Shellie's Cancer Story

Family can be a funny thing; one minute you’re talking to each other, the next minute arguing, followed by laughing; and depending on the occasion it can all be around the same table. This rollercoaster called life has its ups and downs, its moments of tense apprehension, excitement and occasionally stomach-churning twists. My sister's journey is one of those twists where we find ourselves at the mercy of life begging for more time but knowing we don’t have long to say goodbye.

It was March 5th of last year (2017) that my sister found a lump on her breast. Concerned, she contacted her doctor and they thought it might have been a cyst and an infection due to the pain. After some tests and a biopsy on the 14th she got a call two days later with the bad news; it was breast cancer. On March 20th she met with her oncologist who confirmed it was Stage 2 Triple-Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. It’s a very aggressive cancer but was treatable and curable so she moved forward just as aggressively.

            March 28 she began her chemotherapy. Round one was to be eight weeks of Adriamycin and Cytoxan together, a brief intermission then round two, twelve weeks of Taxol and all the side effects that go along with it. If it worked, it would be worth it. Along with the chemotherapy she opted for a double mastectomy, it was clear she was going to do what she could to beat this. She went in for surgery on September 28 and post operation we found out the that cancer had not shrunk during the chemotherapy treatment and it was still active. So, the oncologist recommended 6 more months of a different type of chemotherapy called Xeloda which is used to stop the spread of cancer cells and started on December 5th.

            Around late November, she started having some serious back pain. She talked to her pain management doctor, tried a few medical options to manage pain, which they thought was related to the chemo. After a few weeks without relief, they thought maybe it was a pinched nerve and scheduled an MRI for January 2nd. The next day she got a phone call from the oncologist saying he needed to see her right away. Lesions, multiple lesions on her lower spine and now it appears the Xeloda isn’t working. The next few weeks are full of MRI’s, PET scans, labs and a surgical procedure to see what is going on. At that point her doctor stops the chemotherapy. If he’s wrong they can restart, but if his hunch is right this cancer has spread and is now treatable but no longer curable.

            January 16th, it is confirmed that our sister has metastatic cancer; bone cancer. The PET scan comes back lit up in the lower spine, pelvis, and hip; with a small spot on the liver. Her doctor switches to radiation to slow the progression through her hip and to manage her pain. They decide to do a liver biopsy to confirm that there is or is not cancer in her liver. Oh, and there is new chemotherapy to come.

           Since the January 23rd liver biopsy it is confirmed that the cancer has spread to her liver. It is small, and the biopsy essentially removed most of it but it is still there. So now it is January 29th and there is cancer in her bones and her liver and she will be doing radiation and another chemotherapy called Halaven with regularly scheduled PET scans. This is how the remainder of her fight will look. There is no cure. This cancer will continue to grow and spread until it takes her life. They will continue to treat her to offer more time until the inevitable time comes where we have to talk about quality of life. Her oncologist gives 1-2 years IF she responds favorably to all treatments, which she hasn't so far.

            So there are the facts of our sister’s fight with cancer, and all of this while she and her husband are raising two girls ages 5 and 14, homeschooling them, and trying to manage all of the side effects of chemotherapy, while scheduling appointments that are increasingly bringing bad news, and driving multiple times a week to various locations for things like IV fluids, radiation, chemo treatments, and additional tests. This is one fight that no one prepares for but upon its arrival must be faced head on if victory is to be attempted. Family, despite our differences and shortcomings, is the bond we share with whom we love. Our sister has some of us around her here near Chicago and in Indiana doing all we can, but some of us are a thousand miles away in North Carolina doing everything we can to help.

Here is where you come in. All of this cancer treatment comes with a price, even the best medical coverage doesn’t cover the cost of travel to and from the chemotherapy clinic, or the pain clinic, or the grocery store for over-the-counter options. It may help with the medical side of things, but not with vehicle costs, and lost income, and time stolen away from two young girls who need their mommy more than ever, or a husband who is doing what he can for his wife despite the ravages of this deadly disease. I should also mention that while many families may have planned for final expenses with life insurance, there are just as many who have yet to do so; catch is there isn’t an insurance company that would take on a patient knowing the end is so near. Who plans to have their life cut short? Who plans to say goodbye to their 5-year-old daughter, or their 14-year-old teen? No one. No one plans for this and our sister is no exception.

We need your help, anything is appreciated, and with looming costs of more treatment, and more travel, moving expenses to bring them to North Carolina and eventually the end; our family, like many others dealing with cancer, needs your help. She and her husband regularly attend church and are believers in Christ and have been raising their daughters in the Christian faith; I know that when she leaves us she will grace the halls of heaven with her terrible singing voice.

So, as of mid January 2018 we have up to 12-24 months of time left with our sister, and her with her family. We have up to 12-24 months until we have to watch a husband lose his wife, daughters lose their mother, and our family lose a piece of us we’ve had for the last 38 years. Such a short time left to sit around that table and laugh, and cry, and love until we have to say goodbye.

Donations (68)

  • Ellen Katoll
    • $25 
    • 6 yrs


Darlene Bowman
Wake Forest, NC

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