2021 Recipients

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

 

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Denielle Chamberlain

Attleboro, MA

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Hi, my name is Denielle Chamberlain. I am a forty six year old single mom and grandma. I have four kids. Two of my kids are incredible grown adults living in Pennsylvania. My oldest daughter has three children of her own. My two youngest kids live with me. Their ages are sixteen and fourteen. They are bright honor students and athletes. My daughter is a national champion cheerleader which is a great honor. My son is an MVP soccer player. I'm really proud of all of my kids. 

This has been the worst year. I lost my husband last September to addiction. He was my best friend and soul mate. Covid hit in February and school went to remote learning. My catering.sales job for two wonderful New England brands went remote also. We had big adjustments to our lifestyle for everyone being home all of the time. I started to notice I was having pain after eating. I scheduled an appointment with my primary MD to get checked out. I was referred to a gastroenterologist and underwent an endoscopy which revealed cancer of the esophagus. I was then referred to an oncologist. I started to miss a lot of work. In June, I was hospitalized for vomiting blood. In July, I was back in the hospital in the ICU for blood clots in my lungs. I used my short term disability from work since I did not have any sick or vacation time left. In October, my short term disability was used up and long term disability needed to be approved which actually took two months. Throughout this year, I missed some months of rent and really started to fall behind on many bills. The stress was getting overwhelming. Since long term disability is through insurance, I was no longer receiving a check from my employer because I lost my health insurance. I had to switch to state insurance because I could not afford full price insurance. 

My original cancer team was in Rhode Island. Since I live on the Massachusetts border, I had to switch my medical team to a Massachusetts based one and I chose the Sturdy medical team. At Sturdy, I was paired up with a social worker named Susan who helped me sign up for grants and assistance to help get me through the holidays. She was a godsend. I appreciate her and appreciate programs like the Carin Maclean Foundation. I am so grateful for this foundation to assist me through these difficult times. Having assistance to catch up on bills that fell by the wayside this year will help me to just focus on my health and fighting this cancer. 

Thank you for letting me share my story. 

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Stephanie Cadorette

Pawtucket, RI

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Hi, my name is Stephanie I was diagnosed with breast cancer on December 1, 2020.  I’m not very good with opening up and sharing too much information but I can tell you this is the scariest thing I have ever been through.

I am being treated at Dana Farber and have had 5 chemotopy treatments so far with 3 more to go.  Surgery will hopefully follow sometime in May.

I am very lucky to have a great circle of friends who help keep me balanced and takes care of anything I need. 

I am also very grateful to organizations like yours for the assistance, as it makes it so much easier to concentrate on me and not the financial side of things. 

 

Thank you for what you do.

 

Stephanie

Stacey Hugues

Scituate, MA

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I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, and I had chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.  In 2019 I had a regional recurrence, and again had chemotherapy, but also started immunotherapy and had 30 radiation treatments.  In December of 2020, I was diagnosed with a recurrence to my skull, and had radiation treatments to slow the growth.  I have remained on immunotherapy.  I have chronic fatigue, and headaches, and the tumor is monitored very closely.  My 4 school-age kids and my husband have all been troopers throughout the past 4 years.  We are greatful for the support we have received from organizations like yours, as well as our family and community.

 

-Stacey

Tessy Murphy

Lynn, MA

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My name is Tessy Murphy a young mother of a beautiful 14 years old daughter, I am currently 34 years old and I have cancer. I was diagnosed in March 2020, this is my journey so far.

 

One faithful day in March 2020 I woke up and discovered that my lower abdominal part was bloated and I was unable to use the restroom for days and I was having excruciating pain and discomfort.  I had to go the emergency at MGH Salem where various testing was done and I was told I had cancer. I was referred to Brigham & Women's for further evaluation and treatment. 

 

I was told it's ovarian cancer and I have to be treated with chemo therapy for a couple of weeks. The whole treatment cycle was completed and the doctor had to do hysterectomy after the treatment. I was also treated for fluid in my lungs and as a result of the cancer a tube was surgically inserted through my ribs to drain the fluid out.  I was doing well trying to get my life back when I was called again by my doctor to be notified that my frequent headache, which I was having, was as a result of some cancer cells in my brain. I had to start radiation therapy immediately to shrink the cells.

