Kerri & the Daywalker Fight Cancer
$69,732 of $75,000 goal
In June I also began to experience severe acid reflux. I was told that it is normal in pregnancy. I was to take Zantac twice a day, Tums as needed, and avoid trigger foods like tomatoes. I began to go through dozens of extra strength Tums a day and even then experienced only minor relief. In July I lost the desire to eat. It was a constant battle every day to eat at least 1800 calories. Matt began to feel more like an enforcer than a husband as he had to check my food diary every day and force me to drink at least two Ensure Plus shakes every day. They are only 6 ounces each and I still struggled to finish one in under an hour. Most days I regurgitated the contents of my esophagus at least thrice.
Throughout July I became weaker and weaker. By the end I couldn't go more than 20 steps without taking a rest. My heart would feel like it was going to beat out of my chest. I couldn't even make it to the bathroom in my house without taking a rest in between. At this point the doctors just thought I was constantly dehydrated and continued to urge increased fluid intake.
On August 3 I went in for a routine prenatal check. Luckily it included a CBC blood panel because despite my obvious fatigue and pallor the doctor didn't comment. That evening I received a call that my numbers were "a little low" and to please go to the hospital to see the on-call physician. Once I arrived I was informed my HGB, the hemoglobin that carries oxygen to your body, was at 3. The doctor couldn't believe I was still conscious let alone walking around at all. A standard number is at least 10 and preferably above 12. I was given six units of blood. My husband Matt nicknamed Lance "Daywalker" after the movie Blade. Then the hunt began for the cause.
Earlier in July I had noticed a slight lump on my clavicle. It was small and didn't hurt, but I went to my primary care physician since I was pregnant. She wasn't too concerned and thought it was probably just a swollen lymph node. On August 4, while still in the hospital after receiving all the blood, the consulting Hematologist orderd a core needle biopsy of the lump. The leading theory of my blood loss was an ulcer, but because of my pregnancy the consulting Gastroenterologist wanted to avoid an endoscope. The biopsy was presented as just a precaution. The plan was after it came back clear we would start treatment for an ucler and do an endoscope after I gave birth.
On August 11 we met with the hematologist. He led with, "it's not lymphoma." Great news, right? Then he shattered our world by immediately following that statement with "but it is STAGE IV GI cancer." At that point we didn't know where the tumor was, only that it had originated somewhere in the digestive system, stomach, intestines, colon, etc. and metastasized to the lymph nodes in my neck.
A flurry of activity began after that. I was immediately scheduled for an MRI and endoscope to pinpoint the location of the tumor. All the oncologist could tell us at that point was to hope for a location closer to the colon because those cancers are easier to treat. No such luck. The endoscope pinpointed an 8 cm tumor in my stomach just below the gastroesophageal valve.
I am a 32 year old woman about to give birth to her first child. I have stage IV adenocarcinoma.
Working with the oncologist and perinatolgist we decided to perform one round of chemotheraphy then induce labor at 32 wees. My son will go immediately to the NICU upon his birth. Chemotheraphy will resume 1-2 weeks after he is born assuming I have healed sufficiently.
Unfortunately this type of tumor does not respond well to chemotherapy. It has a poor survival rate. However, I am far outside the normal sufferer, who is typcially over 60 and male. I have everything to live for and intend to be around to raise my son.
Everyone in our lives has been incredibly generous so far. Once we knew the baby would be arriving early everyone came together to ready the house and nursery and threw an amazing baby shower in less than two weeks. We've received enough food for an army already with more to come. My employer has been extremely flexible about last minute tests and midafternoon naps.
Luckily I have both short-term and long-term disability plans. Unfortunately they will not cover all of my lost wages. Additionally we will very probably need to travel to UPenn in the future for advanced and experimental treatments. As I mentioned, my type of cancer doesn't respond well to chemo, but UPenn has been pioneering both immunotherapy and proton inhibitor treatments. Insurance will only cover a fraction of the cost.
Thank you to everyone who has helped us so far. We are grateful for everything we have already received. If all you are able to do is share this link, that is still a great help to us.
Before I could schedule the first appointment I began experiencing severe shortness of breath. I was admitted to the hospital on 12/17. The pulmunolgist removed 1.6 liters of fluid from pleural space. I was allowed home on 12/19. Unfortunately, the problem had not actually been resolved.
On 12/21 I returned to the ER with breathing trouble. I was admitted back to the hospital. As of 01/04 I am still here. I was able to start a different immunotherapy treatment while here at least. For a little while the doctors were throwing everything at me, not really sure what to do. I have about 50 pounds of excess fluid in my legs at the moment. This make independent movement virtually impossible. I have a chest tube installed to allowed for continuous draining as well. My diet from now on must be ultra low fat, high protein, and low sugar. My skin is constantly weeping fluid at the moment, but hopefully as the drugs increase in the next day or so the fluid can be shed an give some movement relief. Current discharge target is this weekend.
