2019 Recipients

Please scroll down to read all the stories of our amazing & inspiring recipients

 

Marlena Brady

Smithfield, RI

My name is Marlena Brady and I live in Smithfield RI. I was diagnosed in Oct of 2017 with Her2+ HR/PR + when I was 23 weeks pregnant with my second child. My story started when my husband noticed one of my breast looking irregular. Thinking it was just a clogged milk duct, I waited until the following week when I saw my gynecologist and mentioned the irregularity of my right breast. Upon examination he decided that it wasn't a normal. Two days later I was scheduled for an ultrasound and since being pregnant it was hard for them to tell if it was anything. So we decided to go ahead and schedule a biopsy the following day.

 

I remember the phone call as if it was yesterday... We were at the park with my son when I got the call from my gynecologist. He had the results of my biopsy. It was cancer. I was frozen and I didn't know what to say. After that moment our lives flipped upside down. We had to make a ton of appointments to check the baby and make plans for her and I. They wanted to deliver my baby early so we could start treatment right away. My team of doctors decided that at 35.5 weeks was safe for us both and delivery was scheduled. My daughter Alana Justice was born Oct 19th 2017, just 2 weeks after we received the news.

 

The battle had begun and treatment has started a week after her birth. My Oncology team scheduled a dozen scans and also discovered some lesions on my liver. At the time my doctor thought it was best if we started chemo to see if those lesions reacted to the treatment. 3 months into treatment we did another scan and a few lesions in the liver have shrunk. We got the news that the cancer had spread into my liver and that they are classifying me as Metastatic. The news hit us even harder.

 

I thought to myself, this can't be happening, I have a 6 yr old and new born at home. After a year of aggressive chemo and multiple scans to the liver and breast along with a second opinion, we thought it was best to do a double mastectomy. As of 2019 I had total of 4 surgeries (two port surgeries, double mastectomy and reconstruction). I am on active treatment taking Herceptin and Pertuzumab for a few mores years. I will keep the fight in me as long a possible and we now know to take every little moment that we have together and make it count. 

 

I was introduced to the Carin MacLean Foundation through another organization. We are very blessed to have found this organization that helps families like mine get through the tough times. We are very thankful. 

 

Sincerely,

The Brady's

Patricia Bergantino

Warwick, RI

I was diagnosed with Stage 3, T3 Colon Cancer November of 2018. I am 41 years old with no family history of colon cancer. My journey began in the summer of 2017. I was 3 months pregnant and exhausted all the time. This along with being anemic from the gastric bypass many years ago, my obstetrician mentioned that I needed to get weekly iron infusions. When my daughter Abigail was born in January of 2018, I had hoped that would be the last time I would have to get an infusion for a while.

However, in the July of 2018, my hemoglobin was at 7 (normal is between 12-15). I was out of breath and could not walk a few feet without gasping for air. We started a regimen of weekly iron transfusions again. At this time, no one suspected cancer. I had dropped 50 lbs. effortlessly since giving birth; we all thought that perhaps my body was having a hard time recovering from a c-section and a combination of my gastric bypass. That all changed by August when I was experiencing severe stomach pain that would begin in my colon and radiate to my back. At times the pain was so severe that I had to call on family members to help with my young daughter because I could not move to get out of bed. On October 5th, my husband and I were at a friend’s wedding when I could not get warm with 3 coats and I was experiencing severe pain. It was at this point, I knew that something was wrong---I thought maybe IBS or diverticulitis.

After saying up all night and since it was Columbus Day weekend, we decided that I needed to go to the ER to let them figure out what was going on. They did a CT scan that revealed two anomalies. It was enough for insurance to approve a colonoscopy and a review of my ovaries. Thankfully the ovarian issue ended up being a never-ending occurrence of ovarian cysts.  On November 1st  (my physician) Dr. Okpara performed the colonoscopy. No one could have prepared us for what she found. She told me that she had to remove one polyp and then she took a deep breath to tell me she found a “possible carcinoma” that needs to be dealt with aggressively. I had another CT scan a few days later that showed my lymph nodes were swollen which means if this is cancer, it may have spread. That week I was boarding a flight to Vienna for work, when we received the confirmation that the carcinoma was indeed cancer. My husband and daughter traveled along for the experience. When we got the news, we felt like we had been hit by a truck. It was not what we were expecting the first year of life with our beautiful daughter. We spent a portion of our trip trying to make arrangements to consult with Dana Farber and the rest of our trip trying to digest the diagnosis and manage the anxiety of what was waiting for us at home.

