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Melissa is battling a rarely diagnosed illness known as Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). MCAS is an immunological disease affecting the entire body through overreaction of the immune system. Melissa and Damon understand this may not be the only condition she is suffering from, but is the only firm diagnosis they have to stand on for now. At 28 years old, Melissa is at the point in her life where she’s willing to do anything to get some answers and relief from this disease. She’s now unable to tolerate eating any food without triggering an allergic reaction. Her body is in a constant fight or flight mode and inflammation has taken over. She’s barely able to make it through an entire day without chronic fatigue and moderate to severe allergic reactions. Her symptoms have continued to worsen as the months pass but she’s finally found a doctor in Calgary, Dr. Hoffman, who specializes in MCAS and chronic multi system illnesses. Unfortunately, the treatment and testing is private and has been quoted around $100 000. Prior to falling ill in 2018, Melissa was a NICU Nurse at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. She’s been physically and mentally unable to work ever since. The financial burden is too great for one couple to bare, any support helps.
Since Melissa was a young child, she has had a myriad of misunderstood issues with her health. In the last 3 years however, things have worsened and her health has rapidly declined. What began as migraines, bloating and strange “food intolerances,” has quickly evolved into brain fog, memory loss, and regular anaphylactic reactions. In the past few months Melissa has been admitted to the Emergency Department following severe allergic reactions.
In December 2018, she began involuntarily throwing up following almost every meal. Soon after, complete exhaustion from malnutrition and chronic fatigue followed. Neurological symptoms developed shortly after including brain fog, memory loss and trouble finding words. The worsening of her undiagnosed illness became so severe that Melissa was no longer fit to practice as a NICU nurse and she was placed on Medical Leave.
Damon (her husband) has been her main support throughout. From shuffling shifts in order to accompany her appointments, cooking, cleaning, other household chores and some days even acting as the primary caregiver of basic activities of daily living, this is not the life these newlyweds envisioned. Three years ago, Melissa was vibrant, charismatic, athletic, and working full time in BC Women’s NICU. When they vowed “in sickness and in health”, they had no idea what the future had in store.
The past two years have been filled with doctors, scopes, MRI’s, ultrasounds and copious amounts of blood work without answers. Most tests come back normal or just “slightly off” and she’s been repeatedly told “it’s all in your head... have you tried yoga ? “
In the past, she’s been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, IBS and Celiac Disease. On the quest for more answers, the Loewens have finally found a doctor who specializes in Melissa’s most recent diagnosis; a rare condition called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). In short, this means that the immune cells are severely overactive, causing regular and worsening allergic reactions to nearly everything and chronic inflammation throughout the entire body. With a body in continuous fight or flight mode, it is nearly impossible for it to slow down and heal.
Melissa’s intolerances to food have drastically worsened as of late, leaving her malnourished and chronically fatigued. With more food allergies developing each day, lately she’s been only safely able to eat beef. However, this “safe food” has just recently been triggering an allergic reaction as well in her body. With nothing left in her diet to eat, Melissa and Damon are willing to go to any lengths to find some relief.
Fortunately, they finally have an appointment lined up for late September at the Hoffman Centre in Calgary, Alberta with Dr. Hoffman, the leading specialist of MCAS and chronic multi system illnesses. The centre is private, and is therefore not covered by MSP or their private health insurance. The Loewen’s were quoted $25,000 for an initial consultation and first round of testing. Following they’re preparing for additional costs for Melissa’s treatment plans, medications, follow ups and further testing to be around $80,000 - $100,000.
They recognize that this is an extremely overwhelming amount of money, but are desperate for her healing and will follow through no matter the cost. They thank you in advance for your support, in whatever way possible.
They also want all the donors to know that if all funds are not used during Melissa’s journey back to health, they will be donating the remaining funds to MCAS research, and to other people who need help with their treatment costs.
A Note From Melissa:
“ I hope and believe that God will use my story to help other people who have been in a similar situation. I don’t know the big picture, and while it’s a fight everyday to not give up, I know that God is growing me and bettering me to be a stronger and more tenacious person than I ever could have been without going through this.” - Melissa Loewen
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