Please scroll down to read all the stories of our amazing & inspiring recipients
I am a 40 yr. old single Mom of two great kids – my son, Isaac is 20 and my daughter Jaimee is 15. Beginning in the spring of 2014, I started experiencing pain in my lower right abdomen. It started increasing in frequency so I went and had tests done including an ultrasound. Unfortunately, the Doctor was at a loss as to what specifically was causing the pain and thought it could possibly be a ruptured cyst. I was sent on my way not totally satisfied but knew there was nothing else to be done at the time. The pain returned sporadically for the next year and a half, never lasting more than an hour or so each occurrence.
Then I had my yearly exam September 2015 and mentioned that I was still experiencing pain but my Doctor didn’t seem to be too concerned about it because of my past history and an ultrasound not showing anything abnormal. Several weeks later the pain had increased in intensity so I called my Doctors office and they ordered some tests, which only revealed that I had a UTI. I thought this was strange since I have no history of getting UTI’s. Something in my gut told me that something else was going on, so I pushed for a referral for another set of eyes and further testing. And am I glad I did!
Mid December I had an ultrasound performed which revealed a large mass on my right ovary – a little larger than the size of a softball. They also did some blood work which indicated extremely high levels for cancer. I was then referred to an Oncologist who I discussed my options with and together decided the best route without knowing whether it was cancer at the time, was to at the very least have surgery to remove the ovary.
Just recently I had my follow-up CT scan. I was feeling pretty confident & optimistic that I would get a clean bill of health and be sent on my way to continue on the road back to regaining my health. Unfortunately, there was a small mass found behind my right kidney. I am hopeful that the results will come back showing that it is benign and nothing to be concerned about.
This journey has given me new insight on how precious life is and how easily it can be taken for granted. More than anything else it has strengthened my faith; it has continually given me hope & the strength to keep pushing forward especially on days that it would have been easy to go to those dark places of discouragement. Along with the tremendous support of my family & friends, I have made it this far and am so very thankful for each & every one of them!
A few days after Christmas 2015 I was scheduled for surgery. During surgery they also spotted a small cancerous mass that had spread to my uterus. Because it had spread it was decided that I would have surgery to have a hysterectomy. I was diagnosed with Stage ll ovarian cancer. The big “C” word – I knew going in that there was a high chance of it being cancer but was still hopeful that it wasn’t, after all I was too young to have cancer…right? Unfortunately Cancer does not discriminate, not even according to age. After recovering from surgery and a week after my 40th birthday, I was scheduled to begin 6 back-to-back rounds (18 weeks total) of Chemotherapy. I began treatments in mid-February and went in for my last treatment this past June.
My name is Crystal Tavares. I'm 33 years old and a mother to two beautiful children. My daughter Rylie is 6 and my son Landyn is 3. I've been married to my best friend and high school sweetheart, Jason, for 9 years now and we've been together for 18 years. We got married and bought a house in Pawtucket, RI. It was a wonderful starter home but we were quickly growing out of it. We had always talked about moving back into our home town of Seekonk again. My daughter was going to be starting kindergarten and I was just opening my own at- home daycare. There was always talk that we would buy my in-laws house someday and the time was right as my in-laws were now retiring and moving to Florida.
It was the perfect opportunity to put our house on the market and see if we could sell it. Our house sold within 2 months of being on the market to the first person that looked at it. So we were moving to my in-laws house now. We moved in on February 14th 2016. Things were finally starting to fall back into place - we sold our house, we were in the process of buying my in-laws house, and my daycare was already open in the new house. Life was great. Until one night the kids and I were relaxing and watching tv when my daughter asked if she could snuggle with me. And when she did I felt a pain in my left breast which I had never felt before. Then I felt a lump that had never been there before. Normally I would just forget about it and put off getting it checked but something told me not too. So after two weeks of ultra sounds, mammograms, and a biopsy, which everyone kept telling me looks like fibrosis and it's nothing to worry about, I got the dreaded phone call while bringing my daughter to dance class.
On May 25th my world was turned upside down and hasn't been the same since. I was told I have Stage 2 Triple Negative, Grade 3 Breast Cancer. It's probably the worst news that anyone can receive - to hear that you have cancer. I never thought in a million years I would get cancer. I was always so healthy, and I never had to see a doctor. Thankfully my husband had made some phone calls and we were on our way to Boston.
I've been having chemo treatments since April. The first set of chemo that they had tried with me didn't work. The tumor just wasn't shrinking. In June they started two new chemos which I needed to have every week. In the beginning the new chemo wasn't working either, but we kept pushing and keeping a positive attitude and finally the tumor is shrinking. I will be done with chemo on August 31st, 2016. It's going to be one of the happiest days of my life. When you are having chemo, all you can do is count down every treatment until you can get to that last one and see the light at the end of the tunnel.
