Saturday, July 26, 2014

Survivor Story: Marissa Rapier

Written and Contributed by Marissa Rapier

In March 2014 I was lying my bed about to go to sleep and had the need to scratch near my underarm.  It was then an obvious lump was felt.  My heart stopped and then started racing. 

The location of the lump seemed an obvious observation considering I shower daily.  Surely, I thought, I would have felt it at some point had it been present earlier.  Instead of calling my doctor immediately, I pushed it out of my mind. 

That was a difficult task because every time I showered, put on deodorant, adjusted my bra, the lump was there.  Then, for weeks I tried to gauge if it was growing or shrinking.  Was it hormone related?  I am 48 after all, and my body seems to be making some changes. 

I convinced myself it was nothing.  After a couple more weeks went by I just blurted it out to a friend.  He looked at me in disbelief that I was so casual about it.  He inquired when my appointment was to have it examined. 

"Just put your mind at ease and go to the doctor" he said.  Well, at that time I wasn't fond of my doctor.  That was part of the reason I hadn't gone for a few years for my annual exams.  Stupid, I know.  It wasn't until my sister called to let me know she had a tumor on her neck and was going to require surgery with follow up radiation that I took my lump seriously. 

By this time 6 weeks had passed.  No more fooling around.  I'm the mother of a 19 year old college student.  He's my light and reason for existing, and I was screwing around with my health.  

Denial is a wicked cohort.  I let my son know about the lump, and he insisted I just go to the doctor and get it checked out.  Since I didn't like the gynecologist I'd had, I put out a request for referral on Facebook.  My niece Elyssa quickly messaged me with a suggestion and phone number. 

I value her option on doctors in my area because she is a nurse.  Within an hour of her text I had an appointment for the same week.  The ball was finally rolling.  I was given a traditional examination and was ordered to have a mammogram. 

A week later I was on my way to the appointment when every warning light in my car came on, it began to overheat.  The auto shop I use was closer than the diagnostic center for the mammogram.  With tears in my eyes I walked into the shop, stranded.  

I called to reschedule my mammogram.  With an $800 auto repair bill now added to my expenses, panic set in on another level.  The mammogram and ultrasound determined that a biopsy would be required.  I freaked.  Sobbing in a hospital gown I waited for the breast health navigator nurse to come talk to me about the radiologist's findings. 

She calmed me.  My thoughts immediately went to the worst case scenario.  On May 29, 2014 a biopsy was performed on the lump in question, as well as, aspirating another lump that raised a red flag.  Expecting to wait a full week for results from the pathologist on Monday June 2, 2014 in the afternoon that fateful call would occur. 

The surgeon who ordered the biopsy called requesting I come to his office so he could go over everything.  The fact that he wanted me to be present to review triggered fear.  Without thinking, I insisted the nurse reveal what was determined. 

With some hesitation she said the words: "Invasive Ductal Carcinoma."  I wrote it down on a slip of paper, set my appointment for the following day, hung up the phone and went what my co-worker described as catatonic.  

I would later learn that what seemed like seconds was actually several minutes of shock.  Once I came back to reality I burst into tears and called the doctor's office back pleading they see me immediately.  The doctor was in surgery, but they'd call me back within a few minutes. 

I alerted my niece, the nurse, who made herself available to meet me at the doctor's office after they said he'd see me in 45 minutes.  The doctor went over everything and saw the dread and fear in my face.  He scooted close to me and in a comforting manner demanded I stop planning my funeral and start focusing on a plan of action. 

He asked that I take a few days to consider my options of lumpectomy vs mastectomy.  

I went home and told my son.  He embraced me and told me he knows everything will be alright.  "You're my mom. If anyone can beat this it is you."  His words echo through my mind every single moment of the day. 

Three days later I called the surgeon to arrange a lumpectomy.  June 23, 2014 would be the day.  The days to precede the surgery I had to make arrangements for FMLA and Short Term Disability pay as it had been determined I'd require at least 4 weeks recovery time because my job involves manual labor, lifting, pulling, operating equipment. 

