Jessica is a beautiful 36 year old wife, mother, step-mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend who is battling Metastatic Melanoma cancer of the lung and brain. She needs us to come together to help her fight this battle. The last thing this family needs to worry about is how they are going to pay for health insurance to cover her treatments.
For those of you who don't know, Malignant Melanoma is cancer that develops in the cells that give the skin its color. It is the most aggressive and life-threatening skin cancer. Metastatic Melanoma, also known as Stage IV Melanoma, is when melanoma cells have spread through the lymph nodes to distant sites in the body and/or to the body's organs. The liver, lungs, bones, and brain are the most affected by these metastases. Oftentimes, symptoms only become present once it has already spread. Unfortunately, Jessica's symptoms of what she thought was just a cold, turned out to be Metastatic Melanoma of the lung. 7 months after her diagnosis, she began having sharp painful headaches in the back of her head and temples, and kaleidoscope vision. She said it literally felt like she was looking through a child's kaleidoscope. An MRI of her brain, which had been clear of any tumors just 6 months prior, showed 8 tumors on her brain. The Melanoma had spread. Melanoma does not respond well to traditional chemotherapy, so she has been doing immunotherapy for the tumor on her lung, and recently had her first Cyberknife radiation therapy for the tumors on her brain. Last Saturday on the way to her little girls soccer game, she began having a seizure and continued to have multiple seizures back to back. She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance, placed in an induced coma, and intubated. But Jessica is a fighter!!! She pulled through and was able to go home to her children!!!Because she can have seizures at anytime and they come back to back until she is administered medication from a doctor, she is no longer allowed to drive and has to have someone with her at all times to call 911 in case she has another seizure. Now that Jessica cannot work, they are struggling to make ends meet, and they need our help. No donation can be too small. Any amount will help them put food on the table for their children, keep a roof over their head, and pay medical bills that are steadily stacking up so she can continue her treatment. Anything you are willing to donate will be appreciated beyond words. Jessica is a beloved school bus driver, but she can't drive a bus full of children while battling cancer. It's not safe for the children. She has been out of work since February and has used all of her sick leave. With no short term or long term disability available to her, she has been on a medical leave of absence without pay since May 26th. Her job and health insurance will only be held until November 1st, 2017, but with all of her health issues, there is no way she will be able to return to work anytime soon. After November 1st, she will go on her husbands health insurance, but the cost will sky rocket. Jessica applied for Social Security Disability in August of this year, but unfortunately it can take up to a year to get a response, and there is no guarantee she will be approved. She also applied for retirement disability through her work, but again, it could take a very long time and there is no guarantee she will be approved. Your donations will make it possible for her to continue her treatments so she can beat this cancer! Your donations will help pay copays for her medication to prevent her from having seizures! Your donations will help alleviate some of their stress of wondering how they are going to survive on 1 income while monthly health insurance costs and medical bills continue to climb. Your donations will help in so many ways, and they will be eternally grateful.
Jessica is an amazing wife to her husband Brian and their children; Caiden who is 10, Sadie who is 8, and her step-daughter Brianna who is 17. Brian works very hard to try to bring in enough money to cover the bills now that Jessica is unable to work. But with Jessica having multiple emergency room visits due to blood clots, high heart rate, enlarged liver and spleen, internal bleeding, and most recently the severe seizures, he has missed more work than he can afford. And on top of that, the cost of just one immunotherapy treatment is $100,000 dollars. Although her insurance covers a lot of the treatment costs, her out of pocket costs are stacking up and becoming more and more difficult to pay. They are both the type of people who would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it, but won't ask for help in return, which is why I'm asking for them. Brian and Jessica's main goal is to spread awareness of this horrible cancer. They want to save others from going through what they are going through. Will you help this beautiful family in their time of need? There are so many ways you can help. They need donations (anything you can offer will help), they need you to share this page and Jessica's story with as many people as possible, we need you to help raise awareness, and if you are religious, we need you to pray. Pray for Jessica to have the strength to win this battle, pray for Brian to continue to have the strength to take care of his wife, work a full time job, and hold his family together during this very difficult time, and pray for the innocent children watching their mommy suffer with this horrible disease. Whichever way you can help, we all thank you from the bottom of our heart. I will continue to keep everyone updated on how Jessica is doing. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
If you are interested in a more detailed description of Jessica's journey with Melanoma, here is a timeline of everything that she has gone through since day one.
