International Airport, was diagnosed with an incurable cancer March 8. (Courtesy of Shannon Whilhelm)

Dave and Leanne Savage with their five children. Dave Savage, a firefighter with the Victoria International Airport, was diagnosed with an incurable cancer March 8. (Courtesy of Shannon Whilhelm)

GoFundMe launched for Saanich father of 5 diagnosed with incurable cancer

Dave Savage, 50, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in March

A father of five is fighting for his life after receiving an incurable cancer diagnosis last month.

Dave Savage, 50, is a firefighter at the Victoria International Airport and often works 20-hour shifts, lifting heavy equipment. So, when Savage started experiencing back pain and fatigue, he wrote it off as the result of a difficult job and multiple children.

Shannon Wilhelm, who is good friends with Savage and his wife Leanne, remembers having dinner with the Saanich couple in early March.

“Dave was saying he wasn’t going to eat much, that he had a terrible stomach ache,” Wilhelm recalled.

Without a family doctor, he had gone to the walk-in clinic and told he was anemic, but Wilhelm said it had seemed like more than that.

Dave and Leanne Savage eloping in Las Vegas. (Courtesy of Shannon Whilhelm)

Days later, Leanne rushed her husband into the hospital. Cancerous nodules on bones in his back were pressing into the nerves in his spine. He had a fractured vertebra, multiple fractured ribs and liver and kidney damage. Savage was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a incurable cancer that accumulates in bone marrow and forces out healthy blood cells.

Normally, treatment for multiple myeloma should begin when the cancer affects 10 per cent of the marrow. Savage’s marrow is already at 90 per cent.

Savage is unable to work while he undergoes radiation, chemotherapy, steroid treatment, and a potential stem cell transplant. And, his work doesn’t offer short-term disability pay.

Leanne works part-time as a rowing coach at the Victoria City Rowing Club, where she developed a novice program for adults new to the sport and people with disabilities. The couple also has a young son with autism who requires their time and support.

Dave Savage receives a 20-year service award for his work as a firefighter. (Courtesy of Shannon Whilhelm)

Pained to see her friends dealing with so much hardship and unable to offer in-person support due to the pandemic, Wilhelm started a GoFundMe.

“The challenge is to get the cancer down to a level that can be endured, and with monthly monitoring and lifelong chemotherapy, the hope is that he can be there for his family for many, many years to come,” she wrote in the fundraiser’s description.

Last weekend, Wilhelm reached out to local restaurants as well, asking them to donate gift cards to the Savages. So far, John’s Place and Frankie’s Modern Diner have come through.

“Dave and Leanne have devoted their lives to their five children, and also dedicated their careers to assisting and helping others,” Wilhelm wrote. “Now is the time for us to step up and help them…”

The GoFundMe, called Help Dave and Leanne Fight Cancer, can be found at gofundme.com.

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