 

I recently just completed the sessions and as if that is not enough I was told again that I have some cells in my liver and pelvic which will require another round of chemo therapy treatment which I will be starting 4/15/21.  I am hopeful things will be better. Due to my illness, I have been unable to work. My uncle had to start providing for me and he is a father of three children.  I am appealing to your organization to please help me financially at this most difficult time in my life and I will be very grateful for your assistance in this time.

 

Yours faithful 

Tessy Murphy 

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Patricia Rowell

Haverhill, MA

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 Hello my name is Patricia Rowell. I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer on January 8th, 2021 at  the age of fifty.  I found a lump in mid December from self examination.

         Your mind goes blank with news of this life altering event. Just when my outlook of a new year and getting past the lock down of Covid-19, everything changed. Now I had to be aware of my alter immune system. 

     I had a pretty healthy life up until now. I have always been in a caretakers roll in my life. I was employed  as  certified nursing assistant until I was let go by my employer for lack of work.  I was in private duty and my client had regained  strength. I also had to take a medical leave of absence from my part time job with the Visiting Angels.

       So I fell into a full time caregiver for my husband who has stage 6 Alzheimer's. We have been married twenty years this year. My story may not be uplifting but cancer changes everything..

 

Thanks you,

Patricia Rowell

Saghine Toussaint

Foxborough, MA 

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Life is seemingly normal and routine, until it’s not. One minute you are at your job, going through the motions of the day, when suddenly, almost instantaneously, your life changes. That was my experience in 2019, when after using the bathroom at work; I was shocked to find blood in my stool.

I immediately contacted my doctor, to schedule for a follow up, she did a guac test at the office and it came back positive. She put in a referral for a colonoscopy ASAP. It was August 2020. My world changed in an instant, as I learned I had stage IV colorectal cancer metastasized into my liver. I was scared for my life.

After my diagnosis, I was nervous and scared knowing that my life was in danger, so I knew that I needed to be in good hands to get through this. It was the colonoscopy doctor who recommended that I see someone at Dana-Farber Cancer Center Institute.

I took this as a sign that I would find the help I needed there. I was assigned to several medical staff there, I had to meet with the oncologist to start chemotherapy treatments as soon as possible.

Few months after, my blood pressure was very high, that was one of the side effects of chemo. I also made sure I improve my diet. It was important that I maintained a healthy lifestyle while doing through treatment. As of now, I’m still doing chemotherapy every two weeks and I’m on my ninety chemo treatments.

The best advice I could give would be to have faith and believe that you will make it. Pray for yourself, your family, and for the care and hands of the doctors and nurses as well. I know that this mindset will helped me recover and gave me back my normalcy, my life after cancer.

- Saghine Toussaint

Faye Cicci

Danvers, MA 

I discovered my breast cancer through a self-breast examination. An abnormal mammogram was the first sign that something was wrong. A few biopsies later that confirmed to have early stage breast cancer. From then on everything seemed to move simultaneously fast and slow.

 

The treatment plan included a mastectomy with reconstruction. However, in the middle of my treatment the company I had worked for eliminated my position. It was completely unforeseen and devastating as I was the main breadwinner and medical insurance holder in my family. I tried to find as many as resources as I could to help keep everything together but eventually it gave way.

 

I found that I couldn’t cover the cost of mortgage, utilities and other basic life needs but even with all that looming in the background I went on and had surgery. At first it went well but shortly after I became ill and we discovered that I had developed a very bad infection and couldn’t complete reconstruction.

 

After enough time went by where it would be safe to attempt and go in again, I developed another infection; including my entire family catching COVID-19 recently during the last week of Dec. 2020 into 2021 of which I am currently experiencing symptoms from. All these factors compounded significantly delay the completion of my procedure and my ability to find employment. 

