--------------------------- (Message from Gene) --------------------------- Over four years ago I had a near-death medical crisis that I would never have survived without the unwavering support of my lovely wife, Helen… and would never have been able to recover from without the loving financial support I received from so many dear friends from around the world, as well as from a great many caring, generous people whom I had not even previously known. In the time since then, Helen's loving strength has been the center of my world. Neither of us would have expected that she would be in line to experience a major health crisis of her own. Now that this circumstance has come, I am here to supply every bit of support that I possibly can for my beloved wife during this challenging time. I ask that many of you who read this will consider sharing your prayers, emotional support, and financial assistance if you are able and guided to do so…in order that Helen can continue to recover, and thrive once again, and continue to share the wonderful life and marriage that we are blessed with for many more years to come. ~ With love and tremendous gratitude, Gene
---------------------------- (Message from Helen) ---------------------------- I've been a Licensed Massage Therapist for 30 years, and love helping people feel better. I've been married to a wonderful man for 17 years. We also have five rescue kitties in our life, all of whom we completely adore!
In recent years I (we) have had, and still have, financial challenges. I almost lost my husband, Gene, four years ago after he collapsed in our home from what turned out to be internal bleeding caused by a stomach tumor. He required extensive surgery; half of his stomach and part of his colon were removed, and he spent 12 days in the hospital. We had no health insurance at that time, and the medical bills were staggering. We have been blessed with a lot of financial assistance from some wonderful people along the way.
I never thought in a million years that it would be my turn to ask for help. Earlier this year I first noticed a lump under my left armpit. Shortly after that, I noticed a tenderness in my left breast, and I knew I had to get this checked out. Fortunately, it was around then that we were able to obtain health insurance for the first time,
I had a mammogram, ultrasound, and a series of needle biopsies, all of which indicated that I had breast cancer. And the journey was just beginning! My doctors followed up with an MRI and PET/CT scan, to see if the cancer had spread elsewhere. The PET showed 12 spots on my right lung, but they were so tiny the doctor wasn't sure that he could even get a biopsy… but he had to try. He was able to biopsy one of them (and let me tell you, that procedure was no picnic.) I also had an IV port surgically put in two days later, for when they were to start my cancer treatments.
The biopsy results showed that the spots in my lung were also cancerous. The tumors in my breast and armpit (lymph node), as well as the spots in the lung, are all the same type cancer known as HER-2. I have learned that HER-2 is an aggressive form of cancer; in the past, this was a real challenge to treat successfully. Nowadays, thank God, there are targeted therapies that are very successful in treating HER-2 cancers.
Over the past several months I've been having chemotherapy treatment (Taxol) along with Herceptin and Perjeta, two therapies that specifically target HER-2 cancer cells. Taxol does cause some side effects such as hair loss, as well as some (hopefully only mild) digestive issues, but isn't expected to cause the kinds of severe nausea that was experienced in other types of chemotherapy. It's administered once a week for a few months. The other two targeted therapies are administered once every three weeks. After the Taxol chemo treatment has run its course, the other two (along with a daily anti-estrogen pill, Anastrazole) will continue indefinitely, perhaps for the rest of my life.
Even after just the first 5 weeks of treatment, the tumors in my breast and armpit had reduced in size by over 50%, which my oncologist referred to as a "fabulous" response to these therapies! As treatment continues, the tumors continue to shrink further. At this point in time, we don't know if a mastectomy and/or radiation will be required; but the medical team I have been blessed with has been fantastic, and very supportive.
Still, there are serious financial concerns. Even though we have basic medical insurance (and thank God that we do), there are still thousands of dollars in deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance, and many out-of-pocket expenses that aren't covered at all under insurance. It's an ongoing process that we will have to deal with. Also, even though I do continue to work (at least as best I can), I have had to cut back significantly in the amount of massage therapy clients I can see due to the schedule and side effects of my chemo treatments. My greatly reduced income only adds to the financial pressures that my husband Gene and I are dealing with.
The American Cancer Society recently stated that one out of eight women can expect to get breast cancer. I just never expected to be one of the eight. (I guess no one does…) For all of my life I've been healthy and energetic; it's always been me who helped others, both professionally as well as in my personal life. I feel blessed that so far, all things considered, my prognosis seems relatively good. I know that for a great many other women, the news isn't always that hopeful. But I do now find myself in need of help. Along with present medical expenses, there will be ongoing tests/procedures, and future expenses, some predictable, and some unexpected. That's why we've started my GoFundMe campaign, in the hope that once again, many of our wonderful, dear friends, and even some Good Samaritans we haven't met yet, will be guided to help us get through this challenge, and the ones that will follow.
I'll be sharing updates on my treatment, progress, and experiences. I hope my story can help others to better understand and come to terms with this illness — particularly those women who are dealing with it themselves. And one thing I know for sure: an attitude of forgiveness is essential to a positive outcome when dealing with cancer.
Please accept my very sincere thanks to any of you who are able to help us out financially. I don't know how we'd be able to survive this experience without you.
~ With so much love in my heart for you all, Helen