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2024 Recipients

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

 

Erica Nightingale

Cumberland, RI

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My name is Erica Nightingale, I am 39 years old, and I have breast cancer. The way I found out was nothing short of a miracle. I had zero symptoms from the cancer, one night I was experiencing really bad lower-stomach pains. It got to the point I thought it could possibly be my appendix, so at 2 in the morning I drove myself to the ER. The doctors there were also leaning towards appendicitis, given my symptoms. They ordered an abdominal CT, and also did an ultrasound of the area. The ultrasound and CT scan came back clear (in the abdomen), nothing looks suspicious. However, the CT scan did catch a small lesion on my left breast, and advised further testing on that.

I got in touch with my PCP, and she ordered a breast ultrasound with mammogram, and they both came back as highly suspicious. Then of course, had a biopsy to confirm, and it was in-fact carcinoma.. it was a cancerous tumor.

 

I remember the day I saw my results in the portal, since you are now able to get the results the same time the doctors do. I had a little weekend getaway with my best friend of 27 years, to Newport. We had this planned for months, and I hadn't been on a “vacation” in many years. We were about 10 minutes away from our hotel, and I saw the results were in. I waited until we parked to open them, and that's when I found out I had a 2cm cancerous tumor in my body.

 

My first “vacation” in years started off with news of having cancer. I was absolutely devastated, and instantly felt hopeless. However, my best friend did a wonderful job at making sure I smiled as much as I could, and had as much fun as I could, given the situation… but there were lots of tears shed.

 

Fast forward to surgery on October 17th, I had a partial-mastectomy on the left breast, and a reduction with reconstruction on both breasts for symmetry. The recovery was a bit rough, I'm only 3 months post-op now, and my breasts are still tender to the touch. I completed 16 rounds of radiation, which I ended up with a burn under my armpit from it. I am now starting my 5 years of hormone-blockers for the cancer, since I was hormone positive and HER2-.

 

I have a 4 ½ year old son, named Cayden, who I just adore.. he is my absolute world and has been my biggest reason for fighting. It has been quite a journey, Cayden is non-verbal, has epilepsy and has some developmental delays. So add in the struggle/stress to make sure he got to all of his weekly appointments was tough. I had great support right after surgery from my family and friends, but it's still a mental nightmare. I know it'll always be in the back of my mind for the rest of my life, “did it come back?” Or “what if it comes back?”... It's a lifelong journey, for anyone with cancer I'd imagine.

 

I'm so thankful to have been chosen to share my story, and given the opportunity to receive help that's much needed during this time. I hope my story can helpful to someone, in one way or another, because even though it feels like it, we are not alone in this.

 

Sincere regards,

Erica

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Christina Kincey

Attleboro, MA

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In the beginning of 2023, I was struggling to stay focused and awake while working.  This happened in the office and when I worked remotely. I tried my best, but it became apparent to my coworkers I was not able to keep up with my tasks. I raised concerns with my doctor and was prescribed anxiety medication. It didn't help.  There was something wrong and I just wasn't myself.  By February I was falling behind and was required to be in the office every day.  This was exhausting mentally and physically.  I had a performance review at the end of February and was asked to resign. 

 

I met with my primary care doctor several times between March and August expressing my concern for something being off. There weren't any concerns with the blood work and no answers for why I felt ill.  

 

Toward the end of August, I was having stomach pains and pains on my right side so the doctor ordered a CT scan. It was then they discovered a cyst the size of a basketball attached to my ovary. I met with my OB and was told it could be cancer. A radical hysterectomy was completed, and I was told I have Stage 1 Ovarian Cancer. The answer for why I wasn't myself.

 

The news was extremely difficult to share with the family. My younger children struggled with watching me start chemo instead of going on the Disney trip we already had booked for mid-September. 

 

I started chemo September 12 and was scheduled for six sessions in three-week intervals. The first two rounds were brutal and I ended up in the hospital with excruciating nerve pain in my entire body. After meeting with my Oncologist, the decision was made to do chemo weekly with smaller doses since my body could not tolerate the treatment. Weekly treatment was more manageable with a hydration treatment two days after chemo every week.