Unfortunately, my employer doesn't cover 100%.  It is also a process that may not immediately take action.  With finances already being a bit of a mess due to reduction in my work hours, I panicked.  I was being told to focus on healing not the bills, but daily collection calls were coming in. 

It is impossible to avoid the stress of the burden of not only being able to pay existing bills, but the bills that would come from the hospital, radiologist, anesthesiologist, etc...  Insurance coverage is weak.  It helps a great deal, and I am grateful for what I do have.  However, the taxing and collection companies aren't always compassionate. 

My journey has just begun.  I'm still healing from the lumpectomy and lymph node removal.  I can rejoice in the fact that the 15 lymph nodes removed were NEGATIVE, but further diagnostic testing is necessary.  The lumpectomy wasn't conclusive and an MRI is needed.  

At the time I write this, my insurance company is denying it.  I remain hopeful the surgeon will convince them it is necessary and approval will be granted.  July 2, 2014 and I continue to heal.  There are 19 days left to my recovery time.  Not a moment goes by that I don't pray for answers and that financial burden be lifted. 

My son is looking for a job, but it is difficult for him as he has Asperger Syndrome (on the autism spectrum).  He wants to contribute desperately.  I'm proud of him.  He has cared for me during my early days of post-surgical recovery.  His maturity has blossomed greatly.  He confided in my sister as they waited for me in the surgical waiting area that he is fearful we won't be able to pay the rent, utilities because my income during recovery is reduced to 60%. 

I'm humbly grateful for every extra dollar donated on our behalf.  Every cent helps in some capacity. 

Thank you for allowing us to be recipients.  I know there are people who are far worse off.  Even if the contributions from Fight the Fight keep our lights on another month, I am eternally grateful and faithful in humanity. 

Thank you! 

- Marissa

50% of the profit earned from all Fight the Fight purchases made from November 2nd, 2014 to November 23rd, 2014 will be donated to Marissa to help cover her medical expenses.

Thank you for reading Marissa's Story and for supporting Fight the Fight.  You can share it with your friends by clicking one of the buttons below.....

Monday, July 14, 2014

New FTF Products Drop Friday, July 18th at 8pm CST

The following 5 new products we go live for sale in our online store this Friday, July 18th at 8pm CST.  Each one will be available in limited quantities only.

Black Wicked Tough Ringer Tank - $20

Women's Turquoise Wicked Tough Tank - $20

White Out Snapback Flatbill Hat - $25
White Out Tee - $22

Teal Rush Tee - $22

50% of the proceeds from all items purchased during this Friday's drop will benefit Faith Hartzell.  You can read more about Faith HERE.

Spread the word.  Share with your friends on Facebook.....

Survivor Story: Lillian Webb

Written and Contributed by Brandi Webb

Hi, we are the Webb family.  There are 6 of us: Aaron (daddy), Brandi (mommy), Lucas (big brother #1, 9 years old), Logan (big brother #2, 7years old), Levi (big brother #3, 20 months old)...and then there is Lillian (pictured above). 

We would like to introduce you to our princess, Lillian Rose.  Lillian is a micro preemie that was born way too soon at 24 weeks and 4 days weighing 1 pound 1 ounce and 12 inches long.   Lillian required life support from birth as she was unable to breath on her own. 

She was on low oxygen and was on her way to coming off of the ventilator at 3 weeks old when she came down with pneumonia.  Her little lungs took a hard hit and required high pressures and 100% oxygen which caused more damage to her already so very fragile sick lungs. 

Lillian's x-rays never improved from the pneumonia, and it was determined that she developed Chronic Lung Disease from the combination of the ventilator and the pneumonia.  She became so sick that the doctors were worried she would not be able to recover from the lung damage. 

