Help Lorena Beat Leukemia!

My name is Lorena Rivera and last week I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Life changes when you are told the words, “if you don’t get help, you may only have one month to live”.

About Me: 
I am 33 years old and live in San Dimas, California with my partner, Jarrod, and my pug, Giorgio.  I have three amazing (sometimes strong-willed) sisters, a wonderful adoring mother, and a large extended family living throughout Southern California and Mexico. I work at the University of La Verne (ULV) which is also my alma mater. Until two weeks ago, I led what most of us would consider a fairly simple life that consisted of doing my best to achieve a work-life balance which includes fostering, maintaining, and nurturing the many wonderful relationships that I’ve been blessed with.

My passions include hiking, being by or on the ocean, cooking, and just simply being surrounded by friends and family. I enjoy being an aunt to my niece and nephew and I simply adore my pug, Giorgio.  Family is very important to me and I can’t wait to get back to enjoying the simple things in life that are often taken for granted until they are taken away from you.Leading up to my diagnosis: In mid-January, I developed a sinus infection and was prescribed antibiotics that caused a severe allergic reaction resulting in skin rashes, hives, shortness of breath, and swelling. Needless to say, I stopped taking the antibiotic, however, allergic reactions to antibiotics do not always become apparent until after taking the medication for a week or more. To counter the allergic reaction, I was prescribed two rounds of steroids followed by routine blood work to make sure my immune system had fully recovered. In the following two weeks, the symptoms started to fade except for some fatigue and headaches.

Feeling a little bit better, on Sunday, February 18th I had enough energy to go out to have breakfast with Jarrod and Giorgio at one of our weekend outdoor breakfast spots that allow pets, Sweet and Savory in downtown San Dimas. It was a typical and relaxing Sunday breakfast, Jarrod and I read the newspaper, while Giorgio sat and people watched. 

Noticing multiple missed calls from my primary care physician after returning home from breakfast, I called back immediately and was told to go directly to Pomona Valley Hospital (PVH) Emergency Room (ER) because my white blood cell (WBC) count was extremely high and platelet count extremely low. Having never really thought about what were “normal” WBC and platelet counts, the sense of urgency in my doctor’s voice was evident, and without hesitation, Jarrod and I rushed to the ER. 

Upon arrival at the ER, I was admitted immediately after telling the nurse my WBC count. Given my apparent physical wellbeing, the ER doctor was surprised by my physician’s findings and decided to run additional blood tests. After four hours in the ER, the results of the blood tests arrived and mirrored the lab results from the day prior. It was at this point that I started to get scared because the possibility of something wrong, far beyond an allergic reaction, became real and probable.

The medical professionals at PVH acted quickly; they performed a CAT/CT Scan, chest x-ray, EKG, etc. Luckily, my abdomen, chest, and heart appeared normal, however, I was still transferred to a reverse isolation unit while the doctors worked tirelessly to identify the cause of my abnormally high WBC count.

On Monday, February 19th, I underwent a bone marrow biopsy which is commonly conducted to identify blood-related cancers. However, the biopsy results typically take 2-3 days to confirm. Concurrent with the biopsy, the doctors used flow cytometry which strongly indicated that my high WBC was related to Leukemia. After three days in the hospital, the doctors entered my room and informed my mother and sisters, Jarrod, and I that I had Leukemia. If not treated, I was told something that I had never imagined hearing, “if you don’t get help, you may only have one month to live”. At this point, the PVH team began coordinating my immediate transfer to a specialized cancer unit for treatment. Diagnosis and transer for USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center: On Thursday, February 22nd, I experienced my first ambulance ride when I was transferred to the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center (Norris). By this time, the results of the bone marrow biopsy had come in and the Norris medical team affirmed my diagnosis, this time under the technical name of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Being one of the best cancer hospitals in the country, the Norris medical team quickly mobilized, and Saturday, February 24th marked Day 1 of my Leukemia treatment (only 6 days after receiving the call from my primary care physician telling me to go directly to the ER). Since starting Day 1 of treatment, additional tests revealed that I also have the Philadelphia chromosome which is a rare subtype of ALL. As a result, I will eventually need a bone marrow transplant to correct the genetic mutation of chromosome 22. However, the primary focus at this time is putting the Leukemia in remission. Once in remission, the Norris medical team and I will then face the challenge of correcting the Philadelphia chromosome.From the initial onset of my ALL symptoms, to my diagnosis, to my treatment, it has been an incredibly rapid whirlwind of emotions and acceptance of how fast life can change from one day to the next.  Throughout the entire process, I couldn’t be more grateful for the medical attention I have received and the overwhelming love and support from family and friends. It is this that established the foundation which provides me with the strength and positivity that will be essential in conquering the most challenging time in my life.

Chemotherapy Treatment Plan:  I will be at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center for about 28 days, where my medical team will be focusing on curing my Leukemia with chemotherapy. I have been receiving daily treatment intravenously and in pill form, so there is no real pain as of now. At some point during the treatment,  I will start getting chemotherapy injected directly into my spine becuase Leukemia cells often hide out in the spinal cloumn. The chemotherapy treatment plan will not only kill the cancer cells, but also my good cells. In order to put the Leukemia into remission, all of my WBCs will be killed which means that I do not have the physical ability to fight any type of cold or infection. It is for this reason that I cannot have visitors aside from immediate family. Why I need your help: I am truly blessed to have an amazing support system around me. Since my diagnosis, those around me have continually asked what they can do to help. For those of us with Leukemia, I cannot receive outside food, flowers, or other items because bacterias that exist pose health risks. Recall, the treatment will eliminate all of my WBCs which means I cannot fight any cold or infection. Not in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought or planned to be in this situation. It is for this reason that I started the GoFundMe campaign so that those who would like to help me get through this have the opportunity to participate in my recovery. I am fortunate to be employed at ULV which provides great medical benefits. However, unpredictable medical expenses combined with associated and out-of-pocket expenses are something I never thought I would experience at 33-years old. Because of this, I thought small monetary contributions would be a better option than flowers or outside food. These contributions will help cover my medical expenses that result from the hospitalization, chemotherapy treatment, and the subsequent bone marrow transplant that will necessary because of the Philadelphia chromosome.  
You have probably noticed that I have underlined the statement “if you don’t get help” which is what my doctor told me when informing me that I have been diagnosed with ALL. I understand that I am fortunate enough to have this help because of those that have endured and suffered from ALL before me and the work performed by the medical and research teams preceding my diagnosis. For this reason, I pledge to my contributors that the balance of any and all remaining funds be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to further fund Leukemia research. For More Information on Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) Visit:

Leukemia
http://www.lls.org/leukemia

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
http://www.lls.org/leukemia/acute-lymphoblastic-leukemia?src1=20032&src2

Philadelphia Chromosome ALL Treatment
https://www.lls.org/leukemia/acute-lymphoblastic-leukemia/treatment/ph-positive-all-therapy 

Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplantation
https://www.lls.org/treatment/types-of-treatment/stem-cell-transplantation

Leukemia & Lymphoma Facts and Statistics
http://www.lls.org/facts-and-statistics/facts-and-statistics-overview

Donations

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  • Mark Prather 
    • $50 
    • 33 mos
  • Jessica McGuire 
    • $100 
    • 34 mos
  • Tim Klepper 
    • $300 
    • 36 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $300 
    • 38 mos
  • Nakita Lea 
    • $40 
    • 38 mos
See all

Organizer

Lorena Rivera 
Organizer
San Dimas, CA
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