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Fighting Cancer While Expecting - Brianne & Baby

$54,376 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 870 people in 3 months
Created March 23, 2019
I have created this page to help support my sister Brianne (age 32), her husband Hector (age 34), and the first child they have on the way. Brianne is battling Stage 4 Fibrosarcoma which has metastasized to her lungs and pancreas, as well as lesions on her head, neck and back. While fighting for her own life, Brianne is carrying Baby Rodriguez.

* * * * * 

Let me start at the beginning. Twenty years ago, Brianne was diagnosed with soft tissue cancer (Fibrosarcoma). Fibrosarcoma is a very rare cancer affecting fibrous tissue near bone. Only 1% of all cancers are sarcomas, of which 10% are Fibrosarcoma. At only 10 years old, this was a scary and overwhelming time for Brianne. She faced medical visits, biopsies, chemotherapy, surgeries and eventually limb removal. Her right arm was amputated just below the elbow in 1998 (putting her in remission).

In the years following, Brianne was fortunate to live a relatively normal young-adult life. Each year, Brianne's family and friends looked forward to celebrating her survival. On her remission anniversaries, we reflected on how lucky we've been to have her in our lives as a brave and beautiful daughter, sister, lover, granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend. Her last remission anniversary was celebrated on October 28, 2018  -- 20 years cancer free, the way to be.

* * * * *

Just after her twentieth remission anniversary, in November 2018, Brianne found out she was pregnant. She and Hector had been trying for a baby and were overjoyed. Their excitement quickly turned to nervousness and worry, as it was early on in pregnancy when Brianne started noticing abnormal physical changes. Due to her medical history, any new lumps or bumps (other than a growing baby bump!) were immediately concerning. So, to the doctor she went.

* * * * * 

That brings us to today. Brianne has been diagnosed with recurrent Fibrosarcoma. The ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans, biopsies and pathology testing performed over the past several weeks have confirmed multiple masses throughout Brianne's body, including a 9 cm tumor in the lower lobe of her left lung, two smaller tumors in the upper lobe of her left lung, a suspicious nodule in her right lung, a 4 cm tumor near (or possibly invading) her pancreas and three lesions appearing on her head, neck and back. While the diagnosis is shocking, even more devastating is the fact that this type of Stage 4 cancer has a survival rate of only 16%.

The silver lining is that Brianne has been seeing a talented, knowledgeable team of Oncologists and Surgical Oncologists in South Carolina and at Duke University Medical Center. A recent genetic mutation study has confirmed that Brianne also carries the NTRK1 gene mutation, which is likely contributing to the cancer. In November 2018, the FDA approved a drug called Larotrectinib which targets the mutation with the objective of shrinking or eliminating tumors. It is the only drug of its kind and very new. Brianne has gotten approved for the drug. This may be her only hope for survival, other than a series of surgeries which might buy time but probably wouldn’t result in a cure.

* * * * *

And what about Baby Rodriguez? Currently, Brianne is 25 weeks pregnant and carrying a healthy baby. However, her life is in danger as she continues on with the pregnancy. It is likely that Brianne will deliver a very pre-term baby at 28 weeks, so she can then start on the Larotrectinib. If this happens, Baby Rodriguez will stay in the neo-natal intensive care unit for an estimated three months or until the original due date of July 7, 2019.

* * * * *

A few more facts:

1. Brianne and Hector are both still working. However, time off work is eminent. Brianne will need to take an unpaid leave of absence from her job for maternity leave and eventual cancer treatment and/or surgeries. As a young physician (allergist), Hector is still paying off a significant sum of medical school loans and working hard to support his sick wife and growing family.

2. The annual out-of-pocket insurance maximum for Brianne and Baby Rodriguez is $14,000 ($7,000 per individual). This is why I have started the fundraising goal at $25,000. I may change the amount in the future depending on next steps and medical expenses for Brianne and Baby Rodriguez.

3. I have created this Go Fund Me page with the goal of supporting Brianne and Hector mentally, emotionally and financially. They did not ask me to create this page. I am doing so to help show how much hope and love surrounds them! If you have already reached out, please do not feel obligated to donate. Brianne, Hector and our families appreciate all of your positive thoughts and acts of kindness.

