Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Survivor Story: Dusty Rees

Written by Dusty Rees
Contributed by Michelle Wiley

My story begins on June 6th, 2012 when I made a trip to the hospital because of some health issues I had been having.  My test results revealed that I needed a bone marrow biopsy.  Within two hours we were told my marrow was positive for leukemia.  

I was then admitted to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, IL.  It took about four days to figure out the subtype of leukemia I had so the doctors could determine my chemo regiment. 

Leukemia is a very fast paced cancer and must be treated aggressively.  It made me very sick, gave me lesions all over my body, black eyes without reason, and I lost all of my hair.  

This was not the end of my struggle though.  I still had 4 more rounds of chemo to go, called "Consolidation Chemo."  It's like a maintenance level dose.  During my treatment I was very ill and in and out of the hospital with fevers and sickness they couldn't diagnose. 

This made life very difficult for me and my family.  Shots everyday, bloodwork every other, and lots of blood and platelet transfusions may things almost unbearable.  

I remember my last bag of chemo that year.  They kept me in the hospital until Christmas Eve to prevent any further illness from going home.  I thought I was finished with chemo.  I still had appts every week, then every other week and eventually once a month. 

In total I had 7 bone marrow biopsies.  6 of them detected no leukemia cells but not number 7.  Biopsy Number 7 showed 17% leukemia cells which meant a relapse.  

Now what?  My world was crushed all over again.  How could this be happening to me? And happening on June 6, 2014 exactly 2 years later.  This time my battle is a little different.  Not only have I gone through the first round of chemo, but this time I will require a bone marrow transplant. 

I am scared.  I will have a whole new team of doctors treating me, and the process of recovery is on the over 3 months.  That's such a long time to be so sick and vulnerable.  Such a long time to lose my independence, such a long time for someone else to raise my children. 

My only hope is God, and the many prayers and all the love and support I've been shown by so many friends and family and even strangers.  My only way to get through this is to think positive and know that I can and will survive. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. 



50% of the proceeds from all Fight the Fight purchases made from November 24th, 2014 to December 14th, 2014 will be donated to Dusty to help cover her medical expenses.

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

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 9th, 2014 to November 29th, 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.....