Stacy’s Story by Ian Quire
About a month ago, our world was turned upside down when Stacy, my fiancé, was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer. She had no warning signs - None.
On Friday, July 13, 2018, Stacy woke up having trouble breathing. Never having any serious health issues before, Stacy decided to go into work, hoping she would feel better. Unfortunately, her breathing became more difficult throughout the morning, and Stacy went to the Emergency Room on her lunch break. After 7 hours of tests, the doctors didn't know what was wrong. All they could tell us was Stacy had a LOT of fluid in between her lungs and her lung cavities on both sides, and she was sent home with instructions to rest over the weekend and return to the hospital Monday to have the fluid drained from her lungs.
Monday, July 16th, Doctors removed 1.6 liters of fluid out of her left lung. Almost a 2 liter bottle of fluid! A sample was sent off with lab results expected in 2-3 days, and we were sent home to rest and wait for results. Two hours later, Stacy was back at the ER with terrible pain throughout her upper body. Doctors ran more tests and decided Stacy’s pain was simply muscle and nerve spasms resulting from the fluid removal procedure. She was given pain meds and muscle relaxers and sent home again.
On Thursday, July 19th, we saw her Primary Care Physician hoping the lab results would be in. Although, the results weren't back yet, her doctor, thankfully, decided enough was enough and that Stacy’s situation deserved more immediate attention. He immediately called an oncology surgeon at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, Alabama (about 45 minutes from where we live in Enterprise). Both, Stacy’s Primary Doctor and the surgeon, agreed that Stacy would be immediately transferred to SAMC.
We spent the next three nights living at Southeast Alabama Medical Center where after many more tests; Stacy was officially diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer on Saturday.
With ovarian cancer, stage IV means that the cancer has spread from her ovaries into her abdomen and her lung cavity. We were told that as widespread as the cancer was, treatment options including surgery would do little to nothing and that Stacy was going to die. Chemotherapy was suggested only as a possible quality of life improver for the time she had left.
This blew our minds. Stacy is 41 years old and had always been in good health! And she has 4 kids that count on her to be their mom! And we were told she was going to die in 2-4 years?!? We couldn’t accept this death sentence and after frantically doing our own research, we decided to have Stacy transferred to UAB's hospital in Birmingham (known to have one of the best cancer treatment team in Alabama).
The Doctors at UAB explained they have successfully created a proven treatment program for stage IV ovarian cancer patients with an 80% success rate of full remission at the end of treatment.
This news immediately changed our mindsets from resignation to preparing for battle. We are both optimistic by nature; we’re problem solvers who have always done whatever it takes to get past life’s hurdles. That's the only way you can raise 4 kids successfully. I don't think either of us has ever had an 80% chance of success on ANYTHING and not made it happen. So this was HUGE.
Stacy’s immediate treatment plan, which has already begun, starts with three (possibly four) rounds of chemotherapy to kill as much of the cancer as possible before performing any surgery. Four weeks after her third round of chemo (provided Doctors feel good about the chemo results) Stacy will have a full hysterectomy and Doctors will also attempt to remove any other found areas of cancerous tissue. She will then have a 4-8 week recovery/rest period. After her body is determined strong enough to handle more chemo, she’ll have three to four more rounds.
Stacy’s immediate treatment plan should take about 6 months and at the end, in theory, she should be in full remission. We are praying every day this will be the case!
After remission is achieved, Stacy will start several courses of maintenance treatment. We are extremely excited about a new type of treatment specifically for hereditary cancers, called PARP inhibitors. PARP inhibitors instruct a patient’s DNA to turn off the section that otherwise tells your body to produce cancer cells, effectively stopping cancer in its tracks! We are excited about this technology – not just for Stacy, but for others who test positive for genetic based cancers.
Because the percentages of women who have genetic ovarian cancer are near 66% to later get breast cancer, Stacy is also currently deciding whether she wants to go ahead and have a double prophylactic mastectomy (even with PARP inhibitor treatment, it’s still a 33% risk. For comparison, the average woman only has a 10-11% chance of developing breast cancer in this same situation.)
No matter what happens, we know we have a long road full of different types of treatment ahead of us. Stacy does have medical insurance, but insurance does not cover everything and the expenses are adding up quickly – from travel expenses, time lost from work, medical bills only partially covered or not at all, deductibles. It’s all a bit overwhelming right now, so we have decided to worry about all this later and focus on helping Stacy stay as strong as possible, mentally as well as physically.
Both being strong, independent people, we did not want to start this Go Fund Me campaign. It goes against our nature to ask others for help when we have been able to take care of ourselves and our family thus far. We balked at the idea when our friends and family suggested it. We felt guilty even thinking about asking for anyone’s help, even when people we do not know have reached out to ask how they can help us - from setting up Meal Trains (online Meal delivery schedules) to donating towards Stacy’s medical expenses. We still said, “No. We just can’t”.
If you haven't gone through cancer before, you have no idea what your needs besides love and prayers are anyway. You're a mess. You only care about figuring out how to make this person you love get healthy again and LIVE and figuring out how best to be there for them and your children.
The reason we finally agreed to allow the creation of this campaign is that we are now beginning to realize the magnitude of this cancer diagnosis: How long it is going to affect our lives in every way – financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Stacy will continue to work as much as possible; however, it’s inevitable she’ll have to take time off work including another 4-6 weeks when she has her big surgery. I’ll continue to work as much and as hard as I can; however, I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am only one Man and there are only so many hours in a day, especially while being the primary care taker of the household and our kids. I just want to handle everything, so Stacy can reserve what energy the Chemo doesn’t steal from her to help her body and mind heal.
So we have finally swallowed our pride and decided to listen to the people that are telling us there’s no possible way we can handle this all on our own and that we should allow those who want to help us to do so.
Please know that we do not expect anything from anyone, as we feel so loved and supported already. We know there are many others in need of help from their own communities, and we will just continue to be grateful and appreciative and in awe of the help and loving support we are already being given from family, friends, Stacy’s Doctors, perfect strangers, and God in his leading us to UAB where we regained our Hope.
Thank you all so much!
PS If you want to be part of Stacy's Facebook Support Group, you'll find it here #TeamStacy. That is Stacy's happy place thru this experience. The support she is receiving there is just as important or more important than any financial support we could need.
Also, please send us your mailing address if you would like to wear one of the #TeamStacy bracelets we are having made. They were originally designed for our 4 kids and then so many of her support group wanted them that we got a bunch made. That's actually the initial reason that we were asked to create this GoFundMe page. So that people could donate to help out with the costs and shipping of the bracelets. A $5 donation is appreciated but not required. We want anyone that wants to wear one in support of her battle with cancer to have one.
(After chemo treat from the 2nd round of chemo. Just look at that beautiful smile.)
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