Dana Farber arranged a meeting with a wonderful surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Irani, who held my hand and told me that she too was 41 year old mother with a 10 month old daughter. “You are me, just on the other side of the table.” She asked me to let her make me better, for the sake of Abigail. I knew at that moment she would be my doctor. I had surgery on November 21st (the day before thanksgiving and 8 days after I met with Dr. Irani) where she removed the upper colon (a colectomy). Thankfully, I was recovering well and made it home on Black Friday. We met with Dr. Meyerhardt at Dana Farber who explained to us the stage and treatment for my cancer. Under his supervision, I started chemo on January 3, 2019 at Dana Farber.

This journey has been a fast moving a process from diagnosis, surgery and now chemo. The last year, has brought many challenges for my family. I had maternity leave from January to April of 2018 and now an unpaid medical leave  as of November 2018 until treatment is complete. Financially and emotionally this has created many challenges. We are hopeful and thankful to CMF for their kindness to join my family by offering assistance and support on this journey. 

Sincerely,

Tricia, Benny and Abigail

Brenda Abbott

Epsom, NH

I was first diagnosed with non-invasive DCIS back in 2012 after having a routine mammogram. Decisions had to be made, and many different doctors went over my options. It was an easy choice for me, having two children ages 10 and 9 at the time, and choose the option with the best chance of not having a recurrence  - a bilateral mastectomy. 

I was devastated to find out in March 2018 that indeed it was back with a stage 4 diagnosis of her2 positive . Telling my children, now 15 and 16, was one of the hardest things to do, to look them in the face and tell them the cancer is back. Prior to the diagnosis I had severe pain and after months of testing I finally got some answers as well as a diagnosis and a  treatment plan. We have since moved from Maine back to NH to be closer with family.

Receiving this grant and services truly is a beacon of light in what has been not only an emotionally dark time but a financial struggle as well.  We are so grateful for this help and support, plus to know it is especially for Moms battling cancer means more then words can explain. I truly feel your organization understands what it is like for moms like me and children like mine to have this support.  Although there currently is no cure, there is faith and love with my three children . 

Sarah and her chemo nurse Lisa 

Sarah Roque

N. Attleboro, MA

From left to right - Sarah's son, Joel (17), her son Ethan (16), Sarah, and their dog  Shamski

My story is probably like many others, none the less it’s my journey so here it goes.. Back in June of 2016 I felt a lump on my right breast, I was 34 years old and I didn’t think anything of it. However it got bigger by the day. Fast forward after I finally called my PCP and she sent me for tests - I found out on July 19th, 2016 that I had Stage 2 Breast Cancer and by August 8th it was Stage 4 . It had spread to both breasts, my neck, lymph nodes and to my pelvic and hip bones . My nightmare had just begun.

 

I found out that there is no cure and I will be on treatment for the rest of my life. The doctors say people with this diagnosis tend to live 5-10 years. It’s been 30 months on chemo and now I am getting a week off in between, but everyday I try to find my new normal. I don’t work and I rarely drive because I have neuropathy very bad in my feet . And I am sick pretty much everyday . Life is very different. Especially for being only 37 and going through all of this . But I have my 2 teenagers with me and my husband, so they help me a lot in my daily activities. I also have a little dog to help me not feel so alone. I love him like crazy - he’s a 7lb Morkie. Family is everything and they keep me going. I take one day at a time and try to enjoy every moment . Thanks for reading and thank you again for accepting me for this grant. 

Sarah and her husband John 

Laurie Peloquin

Millville, MA

On October 18, 2018, I received a call from my doctors office that would flip my world upside down.  The lump I felt in September 
did in fact turn out to be breast cancer.  I was then referred to my Oncologist who confirmed that I was HER2+ and ER+ Stage 2 Breast Cancer.  I was shocked, scared, and angry....how is this possible?  I had a mammogram 6 months prior that was normal. I have no family history of breast cancer.  I take care of myself.... I eat healthy, I exercise but as they say cancer does not discriminate.

 

Treatment moved fast, a lumpectomy following in November which also showed the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.  I started chemo in December - the first 8 weeks would be aggressive treatment.  It was grueling.  It took all I had to try to get to work and be a mom to my two kids.  It was hard, exhausting, and the biggest challenge of my life.  Thank god for my husband and my mom. They did all they could to help with the kids, my appointments, dinner, etc.