2009 - Diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma on the left shoulder. It had to be removed in the office, and then she had to go back in to remove a larger margin and 6 lymph nodes under her left arm. She was never ever informed it could come back at anytime to attack her organs, never told it was an aggressive cancer, never told she should see an oncologist, nothing. She was simply told "we got it all", thank you have a nice day.
8 YEARS LATER:
January 2017 she got sick with what she thought was a cold. It went on for a week and it was getting harder to breathe, so she went to the doctor. Doctor told her that her lungs were clear and just continue doing what you're doing to fight it off. Another week passed and her breathing was horrible, so she went back to the doctor. Her lungs were still clear, but they treated her for bronchitis just in case. She takes the medication and uses the inhaler, but gets no relief.
2/8/17: A coworker suggests to her that she should get a chest x-ray, so she goes to Patient First because they can do an x-ray right there. The doctor looks at the x-ray and tells her "if you were my family member I would suggest you go to the ER to get a CT done and make sure there is no pulmonary embolism or blood clot. Do you have someone who can go with you?" Jessica knew something was up with the way she talked, so she goes home and calls her husband. He flies home from work and meets her at the ER. Before they even take her back they do bloodwork and do another chest x-ray. The doctor comes in and says "we see something that doesn't look like bronchitis or pneumonia. Pneumonia looks like a sponge, but this is solid. It is 4cm in size." That is the point when devastation sets in and she thanks God for her husband.
2/16/17: Today is the day of her lung biopsy. They lay her on the CY table and use the CT machine to guide a very large needle into the main mass and pull out 2 samples. The results will take an agonizing week to come back.
2/19/17: Her breathing has gotten so bad that she is heaving for breath just walking from the couch to the bathroom, and it is recommended she go to the ER to make sure she doesn't have a collapsed lung from the biopsy. Thankfully she does not have a collapsed lung.
2/21/17: Today is the follow up with her Pulmonologist to get the results of the lung biopsy. They find out she has Metastatic Melanoma of her lung. Skin cancer is now in her lung.
2/24/17: She meets her Oncologist to begin their plan of action. Melanoma doesn't respond well to traditional chemotherapy, so her options are surgery, if possible, or immunotherapy. She also has to have a PET scan and a brain MRI to see if it has spread anywhere else. The brain MRI is done today and it came back clear, thank God!
2/28/17: Today she has the PET scan, which scans the entire body. They inject her with radioactive fluid and look for any other cancer to light up on the screen.
3/2/17: Appointment with the Oncologist to discuss the results of the scans. He wants her to see the Thoracic Surgeon because he doesn't think surgery is an option. The lymph nodes surrounding the brachial tubes coming out of her lung are compromised. He also wants her to have an endoscopy done because the PET scan shows a spot on her esophagus and he isn't sure what it is.
She sees the thoracic surgeon later that day and he agrees that surgery is not an option and she will need to have an endoscopy done.
3/6/17: She has the endoscopy done. Thankfully the spot is only GERD. No cancer there!
She leaves from having the endoscopy and goes to have her medi-port put in her chest so she can start immunotherapy the next day.
3/7/17: She has her 1st immunotherapy treatment with Opdivo and Yervoy. Yervoy can only be given 4 times, and treatments are every 3rd week. She will have to do bloodwork weekly to make sure all her blood levels and liver functions remain normal.
3/16/17: She sees her oncologist because she a bumpy rash all over her entire body, and is told it is a pretty normal reaction to the immunotherapy and can actually be a good thing because it shows the meds are in her system.
3/21/17: More routine bloodwork and doctor visits, however today is pretty special to her because she was actually able to yawn for the first time in 2 months. It may sound silly, but being able to suck in air after not being able to for so long is the most amazing feeling. We don't realize the things we take for granted.
3/23/17: Started having pain in her right ear and right side of her neck with swelling.
3/24/17: Went to see her heart & vascular doctor to have her neck checked, and the Doctor thinks it looks okay, just keep an eye on it.
3/26/17: The pain in her neck has increased significantly so she goes to the ER. She is admitted due to having DVT (Bloodclots) in her by her port line. The port is still open and does not have to be removed, so they begin her on blood thinners and she was released the next day.