Ultimately my lovely retired 73-year-old mother had to use her limited savings to keep my family’s mortgage afloat all the meanwhile keeping up with her own expenses, but it’s been hard and even with her help it’s been impossible. The stress has most certainly contributed to my inability to recover. Still I remain optimistic that the finish line is on the horizon and that soon I’ll be able to take back control of my circumstances and create a sense of normalcy for my family especially for my beautiful young daughter, my amazing husband and my amazing mother. 

The news that I was awarded funding from the Carin MacLean Foundation came on the 15th year anniversary of my father’s passing from cancer. It was as if it was a cosmic sign from him that everything I have lost during this experience I would gain back with bigger and better blessings. It does one’s mind and heart good to know that there are people like those over at the Carin MacLean Foundation who provide their unconditional support for those at their most vulnerable. You may not get to see the smile you put on all our faces but that we are so very thankful for your impact in our lives.

- Faye Cicci

Marina Gonzalez

Brighton, MA

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My name is Marina González, 44 years old, from the Dominican Republic.  I arrived to Boston, MA, in February 2020. Despite COVID-19 shaking the world a month later, coming to the USA has been one of my biggest blessings. My sister welcomed me and my family in her home, supporting us financially and guiding us through health insurance, school applications for my children and ESL classes for all of us. Within days of arriving my nieces had found work for me, a full time position as a housekeeper in a senior residence community and a part time job as a nanny.  At that point I thought my life was in the right path to success and I had so many plans and ambitions for the remainder of 2020.  

In August, however, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, stage two. When I received the phone call I had many thoughts, fear, anxiety and questions. I felt my world was ending, falling apart and it was hard not to think about “an end”. I thought a lot about my children, their future, their lives without me.  The only thing that kept me on my feet was my family’s support and my faith. I always knew I had my family and God unconditionally, and I continued to be reassured in the months to come.  

After receiving the big news came the worst part, sharing it with my family. Then speaking to my jobs, at the time I was working two full time jobs as a housekeeper. I had to leave one of the jobs to undergo the darkest moments of this journey, Chemotherapy Treatment. I read and heard a lot about Chemo, and I really didn’t know what to expect. Chemo was worse than what I ever expected, it was the hardest part of this illness. It left my body aching for a week and without any strength, energy or enthusiasm. The pain was constant, consistent and never improved. I received 4 months of bi-weekly chemo sessions at Dana Farber Institute. My doctors were encouraging throughout and kept me in the loop of next steps. Once chemo concluded, I had a lumpectomy. I was happy and thought I was cancer free or reaching that phase. Unfortunately, biopsies found residual cancer cells.  

My world crumbled again. I was relieved that this time Chemo didn’t surge in conversations though. This time I was prescribed daily radiation treatments for 4 weeks followed by a new Chemo option that is not intravenous and promises to be painless.  This is my current situation. I am feeling better, I am hopeful, I am positive, and I chose to believe that this too shall pass, and that I will be healthy again.  

At this time, my personal life is also improving. I have just moved with my two children to a two-bedroom apartment, very expensive but I have a home for my family!  I am eternally grateful to have qualified for this grant, to my family for their continued support and care and to Dana Farber who never closed their doors even at times of not having health insurance. I have a temporary health insurance; I have a job and I will gain my health back. I only ask God for health, the rest I can do with hard work and sacrifices.  

I moved to Boston with only hopes of providing better opportunities for my two children, ages 13 and 19. My daughter who is 13 years old is already speaking and writing English, she continues to make me proud with her excellent grades, and my son who is 19 years is working two jobs to help me out. I am blessed, I am lucky, and I am so ready to continue to fight cancer.

Heba Rezkallah

Bellingham, MA

My name is Heba Rezkallah and I am a 32 year old mother of two amazing children, 12 year old Emy and 8 year old Youssef. I am married to my supportive husband Mina, who accompanies me to all of my appointments and treatments. I am writing this with the support of an oncology social worker. My primary language is Arabic. I came to the United States from Egypt 3 years ago.

 

In June of 2020, I was found to have a low white blood cell count and then had an abnormal CAT scan. More tests continued and then in August 2020, a biopsy confirmed I had follicular lymphoma. More tests continued and I finally started my first treatment in February. I receive two days of chemotherapy every 4 weeks for 6 months.