Along the way I developed an infection that would result in the removal of my port.  This delayed treatment somewhat and also meant surgery for another port.  Chemo continued through April.

I applied for short term disability to try and take some time out of work but I was denied.  It was very frustrating, but I needed the time off, my body was telling me to take a break.  

 

I am now receiving radiation therapy through June, a total of 30 treatments daily.  I will continue immunotherapy for another year-monthly.   This year is my daughters last year of high school. I looked forward to spending days planning college visits etc., and making some big decisions.  I did what i could but some days were too tough. My son had his first year of high school hockey. I looked forward to the games but again, missed out on a lot. It was hard to keep up with everything and was very frustrating. Keeping up with the bills has been another added challenge. This diagnosis has made it tough to keep up with it all. I feel a loss of identity, worried about the future and feel I have lost control more then ever before.


I am forever grateful to the Carin MacLean Foundation for this help they've given us.  This diagnosis has forever changed me and my family but I will continue to fight the fight and come out victorious.  

Andrea Mathews

Cranston, RI

Mandy Puckett

Attleboro, MA

My name is Mandy, and I live in Attleboro with my 4 boys. On Wednesday, September 5, 2018,  I had gone to Sturdy Memorial Hospital because I was having severe stomach pains. These were pains that I had been having for almost a year prior to going to the hospital. They did blood work, took urine samples, and did a CT scan of my abdominal area. The ER Doctor came back with the results of the CT scan and it showed a mass. I was admitted into the hospital, and needed a colonoscopy on Friday. After the colonoscopy on the 7th, the Dr came in and said that I had rectal cancer.

 

I was scared, and didn't know what to expect. Everything went pretty quick from there. The following week I had another procedure to determine the stage of the cancer. It was determined it was stage 3.

 

In October I began 6 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. That continued until the end of November. My last day was 2 days before Thanksgiving. From there I had some time to relax and enjoy the holidays with my family the best I could, considering my situation at least.

 

On January 4, 2019,  I had the colorectal resection surgery to remove the cancer. I had to have an ileostomy at that time. I was in the hospital for 4 days after surgery, then went home. I was feeling ok and eating pretty good so the hospital discharged me. The following morning, I got rushed back into the hospital because I was vomiting everywhere. When I got to the hospital, they ended up having to put a tube up my nose down into my stomach because my bowels were not working the way they were supposed to and I was backing up into my stomach. It was miserable. I had that tube in for 3 days, and I was in the hospital for a total of 7 days this visit. It was absolutely miserable.

 

About 3 weeks later, I got an infection in my incision because the ostomy bag kept leaking into it. The ostomy wafer just did not want to cooperate with my skin. My incision had to be lanced open several times and stuffed with gauze so that the infection could come out. Between that and my skin being eaten away from the stoma, it was a pretty bad recovery period.

 

I restarted chemotherapy in March, which caused my body to take longer to heal. I was unable to get the colostomy reversed in April as planned because I was not healed, and my incision did not finally close up until May. I was still extremely tired all the time, and had no energy to do anything.

 

In July, I found out I was finally healed to get the ileostomy reversed. On July 20, 2019 I completed the second part of my chemotherapy, and was scheduled to have the ostomy reversal on August 1.  That was a good day for me. I could not wait to get rid of that bag. Fortunately the cancer was removed with the resection, and the pathology report came back good. As of today, I am still having some pretty bad muscle pains from the chemotherapy, and my body is still trying to get itself back to normal from the reversal. I had the most amazing surgeon ever though. Dr. Statman was absolutely amazing, and took very good care of me. If I ever needed surgery again, I would want him to be my surgeon. His staff is also amazing and they all have a very special place in my heart.

 

I am very grateful to be where I am right now and something like this really makes you realize how short life is. I would really just like to thank everyone that has helped me through this whole ordeal from the medical staff at Sturdy Hospital,  Dr. Statman and his staff,  my oncology team, and everyone at the Carin MacLean Foundation.  Thank you all so much for helping me through this. I have a long road ahead of me, but I will keep fighting.

