Tanya’s Cancer Journey
This is what Living Proof Cancer Warriors means to me and my children and honestly I hope I am able to verbalize the magnitude of how your help has impacted my future and my children’s. I am very honored and humbled to have been selected by your organization firstly because I know there are so many well deserving families and who need help as I.
I kept thinking why me? Why pick me? I’m the person who never got picked; but I am also the person who takes joy in being the giver for decades, not receiver. And then cancer came to teach me a whole new mountain of life altering lessons and embark on a journey with a few repeats to re-learn my self-worth, my value, purpose, and whose I am first. Cancer steels more than I ever imagined and brings many scary days, nights, months filled with uncertainty. But God.
Although I have a very long journey that started at age 34 in 2015 with diagnosis of HER2- breast cancer, Living Proof Cancer Warriors came into my family’s life during my 3rd breast cancer diagnosis in fall of 2018. And this was at the perfect timing, God’s timing. When I received Trisha’s call about my case and provided me with the history of this organization and how the process works I remembered I was sitting on the floor in the hallway by my filing drawers. I was going through piles of paperwork trying to get organized and sort the current happenings of life. I was fighting for my life, for my children to have a mother, a home, and going through many deep, dark emotional heartbreaks and trials. Feeling alone, pain, sick, and scared is simply stating what I was going through. Trisha handled my “chemo brain” with grace and empathy. What should have been simple answers I was scattered, as I remember. I am not sure if Trisha recalls those phone calls and correspondence from my daily chemo brain days, but no matter how hard of a time I was enduring, she repeatedly reaffirmed my value, that I am not alone, I am a warrior, and that I am believed in. To be told over and over I am believed in gave me a hope that I had lost.
You see, part of my journey I was told I am not loved and left to defend for my children and I. I was told I did not amount to being a woman of value having lost so much to over 10 cancer surgeries and countless rounds of variety of chemo treatments. I was not worth fighting for. Long, long story short: my now ex-husband walked out of our children’s and my life in December 2017, during my 2nd battle of breast cancer, Triple Negative. With that alone brought devastation and horrific hurts, clarity & peace stolen, and a divorce battle that was a constant weight and fears of what-if’s…in addition to fighting for my life against a disease that has no empathy, no care, or reference for keeping families together.
Living Proof Cancer Warriors came into our life at God’s perfect timing. I was praying for many physical and financial miracles. I didn’t know many “how am I doing to make this happen and survive this season”. You picking me as grant recipient and working with me sparked a flame and ignited hope I had lost through each painful struggle and challenge. Not only because of monetary donation and life altering help that kept a home for children and me, but also mental, emotional, and spiritual help. I cannot say thank you enough to express the levels of impact you have on my family but thank you. For doing the grilling work volunteering and raising awareness, seeing a need to make a difference in the journey of cancer. Cancer is horrible, most definitely yes…but out of ashes comes beauty and Living Proof Cancer Warriors was a turning point of what tried to destroy us was not able to succeed! Thank you for caring. Thank you for seeing value in my children and myself…during a time all I saw was a very hurt woman who was left at a time I didn’t even know if I was going to live; I believed for some time I was a failure, deformed, a hairless freak…but God reminded me whose I am first and I am made whole, in His image, and He brought us y’all (getting some Texan in) who picked me to help and become a living legacy for my children.
I hope this helps express my thankfulness, gratitude, the forever lasting impact you have on my family, the hope you instill, uplifting me when I was down (deep, deep down), and meeting needs far greater than imagined. I am forever thankful you picked me…beyond humbled and appreciative! Rescued us and provided a chance for many stressors uplifted so I can fight to live; that’s Agape. Thank you for helping me live so I could beat Triple Negative cancer, overcome divorce, defeat worthlessness, and grow…to be mom to Conner and Zoe.
I am Living Proof!
