Josie's Leukaemia Fundraiser

Hello Everyone!

My name is Josie Quartarone and I am 23 years old (soon to be 24 in March, 2015). I would like to share my story with you all. Just shy of a year ago (2014) I became very ill with an unknown infection. In the beginning of March I began to experience what seemed to be symptoms of pnemonia.  On March 11,  after being in bed sick for a couple days and experiencing difficulty breathing,  I was brought to Emergency at Soldier’s Memorial Hospital in Orillia, Ontario. I was told I had blood hemmoraging in my lungs and I was  immediately put under a medically induced coma and paralization.  I was brought into the ICU and hooked up to a respirator because my lungs had completely given up and I could no longer breathe on my own.  On March 19, after no improvement in my condition, I was transferred by ambulance to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto.  Still under an induced coma, I was hooked up to another type of mechanical respirator that kept my lungs constantly inflated in hopes of improving my oxygen levels.  

During the time I spent at St. Joseph’s I underwent countless medical tests and examinations, had numerous medications and steriods pumped into me via IVs and a Central IV in my chest, and even passed my 23rd birthday, all the while in a coma,  unaware of what was happening to me.   My body had swelled up to three times its normal size in a matter of days which left deep strechmarks in my skin.   I also developed a painful bedsore on the back of my head from being stuck on my back,  unable to move or change positions. No matter how grim my situation seemed, I didn’t give up. I have always been a strong girl. I am a figther.  And now,  I was fighting for my life.  

On March 27th 2014, after still no solid diagnosis, I finally awoke from my coma. My oxygen levels had improved and I was taken off the respirator.  Once again, I was  able to breathe on my own.  I was very weak and still unable to move my body.  I couldn’t  talk.  I knew I would have to re-train my body to do even the most basic of things, such as to speak  or to eat on my own.  Still, I was so thankful to be awake and mindful of what was going on around me.   Happily, on March 29th my feeding tubes were removed and I was now on the road to recovery. I was transferred back  to Orillia’s hospital on March 31st where I  began an extensive rehabilitation program to get my body moving again. By April 3rd I was able to talk again and on April 7th I moved into the rehab program.  I was so determined to get out of the hospital and back on my feet, that  I pushed myself a little more each day and worked towards my goal.

 On April 14th I was finally released from the hospital and I returned home to my family.  I was so glad to be home.  I was happy that the worst was over and things had no where to go but up.  Little did I know, this was just the beginning.

As the months went by I began to get back to a normal life. To be honest, I felt  somewhat traumatized by what had happened to me.  In the back of my mind I was always scared I would get sick again and back in the hospital.  But I had to put the past behind me and get on with my life.  Last summer I played baseball as I always had. I returned to work as a hairstylist and even worked part time at a grocery store in order to keep myself occupied and, of course,  to pay my bills.  However, deep down inside I knew I wasn’t the same person I had been before I went into the hospital, and as the weeks passed,  I began feeling unwell yet again. With still no solid diagnosis of what had make me so sick in March, I returned to my doctor with my concerns.  Again I began to undergo more medical tests and to see more doctors and specialist.  Strange symptoms that I had never felt before began to appear.  As my condition worsened I was forced to take time off work again.  I was now experiencing painful stomach attacks, feelings of fatigue, odd skin rashes and bruises that appeared out of no where, and even periods of black outs.  I saw what felt like countless doctors at countless  hospitals and clinics.  after dozens  of  inconclusive tests I began to feel hopeless and that I would never be able to find out what was going on in my own  body.  The doctors told me that my liver and kidneys were inflamed and I seemed to be suffering from some type of infection. The only thing I could do would be to undergo more tests until they could find out what was wrong.

Then one day in January of 2015 I went to the dentist to have my wisdom tooth removed.  It was standard procedure and everything had seemed to go just fine.  The next day when I woke up I was in excrutiating pain and for some reason my wound was still bleeding .  As I rinsed out my mouth my nose suddenly began to gush blood. This seemed extremely strange to me as I am not a person who has ever suffered from nose bleeds, nor had I endured any trauma to my nose.  After an hour and a half of non stop bleeding from my nose, I was brought to a local walk in clinic to see what was going on. While at the clinic I began to feel nauseous and vomitted up blood. The doctor attended to me and after removing a massive blood clot from my nose I was referred to  Markham Stouffville Hospital Emergency. However , due to my previous experience with this hospital and the lack of answers I received from my medical tests, I decided to return to the emergency ward at Orillia Soldier’s Memorial Hospital.  I was immediately brought in for blood tests. After what I had already gone through less than a year prior, I wasn’t taking any chances.

 That day, on Jan 16th 2015 I was told my blood tests had shown positive for M4- Acute Myeloid Leukemia.   Once again I was a patient at Orillia Hospital. I stayed there until Jan 19th after which I was transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. On January 22nd I started 2 intensive chemotherapy treatments. The chemo made me very sick and weak.  It made me feel like I wanted to give up.  But no matter what life had thrown at me I was determined to fight this battle yet again. And after everything I had already been through I knew I was going to make it out of the hospital once more.

I am now done my first chemotherapy treatment and getting ready for my  third week at Princess Margaret Hospital. Although my battle isn’t over yet , I have an optomistic out look on life. I know I will beat cancer’s butt and return to my normal life one day soon.  My intent with this fundraiser is to raise money for my medical bills and treatments that I will still have to undergo while in and out of the hospital.  Unfortunately,  in my condition I am unable to work and the burden of my expenses lies  with my parents who are both retired and without medical insurance benefits.

 I’d like to thank everyone for listening to my story and for any donations I might receive.  I hope I can be an inspiration to those fighting their  own battle against cancer and other illnesses.  I hope with my story I can offer others the optimism I wake up with each blessed day.

 Never give up hope.  Never despair.  Fight, no matter what life throws at you!  I know I will.
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Paula La Rosa Quartarone 
Brechin, ON
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