3/28/17: Today she has her 2nd immunotherapy treatment. The rash all over her body is still really bad, and she has started to have daily nausea and diarrhea. But thankfully her breathing has improved.
4/4/17: Has more bloodwork and is given IV steroids for the rash.
4/5/17: She has an appointment with her dermatologist to see if she can help with the rash and to also have a mole check. The doctor removes 2 moles she doesn't like and sends them to be biopsied. She's prescribed a lotion for the rash.
4/18/17: Today she has her 3rd immunotherapy treatment and bloodwork. Bloodwork comes back showing her liver numbers are in a very high danger zone. Normal levels should be between 2 and 34, and Jessica's are almost 900. Doctors tell her she has autoimmune hepatitis and her liver is about to shut down. She is absolutely heartbroken she can't get the 4th immunotherapy, but she knows she is blessed because most people don't even make it to the 3rd treatment because their bodies can't handle it.
4/25/17: Has bloodwork done again. Because her liver numbers are so high, she was put on an extreme dose of prednisone, 190mg's daily. Extreme doses have extreme side effects. She can't sleep, her heart rate is high and her blood pressure is elevated.
4/27/17: Has an appointment with the dermatologist to remove more of the mole on her side because it came back precancerous. They have to cut deep and since she is on blood thinners, it is going to be difficult to heal.
5/2/17: Has bloodwork again. Her nurses and doctor don't like how fast her heart rate is, so he sends her to the ER to make sure it isn't something serious. Her heart rate is normally around 90bpm, but today it is 135-140bpm, which is not good. She could be dehydrated, so they give her IV fluids and run a CT scan. The results come back showing the 4cm mass is not about 1.1cm!!! They are beyond thrilled!!
5/4/17: She has an appointment with her Oncologist. He tells her she needs to see an endocrinologist because although the steroids are helping, they are wreaking havoc on her system. She has to check her sugar 2 times a day because it causes sugar spikes. She also now has hyperthyroidism from the steroids, which may or may not stay after coming off the prednisone. It is just a waiting game.
5/5/17: Follow up appointment with her primary care; bloodwork with her oncologist; and appointment with the endocrinologist who also does bloodwork.
5/7/17: Goes to the ER because she is still dealing with the wound on her size from the 2nd mole removal, and she has gone through 5 large packed bandages and it keeps bleeding through. The ER uses 3 packs of quick clot to get it to stop bleeding. Darn blood thinners!
5/9/17: Follow up with Oncologist; follow up with endocrinologist, and is told she needs to have a thyroid ultrasound done.
5/16/17: Bloodwork and thyroid sonogram
5/18/17: Started having stomach pain on the side where her liver is.
5/20/17: ER visit for the stomach/side pain. Her liver and spleen are enlarged due to the immunotherapy. There is also fluid in her belly that could be blood or a cyst that ruptured. She has to stop blood thinner and follow up with her Oncologist.
5/23/17: Follow up with Oncologist and bloodwork. They put her back on blood thinners.
6/6/17: Blood work and appointment with Oncologist. Her liver numbers are slowly coming down. She wishes they would come down faster so she can get back into treatment.
6/9/17: Follow up with endocrinologist. The thyroid ultrasound came back ok. The prednisone is actually helping her symptoms, so that's a plus.
6/13/17: Bloodwork done. They are very slowly decreasing the prednisone down to 110mg's a day. She still has a long way to go. She's very worried about being out of treatment, is worried it will make old spots grow or even worse, new cancer.
6/20/17: Follow up with oncologist. They will continue to monitor bloodwork 1-2 times per week to stay on top of her liver.
6/22/17: Has bloodwork and takes her kids to the pool. While at the pool she started having groin pain on the left side.
6/23-6/26: pain in groin/leg is slowly getting worse
6/26/17: Sees primary care for her leg and is prescribed Lidoderm patches. She goes to the bathroom to put one on and notices a HUGE bruise on her thigh. There was no trauma done to her leg to explain the bruising, so they leave for the ER.
