Tracey Johnstone, Midwife to Beat Cancer
Tracey Johnstone is a midwife and human rights activist who has worked tirelessly to advocate for a just society for the babies she has helped enter our world. Recently she was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer after living with it for some time. We are raising money to cover rent, medicine, and living expenses for the duration of her recovery.
The Brief Story-
For the past two years, Tracey had been having increasing health troubles, discomfort and exhaustion. She was unable to qualify for any medical assistance and uninsurable due to a previous existing condition. In May of 2013, she went to the emergency room after experiencing bleeding for nearly a month and the increasing discomfort to her that felt like a fibroid. As treatment for one of the bleeding benign fibroids, the clinic scheduled her for an Oblation surgery on September 19th of 2013. She had gotten test results back earlier that she had cervical dysplasia and biopsies were also performed. Two weeks after having the surgery, we were given the results of her recent biopsies which came back positive for grade 3a cancer cells. Without health insurance, they refused to do the proper scans to stage her cancer through the INOVA Hospital. To make sure she got the care and treatment she needs, we relocated to the Baltimore region so Tracey could go to John Hopkins.
At Hopkins, she is able to get the medical care she needs. After an MRI and PET scan, they staged her at 1b Cervical Cancer. She will undergo concurrent Chemotherapy and Radiation treatment starting mid January for up to 3 months with a recovery time of up to 6 months to try and reduce the size of her cancerous tumours, clear out the cancer with surgery if still needed, and then repair her pelvic floor.
We NEED your help to make sure Tracey has a stable place to live throughout her treatment and recovery!
Every little bit counts and will get us closer to a place we can call home in our time of need.
We ask for your prayers, kind words, and positive energy.
Spread the word to save a Midwife.
*At the White House Peace Vigil, talking to kids about peace and nuclear disarmament("Big Yucky Weapons").
It has been quite some time since I last updated this page and for many reasons since I've even utilized facebook. I feel it is important for me to let you all know how things have progressed since Tracey finished her treatment in March and where we are now. After months of slow progress, Tracey has started to feel a sense of normalcy, or at least an easing into that state of being. We have been able to get by covering rent and bills on what I'm able to make at my new job and the help of family these past few months, and every week she is hitting new milestones and raising the par on what a good day feels and looks like!
Of course, there have been set backs, her immune system is in a state of regrowth after being attacked by radiation and Chemotherapy, so it takes longer for her to get through a common head cold and it is easier for her to get sick, but we are not the kind of people who enjoy living in a sterile bubble as you might be able to guess. She has pushed through hard on many of the tough days and gotten herself motivated to get back into midwifery!
As we find our footing and start to build a good life together, I have found myself wondering how exactly I can begin to give back to the community which carried us through that turbulent time. From multiple hotels and battling for healthcare to the daily trips to Hopkins, her medicine, treatment, food, and a place we can live. None of it would have been possible if it were not for the help of all of you from donations and care packages, to kind words of encouragement.
Thank you all.
For all those who were able to contribute and carry us through, please message me your address through this page so I can send a small token of appreciation and gratitude your direction for all you have done for us.
Love and Light,
Kyle S. Szlosek
The doctors told us it will be about 6 weeks from her last treatment until she will start to feel better. 3 months until she is close to normal and 6 months until she should be fully healed from treatment. In that time, she only has 2 scheduled appointments at Johns Hopkins to check in with her, and see how she is feeling. Right now, we aren't sure if the cancer has been killed or not. It's really just a waiting game at this point.
We were able to get by the last months bill cycle and life expenses on my tax returns, the funds raised through Stephanie's fundraiser, and the help of family. We've yet to pay our electric which miraculously is still on and have covered our rent of $875 these past 3 months with the help of this community. We have payed for her treatments, her medications, and travel to every single one of her appointments. We have gone from homelessness living out of a hotel with 3 pets, paying nightly with our life in boxes, unable to guarantee the next nights cost or food to eat, to the cozy one bedroom apartment we now call home. We have literally had to jump start our bus almost daily, steal toilet paper from public bathrooms, and uproot our entire lives to get to this point. We could not have done any of it if it were not for you all.
We're emotional wrecks, trying to force the healing we know in our hearts will take as long as is necessary for us to go through; and the water-jugged stresses from this 6 month journey have finally begun to take their toll.
I'm asking for one more big push to get us through the last of this. I've found work which I can start in the coming weeks but to support both of us on my own will still take some time. We need to get much needed repairs done to our bus, cover rent, utilities, and living expenses until Tracey and I have balanced our life to the point where I can be gone to work a steady full and part-time job, then when she is healed enough to work without pushing herself too hard, we can really start to build again.
Please share and spread the word.
Good Morning All!
Tracey gets HER LAST treatment of Radiation today! It has been a long day coming and finally we are done with this round of treatment and she can start Healing!!! The last few weeks have been brutal in terms of pain management and treatment scheduling. Last week she finished up internal radiation and she went through the worst of the radiation side-effects we had seen. More on both of those in a minute.
Today, we have an appointment with the Gynaecological Oncologist, which should just be scheduling for her to a follow up in a month and planning an MRI to make sure the treatment worked. Then, at 12:15pm or so, Tracey should go in for her last blast of Radiation to finish up her treatment. After that, there is a little ceremony they do at Hopkins where when someone finishes radiation, they hit a gong/bell with a mallet. It seemed like a nice thing to have when I first learned about it but in the weeks following I've looked at that bell with longing, anxiously awaiting the day when I could witness Tracey hit it herself. Today is that day, around 12:30 EST, and I'm going to see if I can Livestream it off of Johns Hopkins Wifi.
