****THE NUMERICAL DOLLAR AMOUNT RAISED SO FAR IN THE CAMPAIGN COUNTER IS COLLECTIVELY FROM OVER FOUR YEARS AGO, AND ALREADY WENT TOWARDS THE DOWNPAYMENTS FOR MULTIPLE SURGERIES, RADIATION, TREATMENTS, AND MONTHLY HEALTH CARE PREMIUMS, FOR WHICH I STILL OWE THOUSANDS FOR. THE AMOUNT DOES NOT REFLECT WHAT I CURRENTLY HAVE AVAILABLE NOW TO USE FOR UPCOMING NEEDED BIOPSIES, SURGERIES, TREATMENTS, AND DENTAL PROSTHETICS***
****I AM STILL VERY MUCH IN NEED OF RAISING FUNDS TO SUPPORT MY MEDICAL AND DENTAL NEEEDS AS OF NOW.****
Hi! My name is Marisha Dotson, and this is part of my story.
This has been the most challenging, amazing, harrowing, and terrifying moments of my life. I really have had to come to terms with things and discover what I am made of. There have been so many changes on the outside and inside from having cancer and losing half of my nose. It almost doesn't seem like real life sometimes. I lost over half of my nose, and am still struggling with acceptance and the life long issues I will have because it won't ever function the same way again. I have literally put blood, sweat, tears, lots of prayers and faith into making it to where I am today. Now I am looking at another fight with this horrible disease, and I am terrified. To be honest, it has been lots of ups and downs. While this year has been pain ridden, I have also seen awesome miracles and met amazing souls. However, I was making great progress and finally felt like I was getting somewhere, and now I have to go through this battle all over again. I have an amazing Dr. and trust things will work out in the end, whenever that may be.
November 24, 2015 I recieved words that sucked the air from my lungs. The cancer is back, and in mulptile places. I don't really know how badly or what this means, but I will update as I find out more details. I lost so much last time, I am afraid to ask what the cost will be this time. I want to beat this cancer this time once and for all.
I can only pray it hasn't spread yet.
I spent much of 2014 being ill from one sickness right after the other. End of June 2014, I noticed a red spot on my nose. This red spot then turned into a pimple like form. I went to the health clinic as I did not have insurance and was told it was just an infection. However, in under a month the growth had changed and became extremely painful.
I finally got in with a dermatologist to look at my nose. I used what would be my last paycheck along with borrowed money from a friend to cover the visit and in-house biopsy fees. July 2014, I was officially diagnosed with an extremely aggressive squamous cell carcinoma on my nose. The tumor was growing at an alarming rate. Being young and skin care conscious the last few years, I never considered that this could have developed into cancer. Apparently, it is a genetic marker that got triggered.
The 15 months I have now undergone seven major surgeries. The tumor was removed on August 7, 2014, taking a total of 15 gruesome hours of surgery while I was completely awake. Because I am resistant to anesthetic, I felt more than I should have. Over half of my nose, cartilage, and nasal tissues were removed. On August 21, 2014 (9 hours of surgery) I had my first skin flap surgery to fix the defect. Cartilage was removed from my ear and the skin from my scalp was flapped down to recreate nasal tissues. I have had five other revision surgeries on the skin graft tissue. In October my graft became infected and developed an abscess cavity. I was bedridden a lot and extremely sick for three months. The cavity had to be carefully packed until it healed from the bottom up. This damaged the graft, but hopefully not beyond repair. I am still learning how to deal with how people react to my face and its changes. Grieving my lost nose has been harder than it sounds. It wasn't just a nose. It was cancer and so many other things at the same time. Acceptance and going with the flow have been a huge part of this journey. It is amazing the things my nose has been through this year! It is amazing the things I have been able to overcome with faith and love. I hope that this will happen again for me.
I went through 14 weeks of intense radiation treatment on my nose, nasal cavity, and face. I found out I was claustrophobic in the process, as the treatment requires a hard plastic mask over the entire face and neck screwed into the treatment table. Treatment was everyday at high intensity radiation dosages. The treatment side effects were extremely painful. It is truly awful. I finshed my last session at the beginning of August, and I am still healing from it. Radiation damages cells, and right my poor face was blistered for 2 months! Once I healed, I had a skin graft revision surgery on the outside flap in September 2015.
The skin graft swells and the nasal cavities become inflamed on a regular basis, causing extreme pain on the inside. I am very sensitive to allergies, temperature changes, and humidity changes. I have spent this year sick a lot due to these in combination with nasal reconstruction surgeries.
