Please scroll down to read all the stories of our amazing & inspiring recipients
In 2018, about eight months after the birth of my second daughter, my family’s life was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer. I was 36 years old. Having previously gone through genetic testing due to a family history of cancer, I already knew I have the BRCA1 + gene and was undergoing routine screenings to try and do my due diligence to negate any risk of a cancer diagnosis. Ovarian cancer is already known as the silent killer and even with routine screenings, a lot of my initial symptoms for my cancer were missed until the cancer had progressed. Everything moved very quickly following my diagnosis and I had to stop breast feeding my second child so that I could first have port implantation surgery and begin chemotherapy.
We were extraordinarily lucky to have an army of support through family and friends who quickly came to help us take care of the kids, our household, and myself as we navigated chemotherapy, major surgery, and more chemotherapy. Thanks to the amazing work by the doctors and nurses at Dana Farber I was able to complete my initial treatment schedule and could effectively return to normal life while continuing maintenance treatment by January of 2019.
Our lives were busy and full and we watched the children grow while my hair came back and I regained some of the weight I had lost during treatment. A slightly elevated tumor marker and a scan that revealed an active spot outside my liver led to a second surgery in February of 2020, but the surgery was successful and we resumed our normal lives right before the world went into lockdown during the pandemic.
Juggling two parents working from home, virtual learning for a kindergartener, and daycare for a two-year-old was a lot. Like many families we underwent a good deal of stress to try and keep all the plates spinning and were looking forward to summer when we could take a small break from our day-to-day routines. Unfortunately, routine bloodwork showed an increase in my tumor marker in July of 2020 and then subsequent bloodwork and scans confirmed our worst fears by the fall. My cancer had come back and there was now involvement in my lymph nodes.
At this point there were no surgical options for the tumors that were appearing on the scans. I began chemotherapy again in September of 2020. I found it almost impossible to balance hybrid schooling for our now first-grader along with my job and dealing with side effects from treatment so we made the tough decision for me to leave my job by November of 2020 and collect disability for what we hoped was a short period of time.
Among the many things we’ve learned during this journey is that cancer doesn’t much care for your plans. Despite an initial positive response to chemotherapy, by the winter of 2021 it was determined that the treatment was no longer effective and we were then presented with an array of options to try including clinical trials or standard care. Aside from emotional turmoil, I was feeling relatively well and we made the decision to move forward with a clinical trial at the Dana Farber facility in Boston. The trial was physically very tough but I had a good response to the treatments up until the end of the summer of 2021. What followed was a string of clinical trials, off label treatments, and standard care treatments all of which show promise for a while, deliver varying degrees of side effects and then ultimately stop working.
Just prior to Christmas of 2022 we had hopes that the oral chemotherapy trial I was participating in was working but received the unfortunate news that my scans showed further progression and I would have to yet again look at different treatment options. Bloodwork after Christmas further complicated our choices as they showed an increase in my liver enzymes that revealed progression in the cancer in my liver and essentially narrowed our options to a chemotherapy I have received before. I began weekly Taxol and Avastin infusions in January of 2023 and we are hopeful that the unpleasant side effects that accompany these two drugs will buy us some more time. The side effects and the constant changing of treatments have made it impossible for me to work during this time and I’m unsure if or when I’ll be able to return to work in any capacity.
Our kids and our family and friends have been amazing but it has been a long and bumpy road these past few years and we’ve still got a lot of difficulty to navigate in the future. I’m very grateful to organizations like the Carin MacLean Foundation who recognize the need to uplift mothers dealing with cancer treatment. It’s hard to want to both be a caretaker and be taken care of, but often cancer doesn’t give you much choice. My only hope is to keep my body strong enough to keep going and to try and give back as best I can to all the people who have helped support my husband and my two beautiful girls during this time.
When starting to tell my story, I tried to think of how it started, but there really was no warning or antecedent, my life was just abruptly thrown into pure pandemonium. I was Christmas shopping in late Dec. 2022 when I felt a hard pain in my left breast. Later that week, I had a Dr. appt. and had just asked my Dr. to take a look at it for me, as by that point, it was quite swollen. She immediately referred me to the ER, and it’s been appointments and treatments ever since.
