First and foremost, your love, support, prayers, and well wishes have been overwhelming the past few months. It's difficult for us to ask for any more from you. Please know how much we appreciate every kind word, prayer, and amount of love sent our way.
Many of you know from Mari's blog that she was first diagnosed with a tumor of the head and neck (and thought to be benign) in November of 2010. She began radiation in January 2011. The tumor responded well to the radiation. However, June of 2011 she had to begin a second round of radiation (much to her frustration). The tumor had continued to grow down her neck in the area that was not undergoing radiation. She was in a lot of pain and discomfort, however she kept on fighting.
At the end of July of 2011, Maria contracted a truly terrible disease. She was diagnosed with Herpes Simplex Encephalitis, which is basically that this virus (HSE) traveled to her brain and caused swelling of the brain. Maria was in the hospital for two months. In August she was quickly deteriorating. She was unresponsive, unable to feed herself (had a feeding tube inserted), stand, or follow any basic commands i.e. move your hands, feet, etc. She left the hospital weighing 89 pounds in a wheel chair. It was a very frightening time. One of the most difficult parts for me was that she was unable to attend our wedding in September. However, again she continued to fight. She slowly started to write, speak, stand, etc. With time and physical therapy she began to communicate, feed herself, and relearn all of the basic human functions.
Even though she has progressed immensely, it is clear that because of the HSE, she has suffered severe brain damage. Maria talks, prays, laughs, etc but she is very different than the Maria we used to know. She has suffered serious memory loss, especially short- term memory loss. She is a new person. The good news is her beautiful spirit is still intact and she has a lot of love for her friends and family. We will not know the full damage the HSE had on her brain for at least 2 years. As of now, she is still in recovery and is unable to care for herself. Maria needs 24 hour around the clock care, which you can only imagine how overwhelming it has been for my parents.
The HSE was a huge shock to our family. Even though Maria had the tumor, she was fully in control of her medical decisions, treatments, etc (as you could tell in her blog). My dad had to become her medical proxy and from then forward, make all decisions for her (as she is not mentally capable).
As if that was not enough to deal with, we had to refocus on the tumor. She had a pet scan in November of 2011 and within weeks we found out she had tumors in her lungs. We were shocked. Although the exact diagnosis is still unknown, we were surprised, dumbfounded, astounded, to see that tumors started growing in her lungs. The tumors in her lungs are metastasis of a carcinoma of an unknown primary.
She began chemotherapy in January 2012. The chemo had a 50% chance of working i.e. shrinking the tumors in her lungs. She lost all of her hair, but did not have many other side effects, which was a relief.
In February 2012 we did another pet scan and it showed no change. The largest tumor in her right lung remained at 5cm. We were disappointed that there was no shrinkage, but relieved that they were not growing.
May 2012, we got the results of yet another pet scan. The tumors had doubled in size, the largest tumor now at 10cm.
So where are we now? The truth is we are running out of time. The doctors in Miami are unable to provide us with any more options. Sadly, they have given up on Maria. They do not have anything else to offer us.
Therefore, we need to seek consultation, treatment, etc from other doctors- the best doctors in the country. We need a second opinion. We need more treatment options. Unfortunately, we have had a lot of difficulty with her insurance. Honestly, we are unable to afford the best treatment centers in the country.
We have come to you for your help. ANY little bit would help us. We wouldn't be asking if it weren't a matter of life or death.
The best cancer facility in the country is in Texas, however treatment costs over $20,000 (not including flights, living accommodations, etc).
As a family, we are willing to do anything and everything we could to save Maria's life. However, we can't hide away from the truth- we are absolutely running out of time. If we don't find another type of treatment, the tumors will continue to grow. And as indicated from February to May- they are extremely fast growing.
We are also exploring alternative methods of treatment, which again is very costly.
We really really appreciate you helping us. Words can not express how much this has changed our entire family. As I type this, it still feels incredibly surreal. All we know is that as a family, we can not lose Maria- our sister, daughter, granddaughter, aunt, fiance, niece, godmother, friend. We are prepared to do everything to keep her with us for as long as possible. And again, time is running out.
Thank you for taking time to visit this page and read this long explanation.
The Artime family thanks you with their whole heart. And you could bet, Maria will be praying for you (as she always is)!
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