Cassie Pendell - Cancer Fighter

Hello, my name is Travis Pendell. This Campaign is for my mom, Cassie Pendell. My mom and my dad (Zack) live in Marcellus, Michigan while I live on the far side of the state in Pontiac, Michigan.

My mom was (currently she is not able to work) a Registered Nurse for many years and has helped many facing their own medical crises.

We never thought we would hear the words, "I am sorry to tell you that you have cancer." Especially after what had just happened.

Flashback to mid-February 2015, this is when mom had heart valve replacement surgery. Recovery was underway and she was able to return to work, then in June of that same year, medical hit 2 came when mom was hit by a car while leaving a store. We were rattled, but in classic fashion mom found a way to keep everything light and happy. Thankfully her injuries weren't too severe but it certainly gave us all a new perspective on how easily things can change. Even though mom still found a way to keep that smile going.

In April 2015, we lost my Uncle Greg (my dad's brother) to Pancreatic Cancer. It was still kind of surreal to us all how quickly things shifted in his health. He was a great man and the loss hit us all very differently.

Then in September 2015, our world changed as that word cancer once again came back into the family. Right at the end of the month what we though was blood pressure changes due to possible issues with mom's new heart valve were actually due to the Blood Cancer Acute Myeloid Leukemia {AML}. Treatments started immediately, and yet somehow mom never lost that smile. Family friends came to visit mom, I drove back and forth across the state to sit with her, my brother visited every couple of day, and dad stayed with mom whenever he could.

I'll never forget seeing the pictures when two of our family friends Kim and Paula came to visit mom and see if they could donate mom's hair (depended on the length and condition) as well as show here some new styles she could have once her hair grew back after the treatments. Through it all, it was nothing but smiles and hope from mom.

The treatments went on, we laughed, we cried, we talked about the old times, and we talked about the future; the good and the bad. We started planning for the worst, but that smile continued making us hope for the best. Then the search began to find a donor for Bone Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation.

In a few short weeks, we found out that mom's sister Julie was a 10/10 match (which meant the lowest chances for side effects and the best chances of recovery.) 

For my birthday in January 2016, I spent my time with mom in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the UoM Cancer Center. Just after my birthday was when they would start the treatment to prepare for the transplant. Then it was the 100 day stay in Ann Arbor. I visited every other week when I could; we even did video chats one weekend when I got sick and didn't want to take the risk of getting her sick. Still through all of it, smiles and hope.

Jump forward some to the Spring of 2016. Mom's blood counts were looking good, things were starting to feel normal again for all of us (granted normal changed a bit). Mom had even found the perfect job at a Doctor's office (due to the time out; she would have to reapply to return to work at the Three Rivers Health hospital but there were no openings). We had also learned that for the time, her cancer was considered to be in remission.

Then it happened. Mom was diagnosed with Chronic Graft versus Host Disease in her liver. The transplant side-effect that we had hoped wouldn't occur had happened. During the final "engrafting process," the donor cells from the transplant began to identify and attack mom's liver like a foreign body. {When they allow the immune system to regrow based on the donor cells, this can occur.} There were a few weeks of some pretty substantial aggravation, worry, and anger; but it didn't take long for that SMILE to come back and for us all to start hoping again.

Oddly enough, treatment began for the Graft versus host around September and October of 2016. They first had to increase the steroid dosages to high levels before starting ECP treatments.

Then we hit June and July of 2017, and that smile was gone. In fact a lot of things were. Mom went through some sort of side effect with all of the new medications that made her "go away for a while", as she put it in a lucid moment.

I had noticed phone calls were getting less (she had updated me weekly) and when they did happen, they either didn't make sense or were very confused. We all went to my cousin's wedding in Pennsylvania around that time and the lack of phone calls suddenly made sense.

Mom is still slowly remembering bits and pieces of the trip. I don't think anyone in the family was ready to see mom without those smiles (I certainly wasn't).

After the wedding they adjusted mom's meds again, and finally, those smiles were not just limited to the lucid moments; she would still confuse things, but she was there again. She is getting better and better when it comes to this everyday (I love getting the phone calls again; I had never realized how much I had taken them for granted.)

Right now, we have been told that she will keep having 2x weekly bi-weekly treatments at minimum through October (2 back to back sets every other week.) Mom has been telling me that her blood levels are starting to balance out accept for a few of the liver enzymes which are at least stabilizing.

Anyhow, as they started "waking her up" again she started mentioning that her hip and her back hurt. This September (something strange about this month for us apparently,) we found out that mom's back is broken in 2 spots due to compression fractures; but on the up side, her hip is alright (mom never thought she'd be happy to have a doctor tell her that she has arthritis). It looks like back surgery won't occur until either late-October or November.

The funds we hope to raise are to help to pay for expenses due to :
      -Repeated back-and-forth travel to Ann Arbor
      -Increased medical costs (the deductibles reset back
        in June)
      -Assist financially where the cancer policy does not
        extend {the Supplemental policy only pays toward
        treatments and tests for the Cancer but not any of
        the related side effects.}
       -To make it possible to pay for the COBRA medical
         insurance (it is nearly 3500 every two months 

Even with all of this that smile keeps going, she laughs all the time (even though it hurts to laugh because of her back.)

These funds are needed as soon as possible to help toward insurance bills, medical bills, lodging for when they travel to Ann Arbor for treatment, and for bills for their house. {Main funds will go towards paying for COBRA medical, life insurance, and any prescriptions}

I am stretched beyond my own finance, and cannot go on assisting my parents alone. Help me help them. Help keep her smiling, laughing, hoping.

This seems to be the last stretch until she can find her way back to work (probably a year out from that possibility). Let's help to get her there. Together.

As I am currently assisting with coordinating finances, I will be transferring any funds directly to Mom's checking after larger bills are received or in preparation for larger payments like COBRA.
The Photo of Mom and Dad was taken Christmas time 2015 by our neighbor Julie. Photo Credit: Southern Mitten Photography


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Travis Pendell 
Pontiac, MI
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