Charmine Campo

N. Attleboro, MA

On January 3rd, 2017, I shattered my left ankle so it pulled me out of work and of course stopping my crazy 12 hour work days. That's when I noticed a very small lump on my right breast, which I waited a bit to have it checked out.  On March 30th, I went to the doctor's for an exam. I was sent to a surgeon who did a biopsy and on April 8th he told me I had either stage 3 or 4 breast cancer. They wouldn't know until they actually went in and removed the tumor. As they were doing my blood work up so I could start my chemotherapy, I was called back to his office and was asked to bring my now husband with me. They told me I was pregnant!!!! We were both in shock because precautions were taken and I was 40 years old and had a 8 year old already, so we were not prepared for that. With all that being said, we had some major decisions to make since chemo medications and pregnancy do not go together usually. I went back to my OB-GYN who had done a lot of research and had met with all 4 of my other doctors. They said it was possible for us to keep the baby, but surgery needed to be done as soon as possible because chemo couldn't be started until my second trimester.

 

On May 26th 2017, I went in for surgery and ended up having stage 4 breast cancer and mastectomy on the left side. I started chemotherapy on July 5th 2017 and was monitored every 2 weeks, I had alot of things happen during my journey such as blood clots and other small issues. On December 2nd 2017 at 2:48 am. my daughter Ariana was born at 3lbs 8oz and was healthy other than the fact that she was small. Even though she was healthy she had to go to Woman and Infants due to her weight. Its was amazing that she was healthy and even with the long road I still had ahead with radiation and reconstruction surgery's she made it all worth it. 

 

In 2019, she completed radiation and underwent breast reconstruction and is in the final stages of this process.   

Susana Pereira

Somerset, MA

Susana with her daughter Sarah

and sons Noah and Matthew.

This past summer at the age of 44, I was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. I found out two days before my oldest son turned 19. It took me and my husband a few days to processes the news before telling my children and family. I had my first surgery in the beginning of August. Everything seemed to go well until my doctor said that I needed a second surgery to remove more tissue.

 

Two weeks go by and I go to see my doctor.  She tells me that my tumor that was removed from the first surgery come back as a high risk of the cancer coming back. She also said that I would need chemo and a third surgery. I've have 2 of the 4 rounds of chemo so far. Once my third surgery is done, I will under go radiation.

 

Thank you, CMF for helping me and my family through this tough time. I'm humbled and blessed for your support. Thanks again from Susana Pereira and family. 

My name is Andrea Mathews and I reside in Cranston, RI. I was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 11, 2019 at the young age of 38.  It came about when I had mentioned to my OB in December '18 that I had some type of pimple under my right breast. I noticed it had gotten a little bigger so she said she would send me for an ultrasound. When I went to the appointment they advised my doctor had ordered a mammogram as well. After the mammogram (which wasn't as bad I had heard they were) the ultrasound was performed. I was not prepared for the news I was about to get. The "pimple" on my right breast was nothing more than a cyst however
they detected something in my left breast and they would need to do a biopsy. I didn't want to comprehend what they were saying at first so I just kept asking about the cyst. Next came the biopsy and 4 days later I received the call while I was at work that it was breast cancer. I fell to floor in the women's bathroom. The "C" word was not spoken about in our family as my sister had passed away at a young age of a brain tumor and my uncle as well. I immediately called my boyfriend to come pick me up from work.

 

My appointment with the surgeon wasn't until the following week but I couldn't wait that long with all of these questions going through my head. I called the office and they said if I came now she would wait for me to talk. I worked in Mass and was about a 45 minute drive. This is when I met Dr Pandya. She was so warm, kind and just had such a positive, calming vibe about her that I felt for a moment everything was going to be okay.

 

This year has been appointments after appointments, 2 lumpectomy's, 4 cycles of chemo, a masectomy on my left breast and currently undergoing radiation. I will be on 2 types of meds for the next 5 years.
 

I have tried to just stay positive, keep going in my normal every day routine the best I can. My children ( ages 4 & 11) and my boyfriend keep me busy and going, that sometimes I forget why I have been through all this. I don't want to think about it, I just want to listen to what my doctor's course of treatment is and take it one day at a time. My family, extended family & close friends have been so supportive.

 

This has actually been the first time I have had to write in depth about my diagnosis that it brings me to tears.


My wonderful social worker at Women and infants had passed along to me information about the Carin MacLean Foundation. I was so relieved to find a foundation that is there to HELP during
this. Thank you so much for reading my story. 🙏

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