Here’s my story:
I’ll explain some of my history first and then bring you up to speed on why I am now asking for help for the first time in my life.
I have always been an extremely hard worker, being a tree climber is very physically demanding and owning and operating my own business for this many years has always had its ups and downs and demanded a great share of my time. Through it all I have absolutely loved being self-employed and I have met some truly wonderful people through the years. I have endured many struggles though, both financially due to the economic recession, and physically from injuries sustained during a 35 ft. fall from a tree in May of 2013. I injured my back, specifically my lower back L4-L5 and L5-S1. I also have displaced nerves, bulging discs and have neck problems due to degenerative disc disease but have been putting off surgery for the past 5 years due to both the cost of surgery and the length of time I would be out of work to recover from the surgery. My wife works part time but I am the primary source of income for our family. Over the past few years I have scaled back the business because of my physical discomfort but I have continued to work through the pain for years and have done what was necessary to pay the bills for my family and to keep my business up and running. I have had many climbers work for me in the past but it’s very hard to find dependable, experienced and trustworthy people in the tree industry. So the climbing and the brunt of the physical work has always seemed to fall back on me no matter how hard I’ve tried to keep a good crew. I have put in some serious hard work as well as plenty of blood, sweat, and tears into my tree service.
Unfortunately the time has now come for me to close my business down. I have just been diagnosed with stage 4 tonsil cancer that has spread into my lymph nodes. There is no possible way I can keep the business going with the treatments I am facing.
I was going to bed January 10th and noticed a lump that appeared out of nowhere on the right side of my neck. I showed it to my wife and she made an appointment for me to see my primary care doctor the following day. I was put on a course of strong antibiotics as my doctor thought it might just be an abscess. After going to an ENT 3 days later and after having a neck CT and then an ultrasound guided biopsy done I received the news that it was in fact squamous cell carcinoma-cancer in my right tonsil that has spread into my lymph nodes.
I underwent a tonsillectomy January 30th to remove both tonsils. The recovery was very painful but I was really doing ok until Sunday night right after the Super Bowl. I was at home and began bleeding from my mouth and nose and it just wouldn’t quit. My wife and son rushed me to the hospital and they got me there just in time. My blood pressure had dropped extremely low and I had already lost a lot of blood so they assembled a team of doctors and performed an emergency surgery at 5:00 am Monday morning to cauterize the back of my throat to stop the bleeding. That surgery went well and my pain is slowly decreasing each day. It’s a night that I’m sure my wife and son won’t soon forget though.
Last week I had a PET scan that showed that as of right now the cancer is contained to the lymph nodes in my neck. I have already met with an oncologist and a radiation oncologist. The doctors are concerned about it spreading and have expressed an urgency in me starting treatment. I am facing a tough battle with an aggressive treatment plan that will include daily radiation treatments as well as weekly chemotherapy treatments for 6-7 weeks. The doctors, along with my family and I, are extremely hopeful and optimistic that this rigorous treatment will eradicate the cancer completely. However, I have been informed by the doctors that these treatments will be very tough and are expected to take a huge physical toll on me meaning I will be unable to work for quite some time. I will have to have a feeding tube (PEG tube) placed into my stomach for the duration of treatments and the daily radiation may cause some permanent damage to my salivary glands and taste buds. If there is any cancer remaining after this intensive treatment then I will have to have 20+ lymph nodes removed from my neck with a major surgery called a radical neck dissection which requires several days of hospitalization.
On top of all this I just got home from the dentist today-I had to go at the recommendation of my radiation oncologist-and my dentist referred me out to an oral surgeon. I now have to schedule an appointment to have my top 2 wisdom teeth and at least 1 additional tooth(maybe more) extracted before the treatments can even begin. This is another hurdle that will not only be another costly and unexpected expense but will also delay the starting of my treatments.
I am starting this Go Fund Me page and asking for help to assist with the mounting medical bills as well as to help with my monthly bills and debt that is starting to pile up quickly since I won’t be working. I haven’t been able to work in over 3 weeks now. I have been to 17 doctor appointments so far in 2018 and have had 2 surgeries within the past 2 weeks. Just the cost of all the co pays and medications are overwhelming, not to mention the large medical bills. My parents have really been trying to help me with my bills the past few weeks but they are elderly and are on a fixed income themselves. I have a strong support system including my wife and son, parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. They are all fantastic and are doing what they can to help.
I just want to try to keep life as normal as possible for my wife and son. This diagnosis has disrupted their lives and is taking an emotional and financial toll on them as well and they don’t deserve it. I myself am financially, physically, and emotionally drained at this point. I know that God is in control and I will fight my hardest to beat this. I have always been afraid to ask for help in the past and have always handled things on my own. I now know that I can’t do it alone so if anyone can donate to this cause it will be greatly appreciated. If you are unable to donate money then I completely understand. There are other ways to help my family and I by spreading the word and by keeping us in your prayers. Anything that you can do-It is ALL appreciated!!
Thank you for your time and God bless you!
- Kristi Shanko
- John Calvert
- Becky Carson
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