 

Throughout it all, my main focus has been my children and being there for them. It is so hard sometimes due to my pain level. I feel fortunate to have the support of my husband and mother-in-law. I am hoping to return home to Egypt this summer to see my family. I am very grateful for the support of the Carin MacLean Foundation.

Elcie Solon

Malden, MA

My name is Elcie and I’m a single mother of three sons. I love to cook , exercise, and especially do Zumba. My oldest son is an adult who lives independently. He’s a hard worker still trying to discover
himself and his passions. My 8th grade son is a quiet and sensitive young man who loves everything about science, animals, the environment, rocks, crystals, and wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up. Last, but not least is my incredibly energetic seven year-old who has a very funny personality, and a photographic memory.


My journey started three years ago when I discovered rash on my left breast. I saw my primary care doctor who prescribed a steroid cream, but it didn’t have any effect on the rash. I then tried everything from changing detergents to buying 100 percent cotton bras, but the rash remained. I had my first mammogram in 2019, but my test results were negative.  I had done some online research about rashes on the breast, and came across images of Paget’s disease, which resembled the rash on my breast. I asked a doctor if the rash on my breast could be cancer, but was told. “No.” I had my annual physical in 2020 during Covid, but didn’t have a mammogram because I had a negative result the prior year. After a long struggle with this rash, a doctor finally ordered a biopsy in 2021: I had cancer.


I remember the day I was told I had cancer. I was devastated. I was scared. I was in shock. I initially met with the oncology team at the hospital where I usually get my care. During the appointments, my mother-in-law agreed to be on the phone with me to take notes and ask questions of the doctors. There was just so much information, so many different doctors, and it was all…just so confusing. The doctors worked as a team, and I was informed that the team needed to meet, and that one of the doctors would call me at the end of the day. That call never came. The next call I got from the first hospital was to schedule an appointment for surgery. My mother-in-law insisted that I couldn’t just undergo surgery at a hospital where the communication about future my care thus far had been somewhat lacking.


My mother-in-law and brother-in-law (a research assistant in an oncology lab at Dana Farber who is starting Harvard Medical School this summer) helped me with research, and encouraged me to get a second opinion at Dana Farber. My brother-in-law reached out to the head of Oncology Department at Dana Farber who provided referrals, and offered assistance in helping me navigate the system. I met with a team at Dana Farber that was very supportive, and decided that working with them would be the best option for my future care. My medical team and I decided that the least invasive form of surgery for me at this time was to undergo a lumpectomy and lymph nodes removal, which would be later followed by radiation.


Six weeks: three surgeries. On April 9, 2021, I had my first surgery. The pathology results came back, and two weeks later on April 23rd,  I had to go back to the hospital for my second surgery. I prayed that this would be it. I was very nervous about the second pathology results, and they came back with positive margins. The surgeon called.  I had to go back into surgery a third time on the Friday before Mother’s Day. Six weeks. Third surgery. Those who have undergone this can understand how scared, anxious and uncertain I felt.

 

I have been fortunate to have support from my in-laws. My sister-in law helped me with babysitting for all of my appointments during Covid and with the children’s remote learning. My mother-in-law lives in New Jersey and drove up from New Jersey all three times to help take care of the children all three surgeries. I am very grateful for the support and time my sister-in-law and mother-in-law have devoted to helping me out. My youngest sons have also been also very supportive in helping me around the house and taking really good care of me. I hope that with summer coming, this grant will allow me to provide them with some much needed recreation.


Today is June 7th , and I’m still in the healing process and awaiting radiation. In the near future, I hope to be able to get financial support to have reconstructive surgery. As I reflect upon my this very difficult journey thus far, I am grateful for the support I’ve received. In choosing Brigham and Women’s Hospital, I know I selected the best place for my care. My surgeon and the nursing staff have been very reassuring in providing realistic and positive outcomes. The Social Worker has assisted me in finding resources, and making sure I have visiting nurses to assist with post-operative care. Most importantly, the Social Worker has provided a sympathetic ear in listening to and helping me through this rough time. Words cannot express my gratitude and appreciation for the support of the Carin MacLean Foundation. Thank you for allowing me to share my story.