***Anna and Patrick would like to keep this page private. Out of respect for Anna and Patrick, please DO NOT share on social media. If you would like to share with someone, please do so privately. Feel free to contact Catherine if you have questions.***
Anna’s Story - The Short Version
For those who don't know her story, our sister Anna was diagnosed with stage III triple negative breast cancer in October 2019. This came as a shock as she lives a very healthy lifestyle. It has been a long eight months of treatment, including meetings with many doctors and health professionals, as well as eight rounds of chemotherapy, scans and testing. At this point, her tumors have responded to the neoadjuvant chemotherapy and have shrunk. A unilateral mastectomy with complete axillary lymph node dissection was completed on May 26, 2020 in Evanston, Illinois. Anna still needs radiation, reconstruction, and continued preventative care, which may include additional chemotherapy or immunotherapy drugs. Given the extent and advanced nature of her disease, MD Anderson in Houston, Texas is where Anna will receive radiation for six weeks. Significant financial costs have accrued and will be ongoing. Many of these expenses have not been covered by insurance and she has been unable to work since her diagnosis of cancer. With the current pandemic, and Anna’s severely compromised immune system, it is important that we find a safe way for Anna to travel to receive the necessary treatment. Anna recognizes that she could not have made it this far without the support of her family, friends and neighbors. Sometimes it takes a village. Please help us raise money for her continued medical expenses.
The Full Story - the longer version for those that would like more detail
Discovery and Diagnosis
In August 2019, Anna discovered a lump in her left breast. In her proactive nature, she called the doctor the next day and scheduled an appointment. A mammogram was ordered and it was determined that the lump that Anna was concerned about was a cyst, and it was NOT cancer. She was told she could either have the cyst aspirated or simply return in a year for another screening. Trusting her intuition, Anna called to schedule for the cyst to be aspirated. On October 28, 2019, Anna had an appointment for what she thought was a simple procedure, to get the cyst aspirated. However, during the procedure the doctor stated that the area of concern looked suspicious and they would need to take tissue (a biopsy) to confirm whether or not the mass was cancerous. Two days later, on October 30, 2019, Anna received a call that confirmed the “cyst” was in fact cancerous. As a healthy 38 year old, Anna was shocked. She is a mother of two smart, beautiful daughters. Anna runs, works out, coaches her daughter’s soccer teams with her husband Patrick, has volunteered as a coach for Girls on the Run, is a teacher’s assistant at a school serving children with severe emotional impairments and behavioral issues, and, overall, leads a very healthy lifestyle. While this news was shocking, the news that followed was devastating. Initially, Anna’s doctors told her it was probably stage I cancer, which would require a simple surgery to remove the affected area and possibly radiation. However, with additional testing and imaging, the diagnosis evolved into stage III triple negative breast cancer. Only 10-15% of breast cancer diagnoses are triple negative. This type of breast cancer is very hard to treat due to the lack of hormone receptors on the cells. It responds to traditional chemotherapy only 50% of the time. Additionally, imaging revealed the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and there were several tumors in her left breast.
Instead of waiting for doctors to advise, Anna and Patrick feverishly started researching her diagnosis and various options. Researching and beating cancer became their life. Anna and Patrick have poured their energy, time, and love into beating this diagnosis. It has become their full time job. Their research led them to two places. One is the Integrative Cancer Treatment Center in Skokie, Illinois, located about three hours from home. This is where Anna receives vitamin infusions, as well as chemotherapy which started in December 2019. The other location is MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. This is where Anna enrolled in a clinical trial specifically designed for triple negative breast cancer patients to monitor the impact of chemotherapy.
Since December 2019, Anna and Patrick have traveled to Skokie, Illinois for eight rounds of chemotherapy and have also traveled to Houston, Texas four times to participate in the clinical trial.
Luckily, Anna has had an excellent response to chemotherapy. Her tumors have shrunk. On April 29, 2020, she completed her last round of chemotherapy (a very welcomed milestone as the side effects of chemo are not glamorous or easy to endure). While her prognosis at the start looked discouraging, she was and is determined to have a bright future. However, their efforts to do so have not come without costs. While the chemotherapy drug costs were covered by insurance, cancer treatment is still really expensive. For example, each time she goes for chemotherapy they incur around $2,500 out of pocket costs. There has been great progress, but this chapter is not quite done . . .
The next steps for Anna are to recover from surgery at home in Holland, Michigan. The surgery at Northwestern University Hospital in Evanston, Illinois went well. She had a unilateral mastectomy with all axillary lymph nodes removed on May 26, 2020. The good news is that the Pathology Report from surgery showed that there was no cancer remaining in the breast tissue that was removed and that only one of the ten lymph nodes that were removed had a 0.3cm area of the disease.
After recovering from the surgery, Anna will be spending six weeks in Houston, Texas at MD Anderson from July through August to receive radiation treatment under the care of one of the top radiation oncologists in the country. She will need to arrange travel and lodging for herself and her family. Anna is considered to be severely immunocompromised, and given the current pandemic, travel to and from Houston for herself and her family will have to be non-commercial.
Anna will also continue to receive nutritional IV’s six times a year at the integrative cancer center in Skokie, Illinois for the foreseeable future.
Hope for the Future
Anna and Patrick’s efforts have completely turned Anna’s prognosis around. In the longest eight months of our lives, we have witnessed our sister take a stage III cancer diagnosis and, according to recent imaging, nearly eradicate it. Thanks to so many, she has come so far since the diagnosis in October. Even though Anna has made remarkable improvements, there is still work to be done to ensure the cancer does not come back. Please help us support Anna in her final chapter of her cancer journey. We are hoping to raise funds to cover what Anna and Patrick have already had to pay out of pocket, as well as what expenses will come in the next twelve months.
Anna’s vision for the future is to bring hope, love, and support to others. She has walked this journey with grace and strength. Anna is determined to not only beat this disease, but to also help others based on what she has learned. Anna has been working diligently on documenting her journey so that she may bring light and love to others during their time of darkness. She is hoping that her experiences and choices will educate and encourage others on the same journey.
Please help us raise money for our loving, compassionate, inspirational sister.