I have begun the process of applying for medical retirement and social security disability. Everyone has been very helpful so far. Fingers crossed one of the silver linings of cancer seems to be expedient processing. A big thank you to everyone who donated leave so far. Please continue to donate if you have any extra as it will take several weeks for all of the paperwork to be approved.
I do have a mild case of cellulitis. Despite my low immune system, it seems to be responding well to the antibiotics. My blood clots, however, do not seem to be resolving as quickly as the doctors would like. I'm getting a blood test this week to check the efficacy of my Lovenox shots. I got the impression that most likely my dose will be increased, but I should know for sure in a few days.
Some people have asked about the consults and experimental/trial drugs. So far we've received a second opinion/consult from the Mayo clinic oncology team. They thought since I am responding so well to the current treatment we should stay the course for now. In a few weeks we have a consult with the team at Virginia Hospital and they will specifically focus on the possibility of adding radiation to the treatment plan. We are still monitoring the studies and new drug information, but the overall feeling is don't leave a plan that is currently working, especially since there is no guarantee the cancer will respond so well if we left then returned to these drugs in the future.
Lance is doing great. He's growing like a weed. He'll be 10 weeks old tomorrow (11/24). At his 8 week checkup he was up to 7.75 lbs. He continues to eat like crazy, so he is probably over 9 lbs now.
I've included a pic of Lance from last week. He's growing like crazy. Over six pounds and tall enough we had to adjust his car seat last night. I'll upload his six and seven week photos in a few days.
I am so sorry. I didnt know Kerri and I don't know you and Lance, but I donated because I couldn't watch a family in pain and do nothing. I am so sad that Kerri lost her fight. All the best to you and Lance.
My heart and prayers go out to you and your family and to all those who loved Kerri. I am so sorry for your loss.
I am deeply heartbroken to hear this. My mom passed from this cancer misdiagnosed for 5 years and almost the exact same path except she was 67 also. It is such a horrible disease and prayers are with you and your family and she is no longer in pain as I know all to well the pain with this disease and what it can do. Hugs and Prayers to everyone to get you through this tough time.
To the family...I'm so very sorry for your loss. I'm so happy I was able to donate milk to you're son. He forever had an angel watching over him. God bless.
I am deeply sorry and sad to read this news. I was really hoping for a miracle. "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal." - Anonymous
Matt & Lance: I am so so sorry to hear of Kerri's passing. Mark Dembinsky and I were really rooting for her to beat the odds. I was so sad when Mark came home Wednesday, a mess, upset with the current state of her health. You guys are such an important part of our community and such good people. Hugs and love, Jackie & Mark
Matt, I can't find words to express how my heart aches for you, Lance and all of us that were lucky enough to have known and loved Kerri. It was her optimism that held us together when we felt fear and helplessness tearing us apart. Know that Nick & I are here to help you in any way possible.
Matt and Lance I am so sorry for your loss. You may not remember me but I remember you and Kerri and you have my deepest sympathies.
Mere words cannot convey my sorrow for your loss.
Dear Matt, Lance, Donna, Russ, and Katy, so sorry for your loss. I didn't know Kerri personally but her updates on this page were a picture of her strength and love. Deepest sympathy to you all.
Matt, our family goes to the oratory in newark. I left a message on kerri's facebook page regarding the fundraiser. If you are interested get back to me. So sorry to hear of her passing, she touched many lives.
Matt, I am so terribly sorry to hear this news. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. Kerri fought a good fight and cancer is no longer ailing her. Many blessings to you guys and just know that Kerri lives on everyone's memories and hearts. God bless.
Matt and Family, My family and I are deeply sorry for your loss. Kerri fought hard, and did so because she had all of you (especially Lance) motivating her. Kerri will continue to be a huge part of all of your lives, and will keep a watchful eye and a loving presence over Lance. You will all continue to be in my prayers. Please don't hesitate to lean on friends and family, we are all here to help. Hugs to you all. Amy Sidlowski (Ann and Joe Dougherty's daughter)
Kerri, you and I are in the same club. My doctors found liver cancer this summer 6 weeks after I had my son - I'm in chemo now with a newborn and 2 yr old :( If you need a pen pal, let me know.
Ker & Matt I couldn't e more happy that the baby and Kerri are ok. Now for the fight. I have some money set aside for you guys but I am holding back a donation on this site as I will gladly give everything I have to help in this battle. When the donations run dry I will have a Reserve waiting. I love you guys and pray everyday that you will win this battle!