Cancer's a Bitch

Our Mom, Dawn, was diagnosed with breast cancer, for the second time in her life, this summer. If only it was that simple. She was first misdiagnosed. She had severe back pain and went to immediate care. The doctor there pretty much dismissed her without checking anything. He told her it was probably a pulled muscle or a simple "tweak" in her back. This prompted our Mom, at the Doctor's advice, to spend the next two months fighting a pulled muscle. She spent most of her income, including house payments, on massages and chiropractic treatments. She missed work; and when you own your own business, are the sole employee and the main money maker for your household:your income dwindles significantly.
After two months, with the pain now unbearable and Mom hardly walking, she went back to immediate care. This time they took the simple step of taking an x-ray. That's when they saw it; a tumor: a tumor large enough that it had fractured her spine. The Doctor called her and sent her straight to the hospital. Mom was diagnosed with a reoccurrence of Breast Cancer a full twenty five years after she had already defeated it once.
The doctors started radiation on Mom almost immediately, and focused on her spine. After a couple of weeks they took her to surgery to brace her spine with rods and screws. To get to Mom's spine, they removed part of that tumor (yes, there's more than just one) and placed the hardware in my Mom's back to hopefully heal the fracture. The tumor on her hip and the one in her lymph node on her neck were left alone. Her back was their focus.
After recovering for four weeks in a care facility, Mom spent another three weeks at her sister's house. Our parents' house is two stories and does not have a downstairs bathroom. For someone recovering from major back surgery, that would have been an issue. So, while she stayed with her sister, we worked to remodel a laundry closet into a bathroom so she could come home. We did the remodel ourselves and learned a lot in the process. Mostly how to penny pinch and make things fit.
After three weeks at her sister's, Mom's back was finally strong enough to come home. We can't tell you the relief we all felt when she finally got to go home. We knew that home was where she would beat cancer. Our relief didn't last long.
After about a week at home, an emergency called us all home. Mom was so weak that she couldn't get off the floor. After safely getting her up without twisting her spine, we realized that Mom's surgery site was very infected. We rushed her to the local Emergency Department. Things went downhill from there.
We'll do our best to sum it up. Mom's infection was very bad. She ended up with MRSA and because the infection was caused by one of the screws they had placed in her spine, all of the rods and screws had to come back out. Back to surgery Mom went. The Doctors assure us that her spine is now strong enough to support her body. Since her flesh on her back where they radiated won't heal, they had to place a wound vacuum on her back. Her lungs are filling with so much fluid that she had her lungs drained a total of 7 times in just over a two week period.
The Doctors were afraid to put a lung catheter in her, to drain the fluid that was drowning her, for fear it would become infected too. So, Mom endured the pain of them sticking a very large needle through her back and into her lungs to drain them. Over and over. The tumor on her neck, in her lymph node, has grown significantly. The swelling there is so bad that it is an issue to swallow. Thus making it hard for her to eat and drink.
The Doctors were also afraid to start the much needed chemotherapy because it would kill everything; good and bad. That would mean that the antibiotics killing her infection would be stopped by the needed chemo. Aside from all the physical battles, Mom found out her insurance doesn't cover prescription meds, like the chemo pill. It's $3,300 for two weeks of chemo! On top of all of this, it's Mom's favorite Holiday; Christmas! She is very upset to be in the Hospital right now. Not that anytime is a good time to be in the hospital.
It's now going on three weeks in the hospital. We are finally seeing some progress in all of this. The infection is almost gone, although she will be on antibiotics for another four weeks and they finally placed a PleurX lung catheter so she no longer has to be abused by a long needle:in her left lung that is. The right one is still filling but the doctors are confident that will slow down with the PleurX and the chemo. Keep in mind that the surgery site in her back is still wide open but covered by a wound vacuum.
Mom has a long battle on her hands; physically, mentally and financially. Although she has her family on her side, we have come to a dead end. We all feel lost and could use some assistance. Mom, Dawn, is a great person. She is our hero. She is the strongest person any of us have ever met and we can only hope that the rest of our family can be half as strong as she is in a similar situation. She has led a full life, although, at only 62 years old, it is not nearly complete. She has raised three good kids (we know because we are those kids) and has 7 grandsons that look forward to a family camping trip once Mom has recovered. Mom deserves a hero too. Please, be her hero. Help us save her home and help pay for her treatments. Anything will help.

Thank you.
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Erin Kowanda 
Lebanon, OR
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