2022 Recipients

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

 

Schakila Bowden

Brockton, MA

Schakila1.jpg
Schakila2.jpg
Schakila3.jpg
Schakila4.jpg

Hi, my name is Schakila. I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia on October 23, 2020. Never thought in a million years that day would change my life. I am a wife and mother of two. I felt so helpless being whisked away in an ambulance to BWH after just visiting the ER for pain. Honestly, when the news was given to me I was by myself in the ER due to COVID protocols. I had no one to cry to at that moment. No one to make it make sense. I have been completely and utterly blessed to have the team of doctors and nurse practioners at Dana Farber as well as the wonderful nurses at BWH throughout this process of my life.

In March of 2021, I under went my first transplant. I endured 6 rounds of chemo and whole body radiation. I spent over 40 days after transplant in the hospital and away from my kids. My transplant ended up failing and I was devastated. Not only was I worried about the next step but I was worried about my kids. This has been the longest period of time being away from them. I didnt think I was going to make it out the hospital.

Thankfully, my wonderful team sent me home for a couple weeks, which was perfect. It was Mother's Day weekend and my wedding anniversary, what a welcome back!  I was ecstatic to be able to spend the little time I had with my family before we began the second transplant. That's right another one!

My mother was my second donor this time around and I thank God everyday for her and the sacrifice she made and endured for me. To save my life! The second transplant was a success, I did not have to do radiation againg but I definitely had chemo. The process was yet again draining but with my prayer warriors I pushed through.

I am getting stronger everyday and I thank the team of healthcare professionals at Dana and BWH.  I have another chance at life. Another chance to do all the things I have dreamed. I keep faith and continue to enjoy everyday.

Shelley Hart

E. Sandwich, MA

Shelley Hart.jpg
Shelley Hart2.jpg

My name is Shelley. In November 2021 my life was turned upside down. I had some routine bloodwork that picked up an abnormal pathology, and within a week I was hospitalized & told I have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital waiting test results and starting treatment. I was released right before my daughters 15th birthday.

 

I’m a mom to 3 great kids. My son Zachary is 18 and in his freshman year of college. I also have twin girls Corinne & Sophie who are freshmen in high school. Having your mom face cancer is incredibly difficult for children.

 

I have a 20 year career in Social Services and Psychology. I work as a therapist (self employed). Theses challenges I’m facing personally make working hard. I have weekly appointments at Dana Farber, regular tests & ultimately facing a bone marrow transplant, which will mean another month stay in the hospital.

 

Some days are easier then other, I try and take it moment by moment and stay focused on everything I have to be grateful for.

Jessica LaPaglia

Shrewsbury, MA

Jessica1.jpeg
Jessica2.jpeg
Jessica3.jpeg

My name is Jessica LaPaglia, and I am 35 years old and just completed round 2 of 4 of chemo for lung cancer (never even a smoker!) at Dana Farber. I have Li-Fraumeni syndrome which is a genetic mutation that predisposes me to cancers at young ages and multiple cancers in a lifetime. I also had breast cancer at 23 years old. I was diagnosed two days before I was scheduled to move to DC for my first job as an oncology RN! My breast cancer was found on a breast MRI for screening due to my mutation. I then had a bilateral mastectomy and a year of chemo. Talk about a hit to my self image at 23 when you’re flat and bald!

I have worked as an oncology nurse for 10 years now. I was working in California when I met my husband Tim. We got married in California and then started IVF with genetic testing on our embryos to avoid passing on my cancer mutation. Ultimately, IVF ended in a miscarriage of our healthy embryos. We then turned to adoption, but had a failed adoption with a baby girl. Then, we had a surprise natural pregnancy, which was exciting after our failures, but nerve wracking knowing our baby had a 50% chance of having Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. Our baby boy was tested in utero and was positive. We were beyond devastated. We decided to try to focus on the joy he would bring us, remain hopeful that he would continue to be healthy, and we would follow all the screening protocols to catch anything early. Joseph is now 2.5 years old and nothing but healthy so far! He has scans at Boston Children’s Hospital and sees an oncologist at the Jimmy Fund Clinic. He has abdominal ultrasounds every 3 months and a sedated whole body MRI once every year. The anxiety (and scanxiety) of being a parent who has to worry about their child getting cancer can be debilitating sometimes!

After Joseph, Tim and I decided to attempt IVF with genetic testing on our embryos again. We got pregnant on our first embryo transfer, and baby Lily arrived at 34 weeks after my water broke at 33 weeks! She had a week in the NICU but is also perfectly healthy and adorable!

My oncologist had scheduled my yearly screening whole body MRI at 6 months postpartum. This is when the “nodule” was found in my left lower lung. Within weeks, I had a resection of my lung to remove the tumor and found out it was non small cell lung cancer. We all assumed I would be done after that… but the pathology came back with three high risk features, and therefore removing the rest of my left lower lobe was recommended. So 4 weeks after the first surgery, I went back for the second. Then another surprise hit us. There were 2 positive lymph nodes within that lobe. So here I am now, getting 4 cycles of chemotherapy, which started only 5 weeks after my second surgery. 

I have been out of work since March, with paid maternity leave March- September. My screening MRI was done in September, right before I was scheduled to return to work. Well, cancer had other plans, and I have now been without an income since then. 

My two surgeries and chemotherapy have been ROUGH, but I am lucky to have a very supportive family and my two beautiful children to help get me through all of this. 

I am so grateful for foundations like yours who help moms with these struggles. Not having an income while undergoing treatment adds A LOT of stress. Every little bit helps, because finances are the last thing anyone going through cancer should have to worry about!

Shannon Bjorkman

Hull, MA

Shannon-2.jpg
Shannon-1.jpg
Shannon-3.jpg

Bethany Gardner

Acushnet, MA

BethanyG2.jpeg
BethanyG3.jpeg
BethanyG1.jpeg

My life with my children changed forever October 2020.

Glioblastoma stage 4 never heard of it- was diagnosed.

First year so many emotions daily radiation, chemo, crying, upset, hateful, fearful, mad, angry, unhappy, worried. My beautiful world was gone. How do I live? Praying for a miracle. 

Shannon 

My name is Beth. I am 37 years old, joyfully married, and the proud mom of two. In the beginning of December 2021 I was diagnosed with DCIS in my left breast. I am always asked if I was scared and yes, of course I was… but I also felt lucky. Lucky to have a doctor who was proactive and advocated for me. Had that not been the case, we wouldn’t have found it in this early stage and my story would be a whole lot different.

 

I was pointed in the direction of Women and Infants’ in RI. There a team of the most compassionate and skilled doctors and nurses were put together for me. Together it was decided that a unilateral mastectomy was my best option. I’d also have a sentinel node removal and biopsy. The results of that biopsy would determine my treatment plan.

 

Among other road blocks, COVID stalled my operation and reconstruction timeline. Even with W&I working as hard as they could to get me in ASAP, my surgery wasn’t scheduled until March 7, 2022. There was a lot of anxiety in that waiting period but I felt confident in my team enough to know that I’d be ok.

 

My surgery went smoothly. We found out there was much more DCIS in my breast than original seen on MRI. But, all margins clear and no cancer in my lymph nodes. That meant no radiation necessary! Cause for celebration for sure. Now I am home recovering. My husband has taken over most mom duties and work has granted me a leave of absence. Reconstruction will be in approximately 2 months. I am grateful and I am getting stronger every day.