On June 25th, 2015, after more than a decade of struggling with her health and searching for an answer, my sister, Katherine Westerman, was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
Almost exactly two years later, on June 29th, 2017, Kait was diagnosed with a life-threatening and debilitatingly painful condition called Polyarteritis Nodosa, or Medium Vessel Vasculitis.
Kait has worked so hard to not let Multiple Sclerosis become a defining factor in her life and she prides herself on helping others but never asking for help for herself. She is one of the strongest and kindest people I have ever known and I know that if we left Kait alone, she'd continue to suffer silently.
We don't really know what's going to happen.
And that’s why I’m reaching out to you now: Kait won’t survive this on her own.
She needs our help.
Kait has struggled for Multiple Sclerosis to not be the defining factor of her life.
I am incredibly proud of Kait.
She goes above and beyond constantly while managing an invisible illness that constantly factors into every moment of her life.
She is a positive force on everyone she meets, but she would never claim such praise.
The story so far:
There was struggle and redefinition, therapy and treatment. This would always be a factor in her life, but the doctors could stop it from progressing.
Eager to not let Multiple Sclerosis get the better of her, Kait began treatment with self-injected Copaxone shortly after her diagnosis. She injected herself three times a week for a year until she was taken off of it due to issues with side effects.
Multiple Sclerosis is a life-changing condition.
Sadly, Multiple Sclerosis wasn't all that fate had written for Kait.
The news came in October 2016.
Kait was in the hospital.
A blood clot had travelled to Kait's spleen; This caused a splenic infarct.
The first infarct killed a 3cm wedge of her spleen.
Organ/tissue death is very painful.
Treatment became complicated. She remained in the hospital for several days. Kait's medical providers had no idea where this could be coming from.
Regardless of this new complication, without treatment Kait's Multiple Sclerosis would only worsen.
Kait started treatment with Tysabri.
Tysabri was administered as a monthly infusion, instead of being self-injected multiple times a week.
It would delay the progression of disability.
Tysabri had given Kait her freedom back, she said she felt as if she was herself again.
Unfortunately, it didn't last.
After only a few life-restoring treatments, Kait tested positive for the John Cunningham Virus, which most people carry harmlessly.
For patients with immunodeficiency, JCV is capable of causing a fatal disease known as Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy.
Kait was immunosuppressed from the Tysabri. Due to this risk, Kait was taken off of Tysabri.
Months later, Kait began treatment with Tecfidera.
Tecfidera was stopped quickly due to serious negative side effects, that involved hours of painful body-wide flushing similar to being horribly sunburnt, twice a day.
Kait's medical providers then began the process to get her approved for a new treatment, Ocrevus.
Ocrevus is a new infusion that was proving to be highly effective at delaying disability and slowing disease progression.
It also had the benefit of only needing to be administered every six months, freeing her from the need for daily treatments, painful self-injections and pills that caused unfortunate side effects.
There was nothing but hope for the future as Kait awaited this new treatment.
And then the news came on June 29th, 2017.
Kait was in the hospital. Two more clots had landed in her spleen.
Kait was rushed to imaging due to the recurrence of splenic infarcts.
New nodules were found in Kait's inferior mesenteric artery. These had not been present in October.
The news came again on August 6th, 2017.
Kait was in the hospital. More clots had landed in her spleen.
Kait's medical team diagnosed her with Polyarteritis Nodosa, or Medium Vessel Vasculitis.
Due to this new and life-threatening condition, further treatment of her Multiple Sclerosis is delayed indefinitely.
The treatment for vasculitis involves high dose steroids and chemotherapy.
Kait's doctors started her on oral and IV steroids.
These carry their own set of side effects, as well as reducing inflammation.
Some side effects were more noticeable than others.
Kait then began chemo infusions.
Once chemotherapy is done, Kait can begin treatment with Ocrevus.
Untreated, Multiple Sclerosis can only worsen.
This damage is irreversible.
Already, her tremors have returned.
Kait's chemotherapy continues to this day.
During this time, we have all come together to help; our family has shown nothing but support in these times, and I have moved in to help her through this.
When I was a scared little boy, my big sister Kait would stop the bullies that harassed me; when I was a foolish young man, she offered me shelter to heal and trust to learn.
Kait treats everyone with kindness and respect.
We don't know how much time we have with Kait,
which is the hardest thing I have ever written.
At this point, all we can do is try to stay afloat, and cherish our remaining time.
We don't know if the treatments will work.
The results from chemotherapy have been inconclusive.
We have all come together in support to try and help lessen the burden that is on her. We don't know what is going to happen, so we are all just going to do our best. Resilience alone doesn't make the pieces fit.
I am asking for help in this vulnerable time.
If we left Kait alone, she'd suffer in silence to not be a burden; but she has never been a burden, and keeps carrying more and more.
Help Kait Conquer Multiple Sclerosis and Polyarteritis Nodosa!
She is a born fighter, and refuses to be limited by this disease. But she is outnumbered, and the day is grim.
She needs reinforcements in this battle.
So join us in this fight, and with us together, she will not go silently into the night.
We remain positive, so that we can live and thrive.
So that Kait can conquer Polyarteritis Nodosa.
So that Kait can continue treating Multiple Sclerosis.
So that she has time.
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