SACRAMENTO, CA - When Victoria Castle became one of 45 people in the country to be included in a clinical trial to treat her rare form of cancer, she said it felt like winning the lottery.
But that feeling was short-lived when days later the government shutdown effectively kicked her out of the trial.
"Time is a critical factor. I'm very uncomfortable right now," Castle said. "I have a lot of pain. My tumor is, you know, you can feel it."
For four years, Castle has struggled with gastrointestinal stromal tumors, known as GIST - rare tumors of the GI tract. Castle tried one chemotherapy regimen after another to try to get rid of the tumors.
Finally, a clinical trial in Oregon developed for other cancers became an option for her and a few other select GIST patients.
Castle was in Oregon last week when the federal government shut down, and her doctor gave her the news.
"It was just the biggest slap in the face. That's the only way I can describe it," Castle said. "This could have saved me, and now I have to wait."
Clinical trials have slowed down significantly since the government shutdown furloughed three-quarters of employees at the National Institutes Of Health. It's the last thing Castle and her family thought would stand between her and a potential cure.
"I just never would have even thought that it would be about the government," Castle said. "I just never would have thought it."
"We finally have this thing where she's going to be okay," Castle's 17-year-old son Nick Castle said. "She's going to be cured, and then the government shuts it down. And I feel like if it was their kids or their parents, it would be a completely different story."
"It sickens me that they would let someone like my mom who has terminal cancer just fall through the cracks because they can't come to a decision," Castle's 22-year-old daughter Ali Castle said.
Victoria Castle said the clinical trial will go on without her and the other GIST patients, who now must wait until spring for another chance to start the treatment.
"My biggest fear is not being there for my daughter's wedding in June," Castle said. "I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of what I'm going to miss."
Castle said the next step is to start a chemotherapy program to stop the growth of her tumor. If the program is successful, there is hope to join the clinical trial in April, which could begin to shrink the tumor and to make it operable.
But Castle said time is running out.