I was feeling really guilty the last few months not feeling well and telling myself I SHOULD be this and I SHOULD feel this, but the entire time my body was feeling bad because I was fighting cancer again and didn't know it until now.
My brother and I have been extremely blessed to have some support and help through this experience. I thought I would be almost done by now. This is not hte direction I wanted to go in and this is not what I planned for. Cancer has it's own agenda, and there isn't anythign I can do about that. It is a marathon that continues. We have no family that checks in on us and no key support system to fall back on. My church family has kind of stepped in, but there are many gaps that need to be filled as we need lots of help. My mother passed away after struggling with life long illnesses and a chemical imbalance. I have been on my own since I was sixteen, taking care of my brother along with the responsibilities of adulthood. I often feel very alone in this experience, as such have decided to be transparent about my experience to help others. This has been an extremely isolating experience. Accepting and dealing with the changes cancer has left is not easy. It is still a work in progress that may never go away. My face is changed forever, and I am no longer the person I was a year ago. I am stronger, but I miss my face and not having to worry about cancer eating at my defenses. I can only hope that I am getting out all of the horrible things young in life so that the rest of my life may be happy. I hope to have a long healthy life in the future!
It is and has always been extremely difficult to ask for help. I have worked hard my entire life to be self sufficient and rely only on myself. This has been for survival reasons. As a result, I have a unique life experience from most of my peer group. However, I know that I would jump in less than a heart beat to help others, so I need to be open enough to give others this same opportunity.
Before cancer, I was working two jobs and putting myself through school. I finally graduated with a triple major this May while still trying to go though this nasal reconstruction and cancer treatment process. My brother is recovering from a serious bout of depression from which he lost his job a few months back. He is currently seeking employment. Because of recurrence of cancer, I don't know about my future or how I will pay for necessary things. While I have been fortunate enough to get by, the funds that have been raised so far have been spent on keeping my medical insurance and rent.
My insurance does not cover all of my treatment costs. This adds up to be very expensive on top of the hefty premium I am charged. It cost more a month to keep up with my medical costs than it does anything else. TN Cancer, one of my treatment facilities, is out of network. In addition to this, I have several doctors I must see, each requiring a copay.
I find myself yet again in a predicament where I am physically in need of help while in treatment for cancer. I can't earn money, and yet life still goes on. Bills must still be paid, health insurance must be kept, and there is not a thing I can do about it. I must once again ask for help in anyway I can find it. I don't want to lose everything I have fought so hard this year to maintain.
I have survived so many awful and painful experiences in my young life, most people will never have to experience such in a given lifetime. These experiences have taught me so much about life, love, and perseverance. The cancer, along with the multiple surgeries and subsequent consequences, has been such a wild experience. I have to take each day at time. It is difficult, but I trust in my faith and know that no matter what happens things will always be okay. Even if things are not okay. Most of all, I truly want to reach out and help others who have and will go through similar experiences as well as be a voice of prevention. I wish I had someone to help me navigate through some of these things I have had to figure out alone, so I want to help others with what I have learned.
Please know that asking for help is not something I take lightly or ever will. It has become necessary as well as giving me a platform to share my story to help others. I do need help with covering medical treatments/medical bills for both my brother and myself. I am also in desperate need of help with covering the daily costs of living. These everyday costs unfortunately do not stop for cancer. I have put a tough road behind me, but I still have a long road ahead of me once more. We are in for the long haul, so the more support we can gather the better our chances of actually making it are. We will need continual support to see us through the next difficult months ahead.
Please know any help at all will be greatly appreciated on this journey, even if it is only in prayers and thoughts. I am so grateful to be alive, and I really hope to stay that way. I can only hope Heavenly Father will open doors when I need them open and help me finish this journey.
I will spend the rest of my life paying the great kindness I have been shown forward. I have so much love in my heart to give. I am working on several skin cancer awareness campaign projects. Skin cancer can happen to young people; it can happen to anyone. If my story can bless someone's life, save someone 's life, influence someone, or prevent someone from having to go through what I am going through, then this will all be worth it in the end. If you would like to be a part of this skin cancer awareness campaign with me, please feel free. We all can make more time for others in our lives everyday and be better off for it. Even if I do not know you, I do love you. Thank you for taking the time to read part of my story. May God bless you!
- Miss S Richardson
- Gina Dibella
- David Fusselman