Cancer Warrior 2015/2016 (HER2-), 2017/2018 (Triple Negative), 2018/2019 (Triple Negative)
Mother to Conner & Zoe
“Faith, Fight, Finish”
“My kids are watching; there is no giving up”
“God is good all the time”
Jeff’s Cancer Journey
In Memoriam by Kristi McAfee
Jeff had a mole above his left eye that had grown. In June of 2017 he went to a dermatologist where they performed a biopsy. The doctor called a week later and said he wanted to talk to him in person. We knew right away that it was not good news. The biopsy came back positive for Melanoma, a form of skin cancer. A week later we met with a surgeon at MD Anderson in Houston. In July he had three separate surgeries performed in three weeks. The first one was to remove everything from above his eyebrow and other suspicious areas on his face to see if it had spread. The second one was by a plastic surgeon to close up the openings from the first surgery. The third one was to remove over 50 lymph nodes and part of his parotid gland. Both surgeons did an awesome job. We then met with his oncologist and radiologist who started him on five rounds of radiation between August and September. The oncologist then started him on immunotherapy in November. He had about seven treatments before he started to get a rash and his muscles started to bother him. The team decided to stop the immunotherapy to figure out what else was going on. He met with a rheumatologist who and neurologist who diagnosed him with Dermatomyositis, a chronic illness that causes fatigue, rashes and muscle soreness. Jeff did not let this hold him back as he kept working 50 plus hours a week while they tried to come up with a treatment plan.
In November of 2018, he started IVIG treatments that helped him quite a bit. It was about this time that we also found out that his cancer had returned. His oncologist wanted to try some other treatments so they did two rounds of chemo by itself. His body did not respond as they had hoped. They tried two more rounds of chemo with a different immunotherapy. His body still did not respond.as they had hoped. His oncologist was going to try to get him on a trial but his health started to decline. We took him to the emergency room in Austin on April 5, 2019. On April 15th he was transferred to MD Anderson in Houston. They started him on a rehab program to help regain his strength back. On May 15th he had new scans done. On May 17th we got news that his cancer had spread to his spleen and kidney. As soon as we found out we knew we wanted to get him back to Colorado to be with his family. We were put in touch with Trisha of Living Proof Cancer Warriors, who was a big help in getting us back to Colorado. We got back to Colorado on May 15th.
Jeff lost his battle on July 2, 2019. The one thing I can say is that Jeff fought a hell of a battle and he didn’t let it get in the way of living his life to the fullest.
Our family collected funds in Jeff’s name to give back to your wonderful charity. We cannot thank you enough for all you did for us and most importantly, Jeff. We will continue to donate as much as we can to your amazing cause. ~Kristi McAfee
Dana’s Cancer Journey
Hello, my name is Dana Mingo and I am a cancer survivor and thriver. I was first diagnosed at the age of 25 with Stage III Ovarian Cancer. I also had about 4-5 months of chemo just to be sure they got it all. For 16 years, the small nodules in which my gynecologist oncologist said could not be removed through surgery, lay dormant with no activity. At the great age of 41, I remember getting a call from my doctor that my CA-125 numbers were up and needed a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvic immediately. Then came a biopsy to test the nodules since they were located in my lymph nodes. The test came back malignant! I was like I can beat this as I already beat it 16 years earlier. I went through a mild form of chemo treatment and an oral pill and the tumors shrunk and were not a threat anymore. I was like yes, I beat it again. Well 2 years later at age 43, they reared their ugly heads again and required chemotherapy for almost a year, going every 3 weeks or so.
This was the hardest time of my life. I was much older, so my body was slower to bounce back, not to mention my mindset being everywhere. I needed to keep working so I would have insurance and meet our financial requirements for the household. Despite losing all our savings, our home, cars, I knew my focus had to be on getting healthy and not worry about the material things. My health and energy were getting back on track and my numbers went down under 10 for my CA-125. This is where my doctor wanted them to be, so I was like YES! Time to rebuild and restore, this was the end of 2016. So, I thought. The new year rolls around in 2017 and not so good news. I am told let’s just monitor you. No need for any more treatment, for now. God knew then, my body was at its limit from the year before. 2018 rolls around and my doctor says it’s time for a new treatment plan. A new drug that just came out called Zejula, was developed for ovarian cancer patients. I was open to this and began the new treatment plan.
