Teena, our friend and sister, is a Stage 4B cancer survivor. The lymphoma is currently in remission, but she still requires frequent monitoring as it was "massive and extensive" upon diagnosis. This past year new lung nodules have begun forming again and are being monitored. Also, last year Teena was diagnosed with Polycythemia Vera (PV). PV is a blood cancer like lymphoma, but thankfully is not as "scary" or life-threatening as Lymphoma. The treatment for PV is limited as it does not respond to typical chemo and is one of the cancers where "watchful waiting" is usually the best courses of action. Occasionally therapeutic phlebotomy is done to remove the excess red blood cells. And last, but not least, Teena was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) when she was just 18 years old. That was in January of her senior year of high school. She was so sick she never returned to school, but finished high school on homebound education. Since she was 18, Teena has been on some form of treatment for SLE. Her type of lupus affects the entire body, but it is a gradual process and the time between periods of remission and "flares" has shortened as the years have gone by and depending on the severity of the illness.
Now, twenty-four years later, she is the sickest she has ever been. Every system of Teena's body is being attacked. Teena never even needed pain medication to treat this awful disease until about 2 years ago. One year ago she went into renal failure for the first time. Since then she continues to go in and out of renal failure as a result of lupus reaching her kidneys. Three years ago she began having seizures out of nowhere, as well as saying/doing odd things that no one understood. This was a very frustrating and devastating time for Teena and her family. Teena and her family learned a few months ago that the lupus has reached her brain, which has been the cause of seizures and periods of altered mental status. The seizures have also created a hardship, as Teena is not always permitted to drive. Some other things Teena experiences as a result of lupus spreading to the brain are periods of vision and hearing loss, loss of feeling in her hands, forgetting where she is or what she is doing, and injuries sustained during seizures. In March, a decision was made by two of her physicians to start her on chemotherapy for the lupus. Chemo is reserved for the sickest lupus patients. In addition to the chemo, she takes an anti-malarial drug which she has been on for many years. Teena takes chemo once a week and the length of time is indefinite. She has already been on it for almost 6 months and has AT LEAST 1-2 years left. The doctor said they will use it "for as long as they can" as lupus has no cure, but chemo can control some of the issues patients this advanced begin to face. This decision had to be made with care as the chemo treats certain leukemias and lymphomas, but ironically increases the risk of getting other leukemias and lymphomas. Teena has experienced several negative side effects from the chemo and each week she and her family discuss whether her body is strong enough to take it that week or if she should take a week off. This past year she has been so ill that she has gone into lactic acidosis, which is a life threatening process that begins the process of total organ failure. She has had lactic acidosis 4-5 times this past year. A positive and unexpected benefit of the chemo has been that the PV has responded and her red blood cell count is the best it has been since starting chemo.
As mentioned, Teena is married and has three children with her high school sweetheart, Larry. Unfortunately, Teena does not always live at home with her family due to physical weakness (inability to climb steps) and a compromised immune system. She has spent a large portion of this past year living with her father. She has slowly been integrating back into her home, but it is a challenge to keep the environment sterile enough for Teena. Not to mention four other family members who may catch a cold or other virus and pass it on. From September 26, 2016-August 26, 2017 Teena has spent 81 days hospitalized!! With the exception of New Year’s Eve and Memorial Day 2017, Teena has also spent every holiday in the hospital. During the 2016-17 school year, Teena spent 44% of her children's school days in the hospital, missing many special moments. Teena is a registered nurse and has had to stop working due to the severity of her illness. She worked hard to receive her Master's in Nursing in 2010 and enjoyed her career as a stroke certified RN at a medical/surgical unit followed by time spent working at a Mother/Baby Unit caring for antepartum moms requiring hospitalization, as well as postpartum moms and their newborns. This was a very rewarding career for Teena. But, as mentioned, she has had to stop working for what has now been 2 years straight. Teena's nursing license is still active, but sadly, not for much longer. On September 30th, she will have no choice but to let her license lapse due to her inability to work the required hours needed to maintain an active license.
The medical costs have been astronomical! Aside from the 81 days inpatient totaling in the millions of dollars, she has had several ER visits where she was stabilized and sent home. Each of those ER visits has a co-pay of $150. Not to mention multiple doctor’s appointments and numerous prescriptions. Aside from the tremendous medical expenses, Teena has no form of income for just basic daily living. This battle has hit her entire family in many ways...financially, spiritually, and in terms of relationships and friendships. This has been a very lonely time for Teena, being this ill causes a great deal of isolation.
To those who know Teena, you know she is a fighter, and through all her health issues, she has remained a positive light, a positive inspiration to many. She is a living symbol of resilience. She has great faith in her Lord Jesus, and has turned to Him in her time of need. He has seen her through many dark and dangerous times.
How can you help?
Please consider giving a monetary gift to Teena and her family to offset both her lack of income and mounting medical bills. If you cannot do so, please consider another method of help - perhaps transporting her children to their activities, making a meal, or sending a card. The Friends, OUR Friends, would greatly appreciate anything you can do.
Thank you for your consideration.
- Christy Bock
- Les and Karen Blakeman
- Judith Smith
- Sheila Grap
Organizer and beneficiary
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