She had gotten to a point that the doctors were not able to keep her stable.  As a last resort Lillian was placed in a medically induced coma to try and stabilize her oxygen levels and keep her comfortable.  When she was 1 month and 1 day old our home caught fire. 

Thank the good Lord no one was home so everyone was safe.  While we lost everything to smoke damage the house itself was able to be taken down to the frame and repaired.  We were placed in a hotel for a few weeks by our insurance company and then in a rental home until our home could be fixed. 

Lillian had a rough few months where she was critically stable one minute and not at all stable the next.  Finally, in March Lillian started showing improvements in her oxygen levels, and her pressure was able to be weaned little by little. 

She became feistier and kept removing her breathing tube.  Her primary doctor informed us that she would need a more stable airway since she was still requiring the life support machine to breath for her. 

On April 9th Lillian received her Tracheotomy.  At first Lillian started to improve quickly and seemed much more comfortable without the hard plastic tube in her throat.  A few days after surgery Lillian got pneumonia again. 

She had some rare bacteria's growing in her lungs and infectious disease, so she was placed  in isolation which meant no human contact.   Gloves, gowns and masks were required to enter her room.  Lillian felt nothing but rubber gloves on her skin for 6 weeks. 

Her lungs took another hard hit and more damage from the pneumonia and they required higher pressures and oxygen.  After 2 rounds of antibiotics Lillian started to improve from her second battle with pneumonia.  Slowly weaning pressures and oxygen she began to wake up more and be more active. 

Within two weeks Lillian had her 3rd battle with pneumonia, and this time it appeared she was becoming stronger as she did not take such a hard hit.  She was only on 100% oxygen for a day before they were able to start turning it down again. 

Around the middle of May Lillian started to improve much faster than we and even the doctor expected and talk of her coming home on a home breathing machine began.  She was put on a home ventilator on settings of c-pap with pressure support, and she was doing great on it, which means she was doing all the breathing on her own the machine was just supplying pressure to open her lungs for her.

Her oxygen was at the lowest it had been since before her first battle with pneumonia.  All the paper work for her in home 24 hour nursing was started, and we were learning more about how to care for her trach.  On May 26th Lillian started to require higher oxygen levels and by the end of the evening she was back on the hospital vent with extremely high pressures and 100% oxygen. 

Our little angel was once again unable to be stabilized.  She was put on antibiotics and had tests and x-rays.  She was battling with this dang pneumonia again!  After the culture finished growing her antibiotics were changed to ones that would help to kill the specific bacteria that was growing inside her lungs. 

The new antibiotics did not seem to cause any signs of improvement after half the course (1 week) so more tests were ordered.  She began to have a fever and running nose.  This landed our little lady back on isolation.  Nasal swabs were done and pointed to the rhino virus on top of her 4th battle with pneumonia. 

Rhino virus to a healthy person would just be a common cold but to our princess this really took a toll.  Lillian had a rough few weeks and was on 100% oxygen for the longest she has ever been.  23 days this time.  This is big deal because oxygen is a drug and it can cause damage to the eyes and brain. 

Lillian is currently dealing with her 5th battle of pneumonia and really struggling with nippling.  Her feedings have mostly been through a feeding tube that was inserted in her nose.  She was finally cleared of the rhino virus on June 27th and was removed from isolation. 

She is having tests done to see if she will be able to get a G-tube and have the tube removed from her nose.  Lillian is currently (at the time of this writing) 6 months and 12 days old.  She now weighs 12lbs 8oz.  

She has been fighting since the day she was born and continues to fight to show just how strong she is.  Lillian remains hospitalized without a release date in sight.  Please lift her up to our Lord in prayer.  She needs healing for her little lungs.  You can check out her facebook page HERE...


50% of the profit from all Fight the Fight purchases made between October 12th, 2014 and November 1st, 2014 will be donated to Lillian's family to help cover her medical expenses.  

Thank you for reading Lillian's story and for supporting Fight the Fight.  You can share it with your friends by clicking one of the buttons below.....