4. I will continue to use this page as a way of keeping everyone up-to-date on the health status of Brianne and Baby Rodriguez. If you are interested in receiving updates, you can also contact me at jamie.nadolny@gmail.com.

Please keep Brianne, Hector and Baby Rodriguez in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for supporting their fight for life.







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After ...

60 days in the NICU
8 bottles a day
3 more pounds

... the time has come.

Welcome home, little one.
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In order for the light to shine so brightly,
the darkness must be present.

* * * * *

If you’re wondering why I’ve shared that quote, it’s because the meaning of Eleanor’s name is “bright, shining one”. Her arrival came right after the dark news of Brianne’s cancer recurrence, and in the weeks since, she has lit up our whole world.

I wasn’t able to post last week, but Eleanor has continued to make progress in the NICU. She has weaned off CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) and is finally starting to breathe on her own. She has started bottle feeding and is now up to 4 pounds, 10 ounces — almost double her birth weight! (Side note: preemie onesies are still too large for her.) And because of Eleanor’s steady oxygen levels and weight gain, she has been moved from an incubator to a crib where she is much more comfortable.

One last update on Eleanor — she has traded her big bow for a special new hat! (See picture.) Continue to stay strong and let your light shine on, baby girl.

* * * * *

For those who are wondering about Eleanor’s mommy, she is doing okay for right now. Her days are spent working, visiting baby and preparing the nursery. Brianne is still taking her oral chemotherapy drug (Larotrectinib). At the end of June, she will go to Duke University Cancer Center for scans and testing to see whether the drug has been effective at shrinking or eliminating her tumors. Please continue to hope for a positive outcome.

* * * * *

I want to take a moment to thank my mom and dad who retired in South Carolina to be closer to Brianne and her growing family. Sometimes I feel helpless because of the distance between us, but it eases my mind knowing they’re there to provide constant help and support.

I also want to thank everyone for continuing to follow our family’s story. Your encouragement is an important reminder to Brianne and Hector that brighter days are ahead, especially with Eleanor by their side.
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Happy Saturday, everyone! We are feeling more cheerful today, as there are a few positive updates on Baby Eleanor:

1. Nora has had a growth spurt and is now 3 pounds, 7.6 ounces!

2. Her most recent brain ultrasound was normal (i.e. no signs of intraventricular hemorrhage/brain bleed).

3. She had an eye exam screening for retinopathy of prematurity (a potentially blinding eye disorder primarily affecting infants weighing less than 3 pounds or born before 31 weeks). Her results were normal for her gestational age, and there are no concerns.

4. While still on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), Nora is making slow and steady progress on her breathing.

Baby Eleanor is turning out to be quite the little fighter! She loves sleeping on her tummy, holding on tight to her octopus doll and snuggling with mommy and daddy during kangaroo time.

* * * * *

Brianne continues to fight, as well. She is still taking her daily doses of Larotrectinib (oral chemotherapy drug targeting her NTRK1 genetic mutation to shrink or eliminate tumors). Yesterday, she had a 4-week check-up with her oncologist in South Carolina. The doctor ordered more routine lab work and reminded us that patience is a virtue. It will likely be another 4 to 8 weeks before a scan is done to determine progress. In the meantime, we are all trying to remain hopeful that the drug will work.

* * * * *

Thank you all for continuing to follow along on the Rodriguez family’s journey. The outpouring of support has been humbling and uplifting. I am starting to believe that where there is great love, miracles can happen.
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There was a time, right after Brianne’s recurrent cancer diagnosis, when no one was certain it would be safe to proceed with the pregnancy. Brianne and Hector discussed options with their medical care team, researched, soul-searched, contemplated, and ultimately decided to have their baby girl. Eleanor Rae Rodriguez was brought into a world that is so full of love! Today, our hearts are bursting as Brianne celebrates her very first Mother’s Day.

* * * * *

Happy Mother’s Day to all the other women out there displaying courage, strength, and grace through adversity — just like Brianne. You are in our hearts today and always.
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$54,376 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 870 people in 3 months
Created March 23, 2019
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