This fundraiser was created as a means of raising money for Asha, Elias, and Eva McMillan as they as a family battle Elias’ advanced neuroendocrine cancer. Elias and Asha have been through quite a lot together in their married life, and she expressed so beautifully in the following paragraphs how blessed they are to have each other and their sweet baby girl, Eva, but how they are also strong enough to admit when they need the help of others. Please continue on to read a note from Asha. Donations are greatly appreciated, and if you are unable to donate, prayers are equally appreciated. Thank you all for taking the time to read!
“Thank you for taking the time to read this. We are so blessed that our family and friends want to help us through this difficult time. I wanted to take a moment to share our whole story with you. I want to be sure anyone that becomes involved with this fundraiser fully understands what we have been experiencing and how thankful we are for each of your caring hearts:
Our story can be told is many ways. We have been on a journey unlike most. I’m going to do my best to tell it thoroughly.
Elias proposed to me on May 19, 2017 after years together. He showed up at my school (I’m a teacher) and surprised me with the proposal. Just months before he had taken a job in radio in Martinsburg, WV. He had moved there and I was still in Pittsburgh. However I had already accepted a position in Winchester, Va and was planning to move to Virginia, where Elias and I would live and start our life together. We were planning to legally marry right before I moved to Virginia with him.
Life is so unpredictable, and less than two weeks after Elias proposed to me, we were presented with our first big obstacle. I had been having breathing problems, chest pains, and inflammation for several weeks and it all came to a head that Memorial Day weekend. I ended up in the ER and was admitted to the hospital for tests and an echocardiogram. The echo revealed that I had fluid surrounding my heart. Cardiac tamponade. I needed an emergency procedure to drain the fluid or I likely wouldn’t survive for another 24 hours. Elias was 4 hours away as this was happening. On May 31, 2017 I had a cardiocentesis, a surgery in which they drain the fluid surrounding my heart. I was in the hospital for the next week and then again a week later to have fluid drained from my lung. This whole situation was rare in someone my age and we found out it was from a virus. No one could have predicted this would occur. However, I had survived and was ready to begin my recovery.
We had to delay my moving to be with Elias by several weeks. Finally, at the end of June, we legally married and I moved to our home in Virginia. The recovery was slow but Elias was amazing. He took care of me everyday. He helped me set up my new classroom. He took care of the house and our pets. He handled my anxiety over this happening again and took me to the ER when I had pain in my chest (it was just congestion from a cold). Over the next several months I slowly made progress and recovered. After a set of new scans in the winter of 2018 I was fully cleared. We were so happy and then on March 30, 2018 we finally had our wedding. It was beautiful and we had an amazing time celebrating our marriage with our family and friends. We were together. We were healthy and happy and celebrated our love and life that day. Memorial weekend 2018 rolled around and I was just about 1 year from my heart procedure. I was so happy to be alive and living with the love of my life. But that wasn’t the only thing to celebrate. Just one year from the day I almost died, Elias and I found out we were expecting! And so our life was even further blessed.
In July we were supposed to go on our honeymoon. We had to rearrange our plans because going to Mexico was out of the question during the first trimester due to the threat of exposure to Zika. Elias and I were disappointed, especially him since he had just got his passport and has never traveled out the US. We did have a lovely week in the Outer Banks in North Carolina instead. Elias made a video there to announce our pregnancy to our friends and families. We were so elated and excited for this new journey! My pregnancy started off very typical, however as it progressed, I was designated as high risk because of my health history- the heart issue, a gastric bypass, and kidney dysplasia. With this designation came extra tests, blood work, and ultrasounds. Still things all seemed to be okay, although our daughter was measuring much bigger than typical. Eventually I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes and with that came more monitoring. We were also worried about our daughters health and size due to this. We had to schedule a c-section and on January 29, 2019 our beautiful daughter, Eva Gabrielle blessed our lives and made Elias and I parents. Again we had persevered through a medical trial and came out with a healthy daughter- and she surprised us all by being a little peanut at just 7lbs 9oz!
