The Gift of Life - $18 Drive for Hope
In Judaism, it is common to give and receive gifts in multiples of $18 or "Chai", which in part signifies a good omen for life. In fact, the longstanding Jewish tradition of gifting, contributing or donating in increments of $18 to individuals is often considered a good deed and mitzvah. The act of giving, gifting or donating $18 or multiples thereof is commonly referred to as "giving chai." Symbolically, these gestures are representative of giving a gift of "life."
And turns out that's exactly what I need.
Because I'm all about that symbology and good omens, I am asking for $18 donations. 3,000 of them. Which is a lot to ask, I know, but I truly believe it can happen. There is strength in numbers and you can never underestimate the impact that can be made when a lot of people contribute a little. I know this is a trying time for everyone with COVID19 still looming and casting a wide net, but unfortunately for me time could very well be of the essence.
So please share my story. I'm just a person that is desperate to never hear the words, "it's cancer" ever again and more than anything does not want to leave my son. Thanks for reading and sharing and being a brick along my path to what will hopefully prove a long life!
In November 2019 at 29 weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with Her2+, ER-, PR- breast cancer. At 30 weeks I had my first round of Adriamycin/Cytoxan chemotherapy. In early January 2020, at 36 weeks I was induced and gave birth to my beautiful son Keeper. 4 days later I was fully diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer when doctors confirmed that the same cancer was discovered on my liver.
This phase of cancer, also called stage 4, means the cancer has traveled through the bloodstream to create tumors in the liver, lungs, brain, bones and/or other parts of the body. While treatable, metastatic breast cancer (MBC) cannot be cured (most chemo protocols do not effect cancer cells in the blood/brain).
The 5 year survival rate for stage 4 breast cancer is 22 percent; median survival is 3 years. Just to be sure you're processing this... I repeat... The 5 YEAR survival rate for stage 4 breast cancer is 22%; median survival is 3 YEARS. That still just seems impossible, but I also thought I would never get breast cancer... while pregnant, so statistics just seem not to be on my side.
This prognosis was especially traumatizing to me as I am a single-mother-by-choice, meaning that at 36 and single, I took it upon myself to accomplish my lifelong dream of becoming a mother, which was finally happening after 2 rounds of IVF, and I was SO excited up until the part where I got "incurable" cancer.
Needless to say, I am determined not to go down without a fight, because neither I nor my son signed up for, or deserve anything less than a long life full of love.
That being said, the past 6 months have been extremely transformative. I have endured 7 rounds of chemo and I have seen tremendous progress as my once 7cm tumor in my left breast is now down to 8mm and the 2 cm tumor on my liver is down to 1cm.
So some GOOD NEWS is that I currently have under 2cm of what was once 9cm of cancer remaining in my body (for now)!
The NOT-SO-GOOD news is that we saw that progress by Round 4 and "no measurable changes” since, and although I'm feeling mostly positive and indestructible, I’m also trying to not be overly optimistic, meaning trying not to just accept everything is going to be okay, because that’s pretty much what got me here and though the view is pretty at times, a long stay could (and statistically, likely will) kill ya.
Just a little lesson about cancer. At Stage 4 it is not uncommon to experience a remission, a period where there is no evidence of disease, some would say "cancer-free", but you are never cancer-free, at least not medically. Once the "pioneer cells" are in your blood, regardless of active treatment (which I will be on FOR. EVER.), it most often will land elsewhere at some point (usually within 3-5 years) and when this happen it's bad news, because this means it's the supervillain of cancer cells and usually much less responsive to treatment. Gasp. And then you die, usually within 3-5 years, hence the prognosis.
And, to put it plainly, that sucks... like, a lot.
So here’s the plan. I’ve done a lot of research over these past months and I’ve found out some very hopeful information.
Oligometastatic breast cancer (OMBC) is sometimes considered as an intermediate biological state between localized and widely metastatic disease. There is increasing evidence that prolonged disease control is possible in patients with OMBC when treated with aggressive multidisciplinary management.