 

The financial problems began when unemployment ended in November and I am not able to work.  My husband stepped up and got a new job with a higher salary.  It helped get us through November but his line of work outdoors slows down in the winter months. We were not prepared for December with Christmas and two of my children's birthdays. We did our best to explain how this year would be different than past years. I

 

Around Christmas another CT scan was ordered to see if the cancer had spread to any other parts of my body. It was then they found a two inch lump on my thyroid and diagnosed me with thyroid cancer. I am not able to have the lump removed until I finish chemo. 

 

After several meeting with my doctors and social workers they have suggested I apply for social security disability. The side effects from chemo and the toll its taken on my body possibly leaving me permanently disabled. Only time will tell but I stay hopeful I can one day return to my career.

 

Best,


Christina

Bridget Burnett

Dover, NH

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My name is Bridget, I am a 42 year old single mother of a beautiful 12 year old girl living in Dover, NH.  I was a hard working single mom with 2 jobs that enjoyed being active, doing yoga and was healthy. 

 

In September 2023, I felt a large lump overnight grow in my right breast.  We pushed my mammogram up to October and after an ultrasound and biopsy I was diagnosed on October 23, 2023 with a very rare and aggressive, triple negative, stage 3B Metaplastic breast cancer that has spread to my Lymph Nodes.  The tumor tripled in size in just 6 weeks and almost 9cm on the outside, so we went right down to Mass General Cancer Center.  They rushed me through all the tests and scans and then had me immediately into Chemo within 4 weeks.  I could see it growing and becoming painful and swollen red.  They need to shrink my tumor before the surgery to be successful. 

 

I am on my 8th treatment, having them in Dover and have 20 weeks total of chemo.  They are throwing the book at me.  I am wearing the Cool Cap to help save my hair, but I have lost about 40% and I am now having bad bone pain and aches, not to mention the emotional roller-coaster of the way Chemo affects you.  Breast cancer does not run in my family and thankfully I do not have the gene. 

 

I am battling this on my own with no one at home to really help.  I try not to show my daughter what I am going through so her life can be as normal as possible.  I was between my day job when this all happened, so I do not have a full-time job and I am all on my own financially.  I am lucky to be able to work 1 day a week at my 2nd waitressing job which is very hard when going through Chemo and being exposed to crowds with a low immune system.  Raising my daughter alone and having to worry about paying bills during this time is not fair. Anything helps right now, and I am grateful for the Carin MacLean Foundation.

Courtney Carter

Cumberland, RI

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I have been battling a rare form of Leukemia for over 2 years now. It is called Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I found out because of routine checkup during my pregnancy. Having undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy, which have not proven to work. Chemo didn’t do what I needed it to, so the only form of action left was to undergo a bone marrow transplant. I was blessed with a match and had the transplant on May 5th, 2022. But I had to be away from my baby for 3 weeks. It was so hard to be in the hospital for many weeks without her. But I did it, but the the recovering part is so much harder.

 

I have gone through so many battles after the chemo and transplant. I lost my hair several times, broke out in rashes, gotten sick with a drop of a hat, problems with my vision, stomach issues, all due what they call GVHD. I know I’m strong but this has been stronger on me. After some time, I finally got good news. After many tests and doctor visits, the doctors don’t see anymore cancer. I’m in Remission! I pray it stays this way. The BMT has given me a second chance. And I am beating cancer!! I will continue to fight this hard battle! For my child and for my family and for myself ! And I couldn’t have gone this far without the support of my family, friends and doctors.

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Kayla Chase

Portsmouth, RI

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2022 started off for me as the most successful and positive year I have had in a long time. I was working on the Army officer candidate school while working full time in the Rhode Island Army National Guard. I was married to the love of my life and my son was 15 and becoming a great young man. I was also prepping for my fifth fitness competition. My life was so busy but I was so happy busy I strive when I am slammed with work.  

 

In April, I competed and not only won first place but because a Pro Athlete for the federation. I was on cloud 9 I never thought that I would ever place top three never mind actually winning first place and become a Pro Athlete. Unfortunately, only a few weeks later my husband left for a 10- 12 month deployment to Kuwait but I wasn’t nervous about us I knew we would be just fine. So, he left and I worked and held down the house. I had to go away in July for 2 weeks for the final 2 weeks of the OCS (officer candidate school) training in hot Alabama I even had to shave my head to meet requirements for graduation. At the end of completion, I was ecstatic for it to be done since it was an 18 month program and the most stressful 18 months of my life.  