Things were moving along, finances finally getting back on track, so I could focus on healing and maintain a sense of balance. However, much to my surprise, I was let go from my job soon after I started the new drug. I was like WOW, of all things, the enemy is really fighting me hard and truly wanting my life to end. It was like one thing after another. Unemployment was some help. But how do you go from an $82K annual job down to receiving unemployment for less than $2K a month. That’s $24K a year and only for less than a year. It was a scary time for me and my family. No job, barely an income, and now no insurance to buy the medicine. At that time since the medicine was so new, a 1-month supply was $15K and there was no co-pay assistance. How can one afford this, I surely knew I was headed for death. From April of 2018 to April of 2019, it was truly a test of my faith in God and my love for Him. I look back and don’t know how or what. All I know is that despite having limited funds coming in and limited insurance for my treatment and doctor, He kept those tumors at a standstill. You are probably wondering, why not seek help from the state or other means. Believe me I did, I searched out many organizations, only to be told no. So, I was like why bother. My family helped out tremendously and so did my church, but you get to a point where you want to just give up.
One day at the doctor’s visit, I noticed a form for social work services. So, I filled it out. I began to talk with a social worker and she began to hear me out, listen to my concerns and provided various resources for mental & physical wellness, my student loans to be deferred, and financial resources. I applied for various assistance, but no one ever contacted me back. By the grace of God, Living Proof Cancer Warriors contacted her and said we have some funding we need to provide to someone in need. I came to mind, after all these years! I submitted my application and gave it to God and said if you see fit for them to help me, then I will be obedient and not be ashamed.
I got an email from Trisha Abbe with Living Proof Cancer Warriors, then the call, then another call, then a visit. The calls and visits were a Godsend, not just about the financial resources, but just to talk with someone on the other end who has been through what I have, who could hear me and offer encouragement. Don’t get me wrong, I am forever grateful for my family, friends and church over the years, for their support. However, nothing compares to a sister or brother that has been in the battle and understands what you are going through. That was the best part for me. Trisha reminded me that I am not alone. See cancer can make you feel alone sometimes. It can distract you and steal your joy. It can really put you in the dumps. That is why I am so grateful to the LPCW. They came through when we needed them. Rebuilding our lives. Although, I am still in the fight I will press on for my brothers and sisters. Those that have passed on and those of us thriving together. Through great organizations such as LPCW, one can focus on healing and not so much on finances. They helped us with our bills and I am forever grateful. I pray that God continues to bless and prosper LPCW. They are indeed living by their mission, to sustainable resources and financial assistance. No judgement, just love and genuine hearts. I look forward to volunteering and offering mentoring as well, as the need arises. Giving back is what it’s about and Living Proof Cancer Warriors is LIVING PROOF that one can make a difference in someone’s life for the good.I am a living testimony.
Ashley’s Cancer Journey
When I was 26 years old, I was diagnosed with CML, Leukemia. Once diagnosed I was immediately admitted to the hospital and began chemotherapy. Since my diagnosis, in 2009 I have taken an oral chemotherapy daily. This has allowed me to live as normal of a life as possible with my diagnosis. It also allowed me to work full time and keep up with my vivacious 4 year old daughter,
I have been blessed to be able to keep my cancer at bay for so long with just an oral chemo.
However, in July of 2018, my body stopped responding to chemotherapy, as my molecular blood levels continued to elevate. My team of doctors decided to see if my body would respond to a difference oral chemotherapy, which unfortunately did not help lower my blood levels. This led my doctors to decide it was time to move forward to have a bone marrow/stem cell transplant.
After searching for a donor and finding a match, the doctors proceeded with the transplant process. On June 6th, 2019, I was admitted to the hospital to begin a journey that will hopefully lead me to a cancer free life.
After six days of intense chemotherapy, my body was given one day of rest and on June 14th, 2019, I received my transplant. On the bone marrow/stem cell transplant floors of the hospital transplant day is known as your “New Birthday. The doctors and nurses warned me that the side effects would be rough. I would have to say rough is an understatement, and I can now say I have a new appreciation for the phrase, “bald is beautiful.” Every morning when I wake up in the morning, I tell myself “I’ve got this” and I can do this.”
Since being released from the hospital, I am able to be at home but still have to return weekly to follow-up appointments. These doctors appointments last most of the day and take a lot out of me. They check my blood levels to make sure the new cells are growing, and to ensure I remain infection free. It will take 6-9 months to determine the success of the transplant, while a full recovery could take up to two years. Living with cancer is something you have to learn to embrace. It is not something that defines you, it is just a diagnosis. Cancer has taught me how to appreciate love, life and what a strong support unit looks like, with them you really can conquer any challenge, even on your worst day. Cancer gave me character, acceptance, never give up, courage, energy and radiance.
Thank you so much Living Proof Cancer Warriors.