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.
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.