I never would have thought at just age 33 that I would find out that I have a stage 3 Breast Cancer out of the blue. It was a shock to say the least. Just the amount of information was overwhelming and it was really hard to even think about trying to consider options and treatments when you’ve been told that it’s already spreading…
At that point in time, I could have never imagined the financial hardships that were currently mounting as I was focused on getting all the appointments made and doing all of the tests and biopsies. I went on leave from my longtime position, working with adults with disabilities, and quickly exhausted all of my PTO and XIB. This is when the real stress of our financial situation set in. My fiancé’ had to stop working as well due to needing to care for our 3 children while I was at appointments and later, while I’ve been doing treatment… I thought (and tried) that I would be able to resume working once I got used to the treatment, but my 1st chemotherapy treatment affected me so badly that I was in bed for over a week and ended up needing to go to the hospital. Treatments did get a little better after that, though I am still down for a few days after each one. You get used to a lot of it after a while and all that it puts you through, only makes you stronger.
All of the support, not only from my family and friends but from my medical team and so many others who don’t even know me, but want to help, has been nothing short of amazing. It was so great to see all of the foundations set up when searching online for help and The CM Foundation was one of the 1st I came across. Reading about what they do and how they help, made my heart swell and I will forever be grateful for them taking the time to read my story and offer their support to my family.
I currently have 8 chemotherapy sessions left to go and then we will be working to see if our next step will be to schedule my mastectomy. I look forward to getting to that point and hope that in the months to come, can report back that I have Beat Breast Cancer!
Thank you to all of you at the CM Foundation and for all that your doing to make it a little easier on those who are going through this. You are greatly appreciated!
Samantha Coulter & Family
My name is Kandie. It started back in August of 2022 at the age 43 when I got diagnosed with DCIS. It was very shocking for myself and my family as we had just moved into our new place. My husband and I talked to our 3 children; daughters that are 24 and 11 years old and 16 year old son. We have a grandson that is two and we couldn’t explain what was going on with Grammy, but we put a smile on our face for him. We told them what I had. We've have had many ups and downs since August. My husband and kids have been my greatest support though my surgery and while I'm going through my treatments. My family has put a smile on my face each day as I go through this.
My name is Janice Campbell. I am a single mother of 2 and have been diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer. On October 11, 2022,
I went to the ER for pain that I had been experiencing. I was first told I had a blood clot in my lungs and leg. Then, at that moment,I was told I had a mass on my ovary that was 16cm big and full of cancer. I met with my Team and was told that the cancer had spread from my cervix to my uterus, then fallopian tubes and ovaries. I had surgery to remove the mass and had a full hysterectomy. My world was flipped upside down in an instant. I've been undergoing extensive chemo since November. I am on round 4 and will complete 6. My boys are my world ♥️ and I hate that I can't be the Mom I used to be!! Praying for remission 🙏
My name is Heather. I am from Norton, MA. In May 2022 I kept waking up feeling as if I was on an amusement park ride, spinning non stop. I would wake up and be out of balance. I dismissed it but it was persistent every time I bent over and laid down. I went to my primary care to be diagnosed with what they "thought" was vertigo.
June 26, 2022 my daughter gave me a hug on the last day of school. She asked me what was "that" in my neck. I felt it and again, dismissed it because if felt like one swollen lymph node. My annual OBGYN appointment with the nurse practitioner was scheduled for July 11. I asked her to feel my neck and she agreed, it felt like a swollen gland. She tested me for Lyme's disease, which was negative. July 18 I had my annual mammogram which came back with nothing out of the ordinary. July 27 was my annual physical with my primary care doctor. I asked her about the swollen gland and she confirmed she felt two. She wanted to test me again for Lyme's disease even though the first test was negative. She also put me on Doxycycline for 40 days thinking I had a sinus infection. I did not have any sinus issues. My blood work was also 3x higher than the year prior in certain areas which indicate cancer or infection. I asked my doctor about this and she said nothing stays the same year to year. Within the next few days my entire collar bone area swelled up. I called my doctor's office again and she said she could see my virtually but to take Benadryl and it should help.