She is admitted to the ER. There are a lot of tests to be done; xrays, ultrasounds to check for blood clots, and CT scan. She has a large puddle of blood in her muscle. They have a few ideas of what it could be; 1) some kind of an abcess, 2) a lesion, or 3) it could be the cancer has spread. Her regular doctors are coming in to visit during rounds and a few new doctors have been added to her team. The interventional radiologist, oncologist, and infectious disease doctor all agree that although melanoma has a mind of its own, it is not really a spot for the cancer to spread. They are leaning towards an abscess or bleed.
6/30/17: After 5 days in the hospital she is finally discharged. The pain is much better, but the whole left leg is numb. It ended up being a bleed in the muscle, caused from the blood thinners, which leaked from her hip, down her leg, to her calf. Thankfully she is released the day before her son Caiden's 10th birthday party. Her family is amazing and came together to make everything amazing for Caiden.
7/6/17: Follow up and bloodwork. They are crossing their fingers to have treatments restarted by 7/18
7/20/17: Follow up with oncologist and TREATMENT!!! She has been 3 months without treatment, and she is so excited to get started again. They are now only doing the one medication, Opdivo. It is a lower dose; they will do bloodwork weekly and treatment every other week.
8/3/17: Immunotherapy treatment. Her fatigue is awful. She is still on 10mg's of prednisone and will remain on it to try to ensure her liver numbers stay down.
8/7/17: Appointment with Oncology nurse practitioner. Jess found a lump on her right side groin that is a lymph nose. Her neck is also a bit swollen, the same way it was before when she had the blood clop. NP wants to focus on the neck and see if the groin lymph nose will go down on its own. They schedule an ultrasound for her neck.
8/17/17: Immunotherapy treatment
8/18/17: Has ultrasound on her neck. She begins having headaches and vision changes.
She is having sharp pain headaches in the back of her head a temples. They last for a few minutes and go away for awhile. She also has kaleidoscope vision. She says it is the weirdest things she has ever experienced. It literally looks like a child's kaleidoscope is circling in her vision, even if her eyes are closed. She also has clear shiny squiggles moving around. She's had them before; they have always been followed by migraines.
8/24/17: Bloodwork and follow up with oncologist. She explains to him about the headaches and vision changes. He sets her up for an MRI of the Brain.
She gets the MRI done and takes the kids to school to meet their teachers for the new school year. They come out to multiple messages from the doctor wanting her to come in. They know that it's not good news. They go back in the office, and are told they have found 8 new lesions (tumors) on her brain. The doctor has already spoken to radiation oncology at Fairfax Hospital. The largest tumor is 2.1cm. They already have an idea on what to do.
8/25/17: Appointment with Dr. Eblan at Fairfax Radiology Oncology. He wants to do a procedure called Cyberknife. It is a partial brain radiation where they target each tumor and zap each one, as opposed to whole brain radiation where they zap the entire brain. The plus side is that if it doesn't kill it completely, they can do it again. If there are tumors too small to see yet and they grow, they can do partial again, or if God forbid, multiple come back, they still have the whole brain radiation as an option. He also wants her to see a neurosurgeon just to make sure they agree with Cyberknife instead of surgery. She also needs another MRI that is sliced closer together.
8/30/17: Appointment with the neurosurgeon. He shows her the tumors and agrees that Cyberknife is the best way to go. If they had been 2.5cm's or larger, then they would have taken them surgically.
8/31/17: Has MRI of her Brain for brain mapping.
9/8/17: 1st cyberknife treatment
9/9/17: On the way to her daughter Sadie's soccer game with her husband Brian and her mom, while the kids followed behind with Brian's dad. They were pulling out onto the main road from their house, and Brian asked Jessica if she was okay because she was just staring straight ahead. She did not respond to him. As he began to make the turn from the red light, she let out a scream and began shaking. He immediately called 911 and they rushed her to the hospital. Brian beat them to the hospital and when they came in with her, he heard her let out another scream and started shaking again, and doctors and nurses took off running with her down the hallway. They have never been so scared in their entire life. She had multiple seizures back to back. They put her in an induced coma, intubated her, and began seizure meds through her IV. She woke up the next day with no recollection of what had happened.
9/13/17: She came home from the hospital! She cannot drive and cannot be left alone. Someone must be with her at all times to call 911 if she starts having seizures again.
The morning she woke up from the induced coma!
Brian, Caiden, Sadie, Brianna, and Jessica
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