At the hospital Eva latched and fed right away. However, feeding her was difficult and a struggle. And then we found out she was losing too much weight. Our hospital stay was lengthened and we had to supplement the breastfeeding with formula. We went home and for the next weeks I struggled to balance breastfeeding, supplementing, pumping, and my declining mental state. Eva continue to not gain weight. We supplemented more. I met with lactation support. We weren’t sure why this was happening. Then, when she was two weeks old, everything changed again.
To back track just a bit, beginning in October 2018, Elias had started to have back pain. He had always been healthy and this was out of nowhere. After a few weeks, he saw his PCP and had blood work and a x-ray. They didn’t show anything abnormal. Over the next few months the doctors tried differed medicines and nothing improved, in fact it got worse. And all the while, Elias was once again taking care of me (I was in my third trimester), our home, our pets, and preparing for our daughter’s arrival. When Eva was born he was really struggling with everyday movement and pain, but still trying to take care of and help us, plus working. Then it all changed when Eva was just two weeks old.
Just two weeks after Eva came into our lives, we were heading to a doctor’s appointment to inquire about an MRI on Elias’ back. His pain had become so intense and his mobility was declining rapidly. When we arrived at the doctor’s Elias fell as he tried to get out of the car. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where they did a MRI and other scans. We waited patiently for several hours. My mother arrived from Pittsburgh and waited with us. Then the doctor came in and told us the news. Elias had compression fractures in his back. But that was not all. The fractures were from the cancer throughout his spine. He was admitted and plans were made to first treat his back and also figure out what type of cancer he was dealing with.
During his hospital stay, Elias had a kyphoplasty to help begin to alleviate the pain from the fractures. After many more scans, bloodwork, and waiting we also received the diagnosis: Neuroendocrine cancer. We really didn’t know anything about this type of cancer. We quickly learned that it is a rare cancer. Elias’ was low grade (slow growing) and had already spread throughout his body. The original tumor was in his lungs. There were also tumors in his liver, throughout his spine, and eventually we would learn in his brain. The tumors were determined to be inoperable. There would be radiation, hormone therapy, and chemo as part of the treatment plan. For Elias, there will be no remission from cancer. It will never be gone. He is going to have this cancer for as long as he lives. And they cannot give us a timeframe. This type of cancer doesn’t really allow it. Some people live for a long time with neuroendocrine cancer. Some do not. After leaving the hospital, we began daily radiation on his spine and brain. This lasted for 4 weeks. Elias also began monthly bone strengthening infusions and hormone therapy, as well as daily chemo pills.
As this was happening Elias and I were both on short term disability. Him for the cancer and back fractures. Me for my maternity leave. Eva had made some progress with her troubles gaining weight (we found out she has reflux), but this did not come easy. While balancing Elias’ daily radiation and being a new mom, I was struggling mentally. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. As I had struggled with depression and anxiety throughout my life, I was advised to go back onto my medications to help find a balance. However, with the medication in my system I would have to stop breastfeeding. Although I was supplementing I was still breastfeeding daily. This was a particularly hard decision but eventually I went back on my meds and Eva switched to full formula. My short term disability was lengthened so I could continue to recover.
Now we are three months out from Elias’ diagnosis. Both Elias and I are still on short term disability. I am now a new mom and a caretaker. I am helping Eva to learn and grow, and also helping my husband with daily tasks, taking him to appointments, and managing our life. The medical expenses are building already. We have lingering bills from my pregnancy, and now we have the new bills arriving. In addition, we have expenses adding up from Elias’ and Eva’s nutritional needs. With us both on short term disability for now we are both receiving just a percentage of our typical pay. We have had help from our families for the last few months and that has been amazing, but we know we cannot rely on that forever. It took three months to humble ourselves enough to ask for help. We also know that the financial burdens related to our situation will continue to grow, as Elias’ treatments will continue for the rest of his life.
I know that our story has been complicated. In just the last two years we have both almost lost each other. We have both been put in extraordinary situations that no one should have to face. We have had many struggles. But we have also had many blessings. We have survived. We have started a beautiful life together. We have grown closer to our family, despite moving to another state. We have moved forward in our careers. We have had an amazing wedding. We have the most marvelous daughter, Eva. We are so blessed. Again we thank you for taking the time to read our story and for your support. You are also a blessing in our lives. Thank you!”