Michelle and I have been friends for over a decade. We met at work, she was a fourth-grade teacher and I teach fifth grade. We grew as friends as the years went by, sharing our love of learning. Michelle is a gifted teacher and her students were ever so lucky to learn from her. We spent plenty of weekends hanging out at our local pub, having pizza with our families, or simply sitting by the pool watching our kids swim. She is a wonderful mother to her sweet sons Jordan, now 18 and Anthony, now 13. Along with her husband Jordan, she provides a wonderful life for her family. They are deeply involved in karate and local baseball. Jordan and Michelle were active softball players and bowlers. They had it all and then their lives fell apart. I have watched ALL OF THEM struggle with the hell that is cancer. There is little I can do to help her other than being her friend. So, I am writing this Go Fund Me for Michelle, for Jordan, for Jordan Jr., and for Anthony. Her story was hard to write and is hard to read. But it is filled with LOVE & HOPE.
￼ The First of Many Hospital Stays
December in an elementary school is an exciting time for the teachers who spend their days with the littlest learners. The school is all abuzz with the upcoming holidays and the perfectly timed vacation. The week-long break is a welcome respite for teachers, a time to spend with family, celebrating the splendors of the season. Michelle was looking forward to a break from her 4th-grade classroom. Her vacation held the promise of lazy mornings, Christmas presents, holiday gatherings and simply time spent surrounded by her husband, Jordan and their two sons, Jordan and Anthony. For Michelle, the winter break of 2014 held little of that promise. Michelle was admitted to our local hospital with undiagnosed abdominal pain and spent the next 14 days being poked and prodded by the gastroenterology and gynecology teams. She yo-yoed between these two departments for two weeks with little to no results. Was it cancer? They couldn't answer that question, so it was posed to Sloan Kettering.
￼ The New Year Brings No Good News
In January of 2015, at the age of 41, Michelle visited Sloan Kettering for a biopsy and the results were exactly what she and Jordan feared: Cancer. She returned to Sloan for laparoscopic surgery to determine the type of cancer and the results showed she has a rare cancer known as Peritoneal Carcinomatosis Mucinous Adenocarcinoma of the Appendix. Appendiceal tumors and cancers frequently spread inside the abdominal cavity, this can lead to either the build-up of mucinous fluid in the abdomen known as pseudomyxoma peritonei or a condition referred to as peritoneal carcinomatosis: the growth of cancer cells in the abdominal cavity. Michelle has both of these complications. A plan was set in place. For the next six months, Michelle received systemic chemotherapy in preparation for MOAS surgery. After six months the plan came to a screeching halt. Blood tests and CT scans showed the chemotherapy was not working and her medical team at Sloan called her on the phone and told her she was no longer a candidate for the lifesaving surgery and gave her 3 months to live.
Fight Like a Girl
But Michelle Never Gives Up. In June of 2015, she found Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. After a consultation with Dr. Vadim Gushchin, and despite her extensive disease, there would be an attempt at complete cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC, often referred to as MOAS: Mother of all Surgeries. The surgeon was not hopeful and told Michell that the surgery has a 30% chance of success due to her advanced illness. Michelle spent that summer building up her strength as she readied herself for her life-saving procedure.
The Mother Of All Surgeries
For the patient to survive, gloved hands need to feel out and remove every last tumor in the patient’s belly — no mean feat when the malignancies hide among loops of intestine and nestle into the deepest, darkest corners of the peritoneum. The protocol then calls for hot chemotherapy to be pumped into the belly to take care of any remaining cancer. On August 3, 2015, Michelle began the 13- hour surgery as her family and friends anxiously awaited the outcome. Five hours after the surgery began, Dr. Vadim Gushchin emerged and informed her family that the surgery was unsuccessful and would not be completed. The cancerous mucinous fluid filled her peritoneum and engulfed nearly every organ. The doctor explained that Michelle underwent the removal of her colon resulting in an ileostomy, a complete hysterectomy, a splenectomy, an omentectomy, pelvic peritonectomy, cystorrhapy, and the removal of several tumors. Essentially, Michelle lost every nonvital organ in her body.