I was now getting worried and frustrated. I work full year in an Elementary School and September was coming quickly. I needed answers. My daughter was also starting Freshman year in a new district, new high school. My son was also starting the middle school. I was nervous for them and what my results would end up being.
I asked to meet with the nurse practitioner and asked her to request an ultrasound and biopsy of my neck. She agreed and understood where I was coming from. The ultrasound results pushed me to have a cat scan, which I had never had before. When I got home and signed into the portal, I read that I had lymphoma. I ended up reaching my nurse practitioner to ask her what was really going on and what I was reading. She had already referred me to oncology. I just kept thinking "but this is a sinus infection, why are you talking about oncology."
At this point my husband said we were going to Dana Farber. I had a biopsy done almost right away with DF and pet scans confirmed it is stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma. My head was spinning. I just kept thinking the worst right down to my car needing an oil change before we start commuting back and forth to Boston, my children and their new schools, work, and just everything you can possibly imagine. I asked my team of doctors in Boston if they could estimate how long this cancer has been growing inside me. They said just a few months!! I'm so grateful I pushed and advocated for myself medically.
We told our children on October 30, after we had a full plan from DF. We explained what it would look like, how it would make me feel, that the outcome looks really good but it would be a hard fight. November 25 we all sat in the living room taking turns shaving my head. The hair was falling out in massive clumps and I became very depressed by all of it. I think it was helpful that we all sat together as a family and did this rather than my children coming home and seeing mom bald.
This week I will be receiving treatment number 7 out of 12. I have developed "anticipation nausea" which means I can think of anything related to the hospital or chemo and make myself sick. It's so hard. I have extreme bone pain after treatment which lasts for days. Nausea has kicked in and I find myself very tired. But my family and I are very encouraged by the wonderful doctors and nurses at Dana Farber. They are so positive and hopeful.
I’m very grateful to organizations like the Carin MacLean Foundation who recognize the need to uplift mothers dealing with cancer treatment. It’s hard to want to both be a caretaker and be taken care of. My husband has been quite the fog walker, Uber driver, chef, housekeeper and mother/father all in one especially while I'm resting and napping.
My name is Temperance Edwina Owens. I am 47 years old, the oldest of three siblings. On January 17, 2023, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer stage three and very aggressive. As you may know this type of cancer is only found in African-Americans and Asian women. I am a Traveling Dialysis Technician and established a home here in Boston after being transferred on assignment. I could no longer perform my job after diagnosis and my treatment began. I live with my son Antonio who attends school online.
While still in treatment on my journey with cancer, I have met some amazing people, from my healthcare team to the neighbors. My son and I have had many challenging days, but we have kept it very honest and positive. We thank you and appreciate all the support and help.
Hyde Park, MA
My name is Jaidy Castillo and I am 48 years old. I am a Mother, a Wife, a Daughter, a Sister, an Aunt, and a Friend. This is My Story.
On March 22nd 2023, I had a Dr's appointment. After my routine check up was completed, my Dr. ordered some blood work. Once done, I left the hospital and headed to work. 10 minutes later, my Dr. called me asking me to return to the hospital and indicated they will be expecting me in the ER. He had received my lab work and was extremely concern with the results. He wanted to redo all tests to ensure this was not a mistake. I arrived again in the hospital and all tests were done for the second time. Results came back showing no mistake was done, my blood levels were at 4.2%. I was immediately admitted and they started blood, iron and potassium transfusions. The Dr. ordered all kinds of tests, a CT Scan and MRI. He wanted to find the cause of all this.
Friday, March 24th, the Dr. had the CT Scan results, he had a diagnosis. I was told I have Colon Cancer. Everything stopped, that very moment is a blur.
Before my diagnose, I was just loving and living my best life!! Then my life was turned upside down, I had to start chemotherapy right away and life changed. Today I still love my life and here is why -
I have been happily married for 24 years. This October 17th my husband and I will be celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We have 2 beautiful children. My husband, my Rock, Joel the love of my life. He still takes me out on dates. Those days I don’t feel so attractive he tells me I’m beautiful, he does romantic dinners at home. He is never too tired to do anything for me, just so I can feel a little better. When I am having a tough day, he tells me he is proud of me and gives me the extra strength to keep pushing. He is my Hero.
