2022 Recipients

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

 

Schakila Bowden

Brockton, MA

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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

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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

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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

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Bethany Gardner

Acushnet, MA

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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. 

Alyce Miller

Dalton, MA

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Hello everyone, I wanted to start off my story here letting people know that I was a Critical Care Step Down Nurse before I became sick so I do know my way around human anatomy for well over 10 years.

I was diagnosed with a one in a million (it actually is labeled 'one in a million') Adrenocortical cancer Stage 4. I was working on the step down as our first patients with the corona virus rolled in. Needing to roll up our sleeves and figure out with my colleagues exactly how we were to properly and safely take care of this population, I ignored my own health. It was when I noticed an increase in weight around my midsection and back of neck and elevated blood pressure that I knew something was wrong. I sought after my PCP who chalked it up to the stress of the pandemic and my job and also raising 2 year old and 4 year old and my husband and I working opposite shifts.

Well things became worse, mood swings and elevated cortisol levels. I insisted on an MRI of my back and after months and months of phone tag with doctors and arguments why I would need such a test, symptoms became unbearable. Headaches so bad I would have to call out of work in the height of this pandemic. Well, I finally was approved for an MRI. What was found was a 10cm mass around my right adrenal gland that had also spread to my lungs. Surgery needed to happen now. At Baystate Medical Center I had one of my first surgeries: a right Adrenalectomy. Saying goodbye to my family outside the hospital because of the pandemic it was so very hard.

Alright first surgery down, time for the tough EDP chemo. I don't remember much of it but the nurses said it was difficult on me, maybe it was the shaved head and no eyebrows, maybe it was the vomiting, or maybe just maybe it was the night after chemo and my husband said “ it's all about you and your cancer isn’t it?” Needless to say we got divorced in the middle of all of this mess. Oh wait! Don't forget to homeschool the kids! Luckily I have a wonderful support team of mom and dad, sister and brother, aunts and uncles, cousins and countless friends. 

 

Long story short, within 2 1⁄2 years I had a right wedge resection, a right lobectomy with a complication of a pulmonary embolism. I had to be transported to Brigham and Womens Hospital the night before Easter. Surgery was difficult to recover from and still the symptoms of elevated cortisol are very hard to handle. The Radiation Oncologist is hoping we can perform some palliative radiation to a mass found on the right side. So I wait. This is what God has given me, I will take it one day at a time.

Melissa Deabreu

New Bedford, MA

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I am 41 years old a single mom of 2 wonderful kids. One is 12 and the other is 7 years old. They are not aware of my diagnosis (my choice). I was diagnosed 9/11/2019 which was one of the worst days of my life!!  I lost my mom to cancer in June 2021. She was only 62. 

I have undergone 4 years of chemotherapy with one small break this summer so I can feel normal (not a good choice). It’s a struggle every day to get out of bed and fight the world we live!!! I will be starting radiation soon to shrink the tumor in the rectum so I won’t feel pain or bleed or just feel totally uncomfortable!!! I work as much as I can. I try to do my 40 hour weeks but it sure ain’t easy. Thank you for your wonderful foundation. 

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Leslie Connors

Dover, NH

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My Name is Leslie Connors. I am a 45 yr old single mom by choice diagnosed with Stage 3 metastatic breast cancer. The day after Thanksgiving, I woke up with conjunctivitis so I called my doctor and thankfully she could fit me in to  be seen. While in the shower, I found a lump. I got there and we joked that I was a hot mess after such a thankful day. She said we should do a mammogram to be safe. I was convinced it was just a clogged milk duct because my girls were interested in breastfeeding and my hormones were going crazy. When I went in for the mammo and ultrasound, they said I needed to meet with the Dr and then the surgeon. I just assumed it was to review the results , still I wasn't worried or scared. They both told me without telling me that it was cancer and the next two weeks were a blur. I  was a mess and kept thinking the worst. Never did I think this would happen to me. I live a healthy life. I'm good to my body nutritionally and Boom, you have cancer, Stage 3 metastatic breast cancer! I was so worried for my girls. I actually held it together until they said, how are you going to tell your daughters, then I broke down.