And we are on that multidisciplinary train! My oncologist is supportive of having the tumor in my liver resected (removed) via radiofrequency ablation which I ABSOLUTELY believe is a HUGE step in the right direction. Metastatic tumor removal in Metastatic Breast Cancer for therapeutic benefit is not considered standard of care but may be undertaken in highly selected individual cases and shows favorable long term survival (crossing fingers and toes). To me this translates to a biological quirk where the cancer has not yet fully saturated my blood, yet happened upon my liver as an isolated occurrence (less cancer in my blood=less chances for return). So there is THAT and I am so relieved to even have that be a possibility, but there is this doubt in my head; a voice that questions whether THAT truly IS my situation and wonders if I will severely regret not taking this more seriously 3-5 years from now and doing what I believe can effect cancer that may circulating in my bloodstream.
Enter GoFundMe Round 2.
“Hope 4 Cancer” in Mexico offers ALL of the alternative therapies that I have found to show promise (as in A LOT of VETTED RESEARCH in reputable journals, forums & studies shows remarkable success, specifically in cases like mine- google check me if needed) including Light and Sound Therapies, Immunotherapies, Thermal Energy, Biological IV, Metabolic, Oxygen, Anti-microbial, Anti-Angiogenic, Anti-inflammatory, Nutritional, Magnetic/Electrical Fields, Detoxification, Exercise and Emotional/Spiritual Therapies.
You can learn more about each of these areas here:
The program is 3 weeks, with every day packed full of various alternative treatments that work to not only attack the cancer, but to strengthen my immune system, which is paramount. Interestingly there are numerous studies that link immunotherapy and sudden immune response due to infection/fever to favorable outcomes, when this happens the immune system is able to recognize the threat and the cancer is attacked more effectively than any man made chemotherapy could ever hope to. Turns out that our immune systems are perfectly capable of attacking and winning against cancer cells, but the cancer has also become very adept at 'hiding' from weakened immune cells. The best way to combat future recurrence is to optimize my own immunity, and after 7 rounds of chemo, which has near depleted my immune system, now is the time to rebuild (see 'Labs' pictured).
Originally I thought I would save this option as a "back-up plan", for when the cancer returned, or things started going really south (I stop responding to chemo- I honestly hate to even say that), but the choices I make now and the treatments I'm able to take advantage of BEFORE my cancer has the opportunity to take hold elsewhere or further proliferate my blood stream, will make all the difference. The more I read about these treatments and read the testimonies of others who have sought treatment here, the more I know I have to go and the sooner the better.
To be completely honest, my fear is that this cancer will remain in my blood and strike when I least expect it and I will realize too late that I should have done more "when I had the chance" and ultimately I will pay with my life... if that's not enough pressure, I've got this amazing son, that I may have to look in the eye one day and say with honesty that "Mommy did everything she could to stay here with you". It literally breaks my heart to think of my son crying out and me not being able to be the one to hug him and kiss him on the head and tell him everything is going to be okay, for the rest of his life. I want to be able to be here to do that. I want to be his rock and to take him on so many adventures and his first trip to Disneyland. I want to teach him how to be a good man, to be kind and to be the guy who talks to the new kid at school, or stands up for those that are being bullied. I want so many things for him and selfishly I want to also see him be that guy some day.
So anyway, that's my plan and those are my hopes and it’s expensive as heck and although it’s not fun to need help, let alone ask for it (twice) when everyone has been MORE than generous and supportive in innumerable ways, I guess it would be less fun to actually die from cancer when maybe I could have lived, so here I am, asking again, because it’s just important that I try. Every day and in every way. I just need to know I left no stone unturned. I just know this exists and I know it works and I would be remiss not to try to make it happen.
Thank you for your time, and thank you even more for your help, both before, and now. Throughout everything I have been motivated and sustained daily by the kindness of others, and it makes this pretty horrific nightmare a lot more palatable; I dare even say enjoyable.
Feel free to follow or catch up on my story on Facebook (Shelby Gale) and/or Instagram (wild_haired_gale) where I could certainly practice restraint and try to keep some modicum of privacy, but I don't.
<3 Shelby (and Keeper)
Lab Results at most recent blood draw on May 7, 2020. 4 weeks after my last round of Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin & Perjeta.
January 3, 2020- The day my son Keeper was born and the BEST day of my life.
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