During the last 3 weeks, Tracey has seen the worst of the side-effects radiation has to offer. She had to go through Brachytherapy, also known as internal radiation, which meant surgery for an insert to guide the treatment, being put under for a CT scan and the implant of the leads for treatment, wake up, then being put back under for treatment itself. Twice a week, for two weeks (if you want a more detailed explanation of what Brachytherapy is let me know and I will post it). Last Wednesday she finished that treatment, which left her with internal radiation burns and only 5 external beam radiation treatments left. The following days from that treatment have been hard. The burns from her treatment have made it near impossible to sit without excruciating pain. She tried framing it for me kind of like this, " imagine having the worst sunburn you've ever had, Multiply it by 5, then have that sunburn extend into your organs, all located around or on your butt. It's the princess and the pea syndrome with any folds in sheets or any irregularities on anything I sit on."
The side-effects of radiation treatment get worse over time because the body is not given time to heal between treatments. They just keep blasting until the cancer should be gone, blast a little more for good measure, and then give you a care package to heal with and will see you in 3 months to make sure it works. There has got to be a better way to kill cancer out there in this universe and we need to find it.
We are blessed. With Everyone's Help, we have made it to the finish line for Tracey's Treatment! It has been a long journey which still has a bit left to it, the expected recovery time is about 3 weeks, and then the following week we can find out if they succeeded. Since November, we have lived off of the help and prayer of everyone who is part of this page and more, we have been given more than I can put in this post right now materially and spiritually (no they are not mutually exclusive). More than anything else, you have helped make sure that Tracey has had a safe and healing space to go through and beat Cancer, for which I have not the depth of words to truly express my gratitude. Thank you. All of you.
We started off this journey with no home, living out of a hotel, no healthcare, little to no resources, not even knowing if we could cover the next nights cost. Now, thanks to all of you, we have an apartment we call home, she has been able to get healthcare and treatment, we were able to rebuild and heal in a safe space to get to this day. Her last day of treatment. Thank you all.
If I can, I will livestream her hitting the gong/bell for you all to see today. If not, there will at least be videos and pictures.
We've still got some expenses we need to get through in the next few weeks as she heals and we both get jobs. But the universe has provided through all of you in our time of need, and I've learned not to stress when you could count your blessings instead. Share and spread if you can to let people know how awesome it is that we've all worked together to heal Tracey!
Love and Light,
Kyle S. Szlosek
Tomorrow is Tracey's last treatment of Chemotherapy! Finally, they can stop poisoning her entire body to kill cancer in instead just blast her with radioactive particles to shred her DNA in the designated area. As it turns out, Radiation only gets harder over time. We have begun to get the full understanding of that in the past few days. Thankfully, we finally have an end date for all treatment, March 12th!!!
Here are some specifics on the treatment she will be getting these last few weeks. On Monday, the 24th, Tracey will be going into surgery to place a ring inside her. That ring acts as a lead for the radiological oncologists to follow with a rod which is basically a track for a radioactive ball to follow. This ball will blast radiation at different intervals and intensities throughout her pelvis from the inside. She will be getting that treatment twice a week for 2 weeks, CT scans with each treatment and external radiation twice a week with that. Basically put, they're going to flank the cancer with radiation.
After those 2 weeks she should only have 3 more external treatments!
As I mentioned before, we are finally getting a sense of the growing side-effects of radiation treatment. Pain and Nausea aside, the growing inability to be comfortable in her own skin and the longing desire for treatment to be done has worn on Tracey emotionally in ways that are hard to put in words. She'll feel awesome one day, as though the treatment is working to help her feel a sense of normality. Then, either through over working herself or from treatment, she'll loose that sense of normality in a heart beat. It's a crushing blow, and those ups and downs will only get worse throughout this last bit of her treatment.
Once her treatment is done, the radiation will linger and continue to do its job for another 2-3 weeks. Then we'll be going for another set of scans to see whether her body is cured.
There are still some unknowns in the air, her financial assistance isn't helping with some medications and battling us a bit, which should have been expected. We're without internet at home, electric needs to be paid, car insurance needs to be done, at the end of the month there will be rent, food stamps are not covering our food costs, and our phones will most likely be shut off come tomorrow. Which essentially will leave us in the dark without being able to check what is going on in the outside world unless it is through the internet while we are at the Hospital. It's the typical costs of living which are weights upon us we cannot carry right now as we get through the rest of her treatment. However, we're almost on the other side of this. Then, I will be able to take one of the job offers I have waiting for me and we will be able to work toward supporting ourselves!
We need prayers for Tracey's healing to be as painless as possible, for her mind to be cleared of the fog she seems unable to overcome all too often and which tears her apart. And if you can, ANYONE from the Cincinnati area or who knows people in that area; Stephanie is putting on an amazing event and fundraiser to help cover our living expenses for the last few weeks of her treatment and into her recovery. IT IS THIS SATURDAY! Please help get the word out!
Any ideas would be more than appreciated and jubilantly received!
LOVE AND LIGHT,