Hello, I am Maria, a 58 year old mother of three adult children and I have two grandchildren. I have been sick for almost two years and didn't know it. I never thought that Cancer would touch my life. It did and in a big way.
Since March 2015, I've experienced intermittent stomach issues, vomiting and abdominal pain. The episodes were often so far apart that I excused them as "I took my medicine on an empty stomach"or "I ate the wrong food (junk food)"or "I ate too fast"or "It is a stomach bug" or "I'm too stressed." Once, I even blamed it on food poisoning, with no concrete evidence. I was just too busy to pay attention to what my body was trying to tell me.
I've been blessed with a loving family and a fulfilling career. I work in marketing for North Carolina's largest performing arts organization and I work long hours including some nights and weekends. I really enjoy my work, but most of all, I love being with and supporting my mother, children, grandchildren and extended family. In July 2015, I lost my dear father who suffered from COPD and Emphysema for over ten years. Now looking back, I know my mindset was, "I don't have time to be sick. I have to work. I have to take care of my family. "
That all changed on Oct. 14th, when I was working at a performance and I became violently ill. I vomited in the lobby restroom before being escorted back stage where I continued vomiting until I was totally dehydrated. I couldn't work and a friend took me home.The following week, one of my colleagues helped get me to one of the best G.I. practices in Raleigh, affiliated with UNC Rex Healthcare. The process moved quickly. On Nov. 10th, I had an Endoscopy and the next day I had a CT scan. These tests revealed that I have several enlarged lymph nodes in my mesentery area, one is as large as a small orange . When the G.I. doctor called me, he never said the word "Cancer" but I knew it in my heart when he asked me if I wanted a referral to Duke. I said no, I will stick with UNC Rex Healthcare. The next step was an appointment with an oncology surgeon who sent me to have a test on my liver and gall bladder (no cancer there) and then the biopsy surgery took place on Dec. 9th. On Dec. 15th, I met with the oncologist and learned that I have Stage 2 Follicular Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Then the process accelerated. I had Pet-scan on Dec. 19th to see if the cancer has spread to my organs. Praise God it hasn't. The very next day, Dec. 20th I had the surgery to insert my chemo port. On Dec. 22th, we had our family meeting with the oncologist. On Dec. 27th I had Chemo counseling and back to the hospital for a Bone Marrow biopsy, to see if the cancer has spread to my bone marrow. If cancer is in my bone marrow, then my diagnosis will be Stage 4. I get those results next week.
I had my first chemo treatment Dec 28th, and Dec 29th for two hours each day and my long day, 7 hours on Dec. 30th. Then I will be off of chemo for 28 days and back on for 3 days...this process will be for 6 months to get the cancer into remission. There is no radiation therapy for this cancer because it is a blood cancer. In other words, the doctors tell me that there is no cure. They can only get it in remission and treat it as a chronic illness for the rest of my days. I'm not afraid because I know who the Great Physician is and He can work miracles.
As I take this faith walk, I am appealing to Go Fund Me Angels for assistance. Every time I go in the clinic, I sign a form that states my bills can be as much as $3,000 for lab work each time they take blood, $25,000 for each infusion (chemo treatment) and $6,000 for each Neulasta auto-injector. I'm facing well over $500,000 in medical bills. The bills have already started coming in from all the office visits, tests, anesthesia and surgical procedures that I had to determine my diagnosis.
I am a State of North Carolina employee on the 70/30 health insurance plan, which means a higher percentage of my medical bills will be my responsibility, unlike if I had the 80/20 plan. Even with the out-of-pocket cap, thousands of dollars in medical bills will possibly bankrupt me. I can't pay the bills and keep up my household. The social worker at the clinic told me she will apply for grants for me from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundations but there's no guarantee.
My prayer is that the Go Fund Me Community of Angels will help me raise $50,000 to assist me in paying the bills that are rapidly arriving in my mailbox. No gift is too small. I will appreciate whatever I receive. There is strength in numbers and miracles are happening for me every day.
I am a believer and I have so many people praying on my behalf, loving me and supporting me. Along with family, friends, colleagues and, brothers and sisters in Christ, God has even sent angels in the form of strangers to pray with me. I am surrounded by brilliant doctors and nurses, prayer warriors near and far, and angels showing up when I least expect it. My God is on time, every time.
Thank you in advance for your sincere prayers and kind gifts.
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