My wife Stacy is a survivor. She has survived cancer more times than any cancer patient I have known, and as a long-time hospice volunteer I've met a lot of them. Stacy's first cancer diagnosis was DCIS (breast cancer) at age 19. Yes, 19 years old. She had a lumpectomy after fighting the insurace company to get treatment because 19 year-old women don't get breast cancer, silly. At 29 she was diagnosed with DCIS again, in the other breast. Surgery again. At the same time she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which spread to her colon. A Hershey bar sized mass was described in the radiology report. She moved to Alabama, and had to wait 365 days for medical coverage to start, but at the end of that year she received the great news that the mass was gone, and her cervical cancer was now down to just being at the observable stage. Miracles do happen! That was in 2001. In spring 2005 she had a birthmark removed that turned out to be melanoma. Fast-forward to 2007, and the cervical cancer had progressed enough to warrant surgery, so off to the operating room. In mid-2012 she had several spots removed from her chest and stomach; two of them biospsied positive as melanoma. All seemed good for a couple more years until she found a lump in her breast again in 2014. Here we go again, only this time it's a breast cancer that is very aggressive. She (we) opted for a double mastectomy because we thought that after three rounds of cancer, removing her breasts would give her the best chance of not having cancer return. So she went under the knife one more time for surgery, and they found that the tumor had more than doubled in size in the six weeks or so between mammogram and surgery, and that the cancer was also in several lymph nodes under her arm. OK, we can handle that. Chemo followed a month or so later, and almost killed her. Literally. Things didn't go well. She was switched to a different chemo drug, and even that was stopped early due to the serious nature of her side-effects. Doc recommended a longer period of radiation treatments. She did 30 rounds of radiation, and was put on a commonly used estrogen blocker to stop feeding her ER+ cancer. That didn't go well, as within three weeks she had two or three TIA's. For those who don't know, a TIA is like a mini-stroke. Scary stuff. Doctors couldn't find anything wrong and came to the conclusion it was from the estrogen blocker and took her off the drug. But, to stop the production of estrogen they recommended removing her ovaries. ANOTHER surgery. Then came the finishing touches on reconstruction, which had been delayed because of the TIA's (now called seizures by her neurologist.) So at this point, over one year after the inital diagnosis and treatment, we think we're in the clear. We beat cancer. Again. But oh how the world has a way of slapping you in the face to bring you back to reality. The radiation she was given as part of the treatment caused another problem; the tissue around the radiation site shrank, which moved the implant used during reconstruction up to almost her collarbone. And the tissue was ripping inside her chest if she moved her arm in certain ways because of how hard and inflexible the tissue had become from radiation. The plastic surgeon recommend another surgery, latissimus flap repair, to reconstruct the reconstruction. In short, they take muscle, skin, and all the other stuff from a section of your back and tunnel it around to the front to reconstruct the breast. Painful. VERY painful. That was in 2016. During all this she continued follow-ups with the oncologist, and everything looked good. No hot spots. Even as recent as May 2017 things looked good. Until October or so. She found a little lump again, same side as before. We thought it might be scar tissue, because the latest PET scan was good. We kept an eye on it, and watched it grow. She was already scheduled for a yearly exam with the oncologist a month later, so we just waited. Doc said negatory to the idea of scar tissue and ordered a CT scan and bone density test. Results from those tests revealed that not only did she have the lump on her breast, she had a pickle-sized abonormality on her sternum, at least that's what the bone density test showed. So he orders a PET scan. Our poor dog is tired of getting scanned. :) We got those results last week, which showed the breast hot spot and the sternum hot spot. BIG hot spot. Since it was a slow day in radiology due to the entire north of Alabama being closed due to a couple of snowflakes and some cold air, the radiologist did a biopsy of the breast mass. The sternum one he wasn't able to do, too risky and complicated, but on the PET scan it appeard to be the same thing as the breast anyways. We got the results of the biospy a few days later; same type of cancer as three years ago.
Yesterday we met with the oncologist again, and learned even more. The cancer was not just in those two spots, it was also in some lymph nodes in her chest and in a rib. Say hello to Stage 4! And the word that really became unnerving, incurable. At this point he said we're not going to cure it, just get in into remission and wait for the next recurrence. Wash, rinse, repeat. And that was only part of the story. At the start of yesterday's appointment he said that he was going to break things down between two appointments, that he didn't want to overload us in one visit. What's next? So that is where we are now, January 26, 2018.
My wife has been in nursing and the hospice field for a long time, so she knows what the future holds in store. We have been through a strikingly similar situation with my mom, who passed away in November 2012 after fighting breast cancer for twelve years. We have watched hospice patients fight a valient fight and lose to cancer in the end. We know its coming, we just don't know when. We could have five years or we could have five months. There really isn't a way to know at this point. What we do know is that my wife wants to visit two places before she moves on; Italy and Ireland. That's the reason for this gofundme. We'd like to raise enough money to take her on a dream vacation to Italy and Ireland, let her experience things she's only seen on TV or in movies. She wants to visit places in Ireland that what's her name went in the movie "P.S., I Love You". I want to take her to Rome, Venice, and maybe even the place I was stationed while in the Navy, La Maddalena. I want her to have great memories of the places she has dreamed of going, I want her to experience the joy of buying hot, fresh bread from the paneterria at zero-dark-thirty in the morning followed by a steaming cup of cappucino at the bar around the corner (there is ALWAYS a bar around the corner from the bakery.) So this is our request; help us make memories that will last an eternity, help us fulfill a wish.