When first meeting Erin and Copeland McKinley, big beautiful smiles, bright energy and kind, warm hearts strike you first. The last thing you would guess is that this young couple is battling serious health issues. Two years ago, within 6 months of each other, Erin was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at 35 years old and Copeland, at the age of 32, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Now Erin’s cancer has returned, and this young, previously healthy, newly married couple is facing the unimaginable.
Erin’s initial diagnosis came in late 2015 at the same time the two became engaged. She had a colectomy in early 2016 that appeared to have removed the entire tumor. A follow-up colonoscopy in October 2017 showed that the cancer had returned, leading doctors to re-diagnose it as Locally Recurrent Rectal Cancer (LRRC). A PET scan also showed a cancerous lymph node in her pelvis confirming that the cancer had spread and that this is now a Stage IV cancer.
Chemotherapy treatment began in late October, and Erin will receive chemo every 2 weeks for the next 6 months. Pending an assessment to see how the cancer responds to the chemo, radiation and surgical intervention may occur.
Before beginning treatment, Erin went through an egg retrieval process. Chemotherapy and radiation to the pelvic area can cause genetic changes in oocytes, so before starting the chemo process, it is often recommended to retrieve the eggs to have the option of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) down the line after cancer treatment. Several healthy eggs are now safely frozen.
Simultaneously, Copeland, now two years since his MS diagnosis, is managing his symptoms and working to avoid relapse. After three failed attempts at medication regimens, Copeland has finally found an infusion medication that works for him and the disease appears to be under control. The last MRI showed no disease progress and a previous lesion is now undetectable! That said, the infusions are expensive and although insurance covers a percentage, coupled with the MRI costs, Copeland’s out of pocket costs are significant.
If you’ve never dealt with a serious illness, you might not know that for every doctor’s visit friends hear about, there could be a dozen others they don’t. Between scans, specialist visits, second opinions, blood draws, medications, egg retrieval, and infusion and chemotherapy, the cost for this care quickly accrues. The future also holds possible surgery, recovery needs, the IVF process, travel costs associated with second and third opinions from the top medical providers and cancer centers, and missed work as Erin has had to take a leave from work during treatment and Copeland occasionally has to take breaks as well.
Erin and Copeland face a long and difficult road ahead. Their doctor believes that given the nature of Erin’s cancer being recurrent, curing this cancer will be a challenge. She expects Erin’s results to be the exception rather than the rule when it comes to curing metastatic cancer.
As their family and community, we benefit tremendously from Erin and Copeland’s boundless love and energy. They make us laugh, lighten our hearts, listen to our troubles, and shower us with their unparalleled attention. They’ve both given their lives to attending to the wellbeing of others and now we want to attend to theirs by easing this financial burden on them.
Any donation, large or small towards their $42,000 fundraising goal will help alleviate the financial pressures Erin and Copeland are facing. Together, through the efforts of many hands, we can give them the ease of mind to focus their entire energy towards health and recovery.