Miracles, Goodbyes, Hope
In the four years since her unsuccessful surgery, Michelle has continued to fight this horrific disease. She has spent countless weeks that turn into months in the hospital, fighting pneumonia, respiratory distress, kidney failure, hemorrhaging from her ostomy site, blockages in her small intestine, just to name a few. She has spent scary ambulance rides where she is resuscitated en route to the hospital. Her oxygen levels have dropped into the 30s while her heart rate climbs into the 200s. Her parents, her siblings, her friends, her sons and her husband have said goodbye numerous times as the doctors told them this was the end for her. But. She. Never. Gives. Up. She. Always. Has. HOPE. ￼
One Last Chance
Michelle no longer receives chemotherapy, her doctors believe it isn't working. She is constantly taunted by death and manages to escape its grasp. She has one last chance to live to see her son Jordan graduate from high school and head to college. She has one last chance to live and watch her son Anthony graduate middle school and head onto high school. Michelle has one final chance at survival. On rare disease day, the ACPMP - Appendix Cancer / Pseudomyxoma Peritonei Research Foundation posted a video by Professor David Morris and his trial available at Saint George Hospital in Sydney, Australia. The trial is promising and Michelle fits the criteria. Professor Morris and his team are looking over her extensive documentation as I type. You can check out Professor Morris below as he explains the BroNAC trial. ￼
Australia, Michelle's Final Hope
Professor Morris and his BroNAC trial in Sydney Australia is Michelle's final hope. Professor Morris states: "I wanted to develop a treatment to dissolve pseudomyxoma, the jelly-like material that is produced by some appendix tumors. We've been working on developing this treatment for about the last eight years. at the moment we're restricting this treatment to patients with inoperable pseudomyxoma. AND THAT IS MICHELLE! ￼
Yep! That's the distance from New Jersey to Australia. Michelle is going to need an incredible amount of money to make this trip! She needs airfare to and from Australia. Her treatment, lodging and hospitality costs will be determined once she is accepted. And she still has a house to run at home, and we all know the cost of that. She needs more than she has. Her savings have dwindled as she spends every last dollar on hospital stays, doctor visits, emergency surgeries, CT Scans, ambulance rides, life-saving procedures, medicines, and prescriptions! She needs your help! ￼
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
Thank you for listening to me and welcoming Michelle into your heart. Jordan and Anthony's Mom, Jordan's Wife, Kathy & Mike's daughter, Dana and Mike's sister, my friend: Michelle. ￼
UPDATE with some GOOD news
Michelle was taken to the hospital on Wednesday, March 13th. Once again pneumonia strikes, but she continues to fight! While there, she chatted with an old friend Jennifer, who connected her to a young woman fighting the same cancer. Kate shared her story AND her doctors with Michelle. Once the doctors heard of Michelle they wanted to see her immediately, so she is being transferred to Hahnemann University Hospital, in Philadelphia, under the care of Dr. Wilbur Bowne. He wants to strengthen her for that long trip to Australia or whatever trials may arise. This page and all your shares certainly opened doors for Michelle, she has the HOPE and a CHANCE to LIVE.
+++++++++++++++++++ MARCH 21, 2019 UPDATE ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
The first day of Spring and Michelle has endured yet another surgery. Dr. Wilbur Bowne of Hahnemann University Hospital decided to take the chance and offer Michelle some more time on this earth. Her surgeon had some successes and encountered some hurdles during her 5 hour surgery. He does believe he lengthened her life and has given her the time to gain some strength. Australia is across the globe and Michelle will need the strength and stamina to make that trip. For now, Australia is on hold as we wait for Michelle to heal. And who knows what clinical trials may arise closer to home.
Thank you for your continued support, be it Australia or someplace closer, your donations will help fund the clinical trial Michelle needs to live.