 

Well for the past 10 months we have had many ups and downs but they have been so helpful, supportive caring and genuinely great with all of the changes breast cancer has given me. I underwent 16 rounds of chemo followed by a double mastectomy then 25 rounds of radiation and unfortunately I have to do another 14 rounds of chemo over a 42 week period. After my double mastectomy, radiation felt like a breeze, although it was super exhausting. My first dose for my second round of chemo a week ago hit me like a ton of bricks. I was not prepared for that, but now I will be. I will be because I'm a fighter and I will not let Cancer get the best of me! 

 

Finding strength through the journey takes a village, a village of people who support us when we are down.  Thank you for being part of my village Carin Maclean Foundation. I am so thankful for the Carin Maclean Foundation that is helping me financially through this journey. It's been a struggle not to be able to work, in so many ways. I have spent more days in bed then I like, but getting some financial help lets me rest much more peacefully. Thank you for your support and all you Ladies do to help Women Like me! Reading all the stories on your page helps me feel not so alone in this Journey. <3

 

Kindly,

Leslie

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Marcia Grant

New Bedford, MA

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My name is Marcia. I was diagnosed in 2019 with Multiple Myeloma. My journey started from work. One night I was working when I started to feel pain in my spine, right side and my left flank. Not knowing what it was, I went to the ER and they did an X-Ray. They found out there was no bone in my spine. They did some blood work and ran some tests; that's when I found out I have Multiple Myeloma. Thank God I have good team around me and my treatment is going well!!

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 

Alexandra Clithero

Eliot, ME

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My name is Alex and I am a wife, mom, and teacher. I am also the daughter of a three time breast cancer survivor. Last summer, at age 36, during a monthly self-check I felt a lump that changed my life. A week later I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma; early detection truly saves lives! My medical team through the Seacoast Cancer Center has been my lifeline through my mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and now endocrine therapy. I feel very fortunate to be able to embrace the silver linings I discovered on my journey and to be able to support other cancer warriors through their journeys.

Sabrina Silva

Burlington, MA

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At age 54, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was devastating. For some unknown reason, call it a sixth sense, I always knew that breast cancer would come knocking on my door as it did for my mum and other family members. Fast forward to 2019 and I had my regular mammogras and all was well. Then COVID happened and my next mammogram was cancelled. Life went on until 2022 when things started to settle down and I started getting all my medical ducks in a row if you will.

 

April 15th 2022 I had a regular mammogram followed by an ultrasound and there it was - a tiny unassuming mass I never felt.  It had no symptoms and even the breast surgeon was on the fence about a biopsy but since I had a strong family history she decided to take a closer look. I had a lumpectomy and the results took 9 days.  She said I dont think its anything to worry about but then the call came and Dr. Miele said I'm extremley surprised to be telling you this but its cancer. 

I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and after chemotherapy I will be doing a double mascetomy. My daughter is 6 years old and doesn't fully understand thankfully. Before this diagnosis I worked as an aesthetician at a spa doing facials. I love my work and helping women feel beautiful in their own skin. I hope when this journey is over I can give back by helping women through the physical changes that cancer brings about such as hair loss and aging skin. I am also a makeup artist and can show women how to apply makeup and fill in the brows and lashes due to hair loss.

Melissa Burke

Mashpee, MA

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My cancer journey began in April, 2009. I was at work when I received the phone call: I had papillary thyroid cancer. I was only 25 years old. The very next day, I found out I was pregnant with my first and only child. Six weeks after delivering her, I had a complete thyroidectomy. Struggling with new motherhood and a cancer diagnosis at such an early age, I opted out of radioactive iodine treatment. Fortunately, this worked to my benefit, and I haven't had a recurrence. I wrongly assumed that this would be my one and only battle with the C word.

 

In June of 2022, I experienced tenderness under my right arm. My lymph nodes were enlarged, so my NP ordered blood work and a mammogram. A few days later, we found out we had COVID. I assumed the enlarged lymph nodes were a result of the virus, so I contacted my NP to see if I should still have the mammogram. She insisted I keep the appointment, and I will be forever grateful for her persistence. This was my first mammogram, and I knew something wasn't right when the doctor on call came to see me after the ultrasound. He told me I had at least a 50% chance of having cancer, and would need a biopsy. A few days later we received confirmation: I had invasive ductal carcinoma. Now 38 years old, it didn't seem fair I had to face cancer once again. Interestingly, the cancer was on my left side despite the tenderness I had experienced on the right. I like to say that COVID saved my life. If I had waited until age 40 to have my first mammogram, my prognosis would be much different.