My kids are my Heart and Soul. My first born, my Love, My Princess, my Daughter Jazmin, 23 years old. She always has words of encouragement, she tells me you are doing great Mami, you are so strong. She reminds me that I am a great mother, she is my Best Friend. On March 30th, she became a mother and gave me my first granddaughter, the most beautiful baby, our biggest blessing Camila. My little Angel, my Sunshine, my Strength.
My Little man, my Sweetheart, my son Gabriel, 15 years old. He always has something positive to say, he tells me you are going to be ok Mami. During treatment days he sends me a text wishing me best of luck telling me I got this! My Pride and Joy.
I have a great support system of my family, my parents, sisters, nieces and nephews, my husband’s family, and my friends. I appreciate the daily messages to check up on me, the prayers, the constant love and support keeps me going. The great team of doctors and nurses at Tufts Medical Center from day 1, have been incredible providing the best care and treatment plan for me. They are like Angels on earth. I am forever thankful.
I am not going to lie, this is a tough journey. There are good days, bad days and really rough days. Days where is tough to even get up from bed, endless appointments, long hospital stays. But in the middle of it, I always try to find something positive and keep my faith.
I still have a long road ahead but my heart is full knowing I don’t have to walk it alone, I have a village standing by my side who are willing to walk by me and help me through the little bumps. So we will continue to fight this together, we will pray, we might cry at times but we will also laugh a lot, we will continue to build sweet memories and take a million pictures. I am forever grateful for each and everyone
Today I am still Loving and Living my best life. One day at a time!!
I am blessed
My name is Nancy. I was diagnosed with cancer in October 2022. When I started chemo, it was a nightmare. I couldn’t stand, couldn't walk, couldn't stay in warm water. During the winter time, I had to use cold water to shower. I would put my feet in iced water to calm the itch in my feet. Everywhere in my body was itchy. I had constant bodyaches. I can’t work because of the weakness and the itch on my feet. I cannot stand for long because of it. I couldn’t eat everything after chemo. I became shaky and I would need to stay in bed because I am in so much pain. I have 2 children with bills to pay including mortgage, utility, and insurance. Thanks to my family who were a great support during the difficult time. My kids were very sad because they did not know what will happen to their Mom. I am very grateful for the help the foundation will offer to my family, It is a good relief.
I am a 35 year old single mom of a 17 year old girl and 15 year old boy. I discovered a lump in my right breast last year when I was 34. After several appointments & test, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Shortly after, it was discovered that I carry the BRCA 2 gene mutation. This came as a shock because no one in my immediate family had ever been diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
I began treatment in November 2022. One month later, I lost my job because I could not return to work. In April 2023, I had a double mastectomy and started reconstruction. After that, I was told that testing revealed that small amounts of cancer had spread to some of my lympnodes. I was then scheduled to start chemo therapy in August 2023 followed by radiation therapy.
Most recently, I was hospitalized for a week due to an infection/allergic reaction on my mastectomy incisions. It is clear to me that my fight is not over with cancer and that the journey is going to be rough. But organizations like CMF do what they can to make the load much lighter to carry. I am thankful!
My name is Jennifer and I am a 41-year-old cancer warrior fighting the good fight from Gloucester, MA. My husband recently passed away this past March leaving me to raise our three very active boys by myself. Amongst the constant juggling of medical appointments, cancer treatments, and their side effects, my family took another life-changing hit. In August, my middle son who is 14, became wheelchair-bound after having a spinal cord stroke. As you can imagine, this can take a toll emotionally and financially. I found myself having to choose what meal I was going to skip so my children could eat, and having to hide in my bathroom to cry because I didn't want my children to see me in distress. I was missing so many days at work due to my treatments and their effects leaving me a financial mess. But despite all of this, despite how sad my situation seems, cancer has taught me perseverance. My situation may look horrible but my situation is the common theme for most cancer patients. We live this mess of medical treatments and self-isolation and doubt like a badge of honor. That is why we are all cancer warriors. That is why I am a cancer warrior. I fight for my children. I fight for myself and I fight for you, the reader. There are glimmers of hope and the Carin Maclean Foundation is one of the brightest glimmers. Thank You for all you do so that we can do all we can do.
Dan Chen - Braintree, MA