My name is Arica Grafton, and I am the sister-in-law of Monique Grafton. Monique has recently been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Here is her story:
It began with pain in my low back which I thought was a result of an issue with sciatica. The pain progressed to where I was not sleeping at night and was making everything I did throughout my day, to be close to unbearable. As mothers, we don't want to complain so I did the grin and bare it for almost 6 weeks before seeking help. This lead to scheduling an MRI. The MRI came back with news I had a tumor on my 5th lumbar spine, which was indeed pressing directly into my sciatica. They told me that day, they thought it looked cancerous but needed to start running tests. When you hear the word cancer, it completely takes over every thought and the mind becomes a battlefield. My heart felt broken. Days felt like months and weeks like years, to just get some answers. All the while, my pain was chronic. Pain meds offered would hardly bring relief being that it was nerve pain. After a biopsy which revealed metastisized stage 4 squamous cell cancer, the search began for the primary source. Where in my body did my cancer start? After multiple CT scans, PET scans, blood tests, exams and weeks of speculation and no clear answers- radiation was ordered. Primarily to shrink the tumor to stop the pain. Going into it, I was willing to do anything to help get myself out of the pain so I could think straight and begin to face this battle with energy!
I recently completed 4 weeks of radiation on the tumor on my spine. Still somewhat unsure of where the cancer has started, we have been excepted into the OHSU program out of Portland, OR. They are suggesting it began in the lungs. They discovered a small nodule in my lungs that although small, it could be the culprit, and I guess could have began years ago, unnoticed, until it metastasized onto my spine. This is of course alarming for someone who does not smoke! Of course the emotional battle that is faced with my family, trying to deal with the unknown, is the main concern and breaks my heart daily. My husband Marcus and I still have a 15 year old son at home, Devyn who we are deeply involved with all of his sports and activities. Marcus has always volunteered with coaching and I have always enjoyed being involved behind the scenes with whatever that particular sport needed of me as a mom. We also have two daughters living in Portland trying to make their way (one finishing college). I immediately felt responsible for taking my family down a road of extra financial burden, as I have run a business the last 5 years called "Bash Party Styling" doing what I love, but also helping support my family. My husband already works so hard for us and he is going to be so tired from all angles, and it won't feel like enough. My kids are going to have to watch this, and that breaks my heart as well. This process hadn't begun until October so we had to pay a full deductible before we could even get help with drugs, and now with the new year, another full deductible is due of over $6,000 and our monthly payments are $750 for insurance on top of this. Copays due at every visit before deductible is met causing us to pay large amounts for my pain meds out of pocket, and now the traveling to Portland will be an additional expense. This is just the beginning of healing but with that- financial stress.
I am surrounded by family and friends who have offered to help out with daily tasks like cleaning, making dinners, running errands (since I cannot drive now) etc. but the financial needs are growing. We will be traveling to Portland every other week for the next few months as I start chemotherapy and immunotherapy. I have been advised to continue to strengthen my immune system naturally for the duration which will include raw juice, clean eating, vitamin infusions, physical therapy, acupuncture, other forms of body work, and following a complete care approach to bring complete restoration to my body. All of this is necessary but as we all know, very expensive.
Marcus and I have always supported ourselves so it has been extremely uncomfortable to accept help from others, but understand now it is better than losing everything we have worked for together, and all of our hopes and dreams for the family. It was suggested from friends and family that we begin a gofundme account. So here we are, and with much much appreciation, we thank you for reading our story and being a part of my healing.