 

On September 19th, I underwent a lumpectomy with cosmetic reconstruction at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Pathology following surgery revealed the cancer has spread to the two sentinel lymph nodes removed from under my arm. We are currently waiting to find out if I need chemotherapy. I will start six weeks of radiation soon, followed by five to ten years of endocrine therapy that will force my body into menopause. I didn't ask for this. I didn't ask for major surgery not once, but twice in my life. I didn't ask for breasts that look different from the ones I have known my whole life. I didn't ask for chemically induced menopause. And yet, there have been some beautiful moments amidst the pain, fear and uncertainty.

 

On July 30th, I wed the love of my life in the sweetest, albeit fastest and most cost effective, ceremony at our church in the presence of our immediate family members. A few days prior, my daughter and I had visited a local thrift store to find a dress for the wedding. One of the amazing volunteers brought up several wedding gowns from the basement for me to try on. One fit perfectly, and I shared my story with the women in the shop. An anonymous, kind soul then purchased the dress for me! I never cease to be amazed by the kindness of strangers. So we move forward, one day at a time. My husband has taken time off from work to help me, as the emotional burdens are sometimes greater than the physical scars I now carry. I own an online antique book store, so I am able to work intermittently between doctors appointments and naps. My faith in God, plus the love and support of friends and family, help to carry me on the days I cannot carry myself. 

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My name is Stephanie Deronette. I am a 34 year old wife and proud mom. In May of 2022, I received the worst news I'd ever imagined - I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Stage 1 Grade 3 breast cancer. Statistics indicate that breast cancer, especially IDC is very common and that 1 in 8 women are diagnosed. However, this reality was always so hard for me to understand because here I was 34 years old and other than a close former colleague who had Breast Cancer over 20 years ago, I had no experience with anyone having cancer around me - Not at work, not at school and not in my family. In fact, I come from a relatively large family and there is no history of cancer in the family, and my husband, who is the 10th child out of 12 with tons of extended family, also had no history of cancer in his family. So when I surveyed my surroundings, I felt so isolated. 

 

As a 34 year old Breast Cancer patient, I am often reminded of how young I am to have this diagnosis, which  feels like a blow to an open wound. My treatment entails a lumpectomy, chemo therapy, radiation and hormone therapy. While, there is no such thing as a good time for a cancer diagnosis, as a young mother to smaller children, there seemed to be so many more hurdles. One unique challenge to treatment, which I felt was often overlooked is how much  treatment and recovery is intertwined with childcare. Juggling my treatment schedule around my work schedule is challenging but when you add in the schedules of 3 smaller children that have various drop offs and pick up schedules, their medical  appointments, trying to determine whether you should schedule chemo treatment (that will eventually make you sick)  later in the week versus earlier in the week so not to disturb your children's school routines just felt impossible at times. Every appointment required soliciting as much help as  possible, day, evenings and weekends because smaller children are entirely dependent on their caretakers. This, in addition to surging financial costs associated with every decision has caused so much distress.

 

It became very difficult for me to keep a positive mindset or celebrate wins in this process. However, as I am nearing  the next phase of my treatment (radiation), I am focused on changing my mindset. I often felt resentment when people said "at least you it caught early" since my treatment was so aggressive but now I am grateful because I realize that sometimes treatment is not always an option.  Despite the challenges of having smaller children, I am grateful that they may not remember much of this and that their innocence and laughter help get me through these tough times. I am grateful for the love of my support system, my husband who always made me feel like the most beautiful woman every single day, my mother who provided unwavering support and kept our ship afloat, my best friend who always knew the right thing to say, and my friends and family who checked on me regularly. I am grateful for the medical team and staff at Dana Farber who is committed to seeing me through the other side of this awful situation.  I am grateful to be living in this time where medicine has evolved so much, that in my lifetime,  I will see so much more advancements in medicine which is dedicated to preventing deaths from cancer. I am grateful for organizations like the Carin Maclean Foundation who understands this struggle and has provided support to so many.

 

Although, I struggle with the thought of Hormone therapy, I still count my blessings for this medicine that will save my life.


--

Stephanie Deronette

"Where there is a Will there is a Way"