 

On September 11 was my graduation. I have never been so proud of myself in my life. Everything was looking up for myself and my family’s future. During my military training  I had notice a small hernia above my belly button and had pushed the surgery off until after the OCS process was done. I had scheduled the surgery for September 27, 2022. I had the normal pre-surgery labs that had to get done. Which I did and the results back came back a little funky. My doctor did not like the results and had me go to the emergency room to have them checked there.

 

It was a Friday afternoon, actually the Friday before the surgery, I was not happy about this. I figured I would go and they would do the labs give me some fluids and send me home. Nope not what happened. I went and they admitted be. They had no idea what was wrong with me. I was in the hospital for a week they did a kidney biopsy and everything. While I was there I called the Red Cross and had my husband flown home from deployment because I had no idea what was going on. I was in stage 5 kidney failure and had no idea how tis even happened. I felt completely find but in the blood labs my kidneys were failing.

 

After a week I was sent home and my doctor referred me to go to Dana Farber to get a better look at my kidney biopsy and they decided I needed a bone biopsy to really see what was going on. At this time, it is now December and still no answers. During all this of uncertainty with my health, out of nowhere my son’s father my first husband was found dead at the age of 37 two days before my sons 16th birthday. Since he never remarried or had any kids my son was the next of kin and had to make all the funeral decisions. (With the help of his family, I was so thankful for everything they did.) Since my son was under 18 I had to make the decisions for him, mentally I was losing it. At the same time my current husband had to go to Texas to do some stuff for the Army because they decided he could stay home with me instead of go back to deployment because my health was so uncertain. Life was spiraling downwards in so many aspects I mentally was becoming so exhausted.

 

Finally in December the doctors figured out what was wrong with me. They discovered that I have a very rare blood disease called Monoclonal Immunoglobulin depositon disease also know as (LCDD) Light Chain Deposition Disease. Which also runs hand and hand with Multiple Myeloma. There is no cure for the disease and the only way they know how to treat is to treat it the same way as a Multiple Myeloma patient. You see, the disease causes my body to produce a protein that then has been depositing in to my kidneys and deteriorating my kidneys. They don’t know the caused this disease, where it came from, how long I have had it or anything. And at any point it could turn into full blown Multiple Myeloma.

 

I started 9 months of chemotherapy and a couple other treatments once a week. During that time frame my husband decided he no longer wanted to be married while we were in the middle of finding a new place to live. I literally was losing everything that was what made me. But I knew that I had to keep going if not for me but for my son. I am literally all he has left. I finish the full chemotherapy 

treatment in August and then I was put on maintenance treatment starting August. Which is a very very small dose of chemo and some other medicines and I would be on this for about a year and a half. My disease numbers have gone down so much. However, my kidney function has not changed at all.  That the doctors and I thought maybe they would come to better functioning but unfortunately the damage is irreversible.

 

I met with my kidney doctor in October 2023 and decided that in January, he would revisit me and check my numbers talk to my oncologist and see if I could be put on the kidney transplant list. When I found out about the transplant I had to tell the military because I am still active duty. And they told me since I am getting the transplant I will have to be medically separated so I will have to find another career since this was my plan to retire at 20 years and I am currently only at 13.

 

Continuously I felt like my life was never going to get better. EVERYTHING WAS GETTING TAKING FROM ME. My hobby, fitness, health, marriage, job … everything.  I did find a home for my son and I to move to and I am now divorce, sad and still heartbroken but healing and staying as strong as possible.

 

I am currently seeing the kidney doctor again and he wants to wait a little longer to put me on the kidney transplant list and my oncologist is really happy with the way my disease numbers have gone down. The only thing they are afraid of is putting a new kidney in me and the disease coming back and killing the new one to. I still have a long road ahead of me but I am hopefully and I am thankful for all those that have stepped up and helped me in the hardest year and a half of my life.

 

I am also currently working with more of a holistic approach and change my diet to more of a raw and organic diet with more exercise and clean alkaline water. Trying to heal myself as much as I can natural and learn ways to then help others the same way. I am hoping to find ways to live with this disease so I can help others if they ever find themselves in my shoes.

 

Thank you so very much to the Carin Maclean Foundation for the incredible grant. It is going to help my son and I so much since there has been so much movement in our life especially with finances since it is only me working and trying to heal mentally and physically. But I am a fighter and will never give up. It could always be worse even when I have been living with a dark cloud over me for a while. However, there is always a rainbow after the storm.  

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