In October 2015, Liz Nelson Ervin went to the doctor after one of her twin baby girls kicked her lightly in the breast during a midnight feeding causing pain. Liz, mother of five, wife, daughter, colleague, educator, and athlete was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes, bones and liver.
Liz has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments 3–4 times a month in Brewer, Maine at the Cancer Care Center since late October 2015. During this time, she has been working full-time as the superintendent of the Washburn, Maine school system, caring for her one-year-old twin girls, and has been a devoted mom to her 7, 9 and 11-year-old children; trying to be present for all of their sporting events and special family holidays along with her husband, Ken.
Liz's treatment has stopped new tumor growth but has not shrunk the existing cancer. Therefore, she is looking at the possibility of participating in a new clinical study/treatment at Dana-Farber to battle her cancer and extend her life. Liz will have to travel from Northern Maine, 700 miles roundtrip to Boston, for appointments and treatment starting April 6th.
At this time, we hope that you will find it in yourself to help Liz and her young, large family in their time of need. Support is essential to offset travel and lodging expenses, help with expensive co-pays, and make up for the loss of income due to time off from work, so Liz can travel to receive this life- necessary treatment.
Liz has been a strong and courageous woman all her life. She has been an advocate for children and families both personally and throughout her work in the school system.
Liz lost her battle with cancer, passing on September 11, 2018. She will be missed dearly by her five children, her husband, family and friends.
So I'll begin my story in 2011. I was set up on a blind date with a Navy man by my cousin. Eight weeks later, we were married. Sounds a little crazy, but here we are over 5 years later. September of 2014, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Life couldn't get any better. Fast forward one wonderful year. I find a lump in my left breast. After a little convincing from my husband, I get it checked. I almost felt silly doing so, like I was wasting the doctor's time. It couldn't possibly be anything, I'm a 29 year mother who is still nursing her baby! So they send me for an ultrasound that leads to a mammogram. Now they are concerned and quite frankly so am I. Just to make sure, I get a biopsy of this suspicious lump.
The next 2 days take forever, then I get a phone call to come in to discuss the results. I think I already knew at this point that it's not good. If it was negative, they could've told me that over the phone, right? So my husband, daughter and myself go to the doctor's office and we hear the word you never want to hear...cancer. All I can think about it is that I will never see my daughter grow up. I look down at her with tears in my eyes and I cannot imagine her having to grow up without her mom. I cannot imagine having so little time left with her. So I take a moment to lose it, and then collect myself. The doctor takes us upstairs to meet another doctor. I don't even know how I walked; I honestly don't even remember getting up there. This doctor begins to talk about chemo, surgery and a mastectomy and now my mind is spinning. So there's something to fix this? We can try to make this go away? Let's do it! Now I am in full battle mode. Take 'em, take 'em both! I remember saying "They have betrayed me, they can leave! Cancer has picked the wrong person!"
They say you never know how strong a person is until "being strong" is your only option. I realized my strength right then and there. I had too much to live for, and too much depending on me. So here we are now, 5 months with a total of 20 chemo treatments, 7 months in on a 1 year protein infusion treatment, monthly injections to basically put my body into menopause to try to save some eggs in case we can have kids in the future, a mastectomy with an expander and 28 of 31 radiation treatments done. Reconstruction should happen anywhere from 6 months to a year from now. I lost my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and gained about 30 lbs. Now, my hair is growing in, my eyelashes and eyebrows are back, and I'm working on the weight. Best news of all, as of June 10th, I am now cancer free! Now it's my turn to give back and help others in need.
Once my journey with cancer is over, it won't mean that I'm going to turn around and never look back. I am going to continue the fight and help others in the process. Maybe that's why it happened to me, to bring awareness of this awful disease to young men and woman because it can and is happening to more and more of us. Cancer took a lot from me but gave me a lot too. I don't take anything or anyone for granted anymore. I try to live each day to its fullest. I don't let the little things bother me and I take time to bask in the joy and the beauty of the world. I hold my little girl a little longer with each hug. I play more, laugh more, live more. I figure I've gotten a second chance and I am not about to waste it.
Katie lost her battle with cancer, passing on February 21, 2017. She will missed dearly by her daughter, husband, family and friends.
Additional 2016 Recipients
Erika Laredo - Lincoln, RI
Lori Fagnant - N. Smithfield, RI
Alva Cabrera - Providence, RI
Sue Davis - Rockland, MA
Beth Paulin - Cumberland, RI
On September 26th I will be having a double mastectomy and then radiation to follow. I should be done with the whole process as of December. This year my Christmas gift is going to be to hear that I am cancer free and I can carry on with my normal life with my family. My husband just keeps telling me the year 2016 never happened and 2017 will be a better year. I am so thankfull for my amazing husband and children who keep me going every day. I am also so thankful for my amazing family and friends who have been so supportive of me through this whole process. I really couldn't do any of this without everyone.