A message from Erica:
Hello everyone! Thank you for everything you’ve done for my family and me! Your support during these long weeks has helped me to keep focused on fighting. I’m humbled by all of the ways you’ve shown your love…..through visits to me in the hospital and at home, cards with encouraging words, delicious meals and desserts prepared for my sisters and Bill, thoughtful gifts of everything from warm robes to stuffed bears, and amazingly generous gifts of money to help with my medical bills. I’ve also enjoyed the outings to the salon and the incredible fundraising events held throughout Merrimack and around the country. I want to beat this cancer and go on to help other young people in my position. Thank you again for your love and support. My Mom (Lisa), Bill, Katherine, and Jacqueline all sincerely appreciate all you’ve done for us!
Erica is a fighter! She underwent 27 radiation treatments at Nashua Regional Cancer Center during November and December. With great hope she went for a CAT scan in early January and learned that the liposarcoma tumor had actually swelled. (A liposarcoma is a malignant tumor that arises in fat cells in deep soft tissue. They are typically large bulky tumors, which tend to have multiple smaller satellites extending beyond the main confines of the tumor.) The oncologist, Dr. Butrynski, and thoracic surgeon, Dr. Wee, conferred and decided to remove the tumor, now the size of a large orange, as soon as possible. The surgery was scheduled for 16 January 2009. Erica was frightened of the surgery because there was a possibility that a section of her aorta would need to be removed due to the way the tumor was growing in that area. If this were the case, there was a risk of paralysis. The thoracic surgical team, alongside a cardiac surgical team, prepared for the surgery that would last 10 hours. At 5:22pm, Erica’s Mom and family received the wonderful news! The tumor was successfully removed and no part of her aorta was affected. The thoracic surgical team lifted the tumor off of the aorta, removed a section of her esophagus and lungs, repaired the area, and declared her to be cancer free. Erica and her family were ecstatic!!
Erica returned to her Mom’s house in Merrimack to recover. She was very uncomfortable at first, but her health slowly started to improve. It was a good day when she was able to swallow her first solid food. But within about five weeks, Erica started to feel uncomfortable. With advice from the doctors and nurses, her Mom tried to tweak the formula she was being fed through a stomach tube thinking that it was just causing Erica to feel nauseous. The unusual thing was that Erica’s stomach started to grow larger and feel hard to the touch. Her Mom took her to the emergency room at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua, and the consensus was that Erica was just experiencing bloating from the formula and foods she was eating. The pain did not decrease, so her Mom called Dr Wee and he told her to drive Erica to Boston immediately.
Erica arrived At Brigham and Women’s Hospital and was sent for a new CAT scan. The results were a true shock. A new tumor the size of a football had developed in just six weeks in Erica’s lower abdomen. Everyone was in total disbelief and even her doctors said they had never seen a tumor advance this quickly in a patient thought to be cancer free. So to fight the cancer cells that were believed to now be traveling through her blood stream, the decision was made to start Erica on chemotherapy.
Erica’s first session was awful, but her Mother never left her side. She felt very sick and had days when she just wanted to give up. Despite the discomfort, Erica insisted on getting out of bed and walking with minimal assistance around the nurse’s station. Erica ran a fever for nearly two weeks and the doctors did not want to release her until she was able to go without a fever for 24 hours. This was a very difficult time because Erica believed she would feel better faster if she could just get out of the hospital and recover at home. Even a few of the nurses agreed that allowing Erica to go home would help her attitude tremendously.
Erica’s Mom stepped in and decided to take matters into her own hands. She asked to be taught how to handle Erica’s pic lines for her IV nutrition, antibiotics, nausea meds and continuous pain meds, as well as her J Tube for nutrition and health products. She watched every action the nurses performed and asked them to teach her how to check for infection. Everyday Lisa asked the doctors to allow her to take Erica home, based on the fact that she was confident now to handle Erica’s lines and that a nurse would stop by everyday to check on her. Finally, after three weeks, Erica’s fever stabilized, the approval was given, and Erica was wheeled out of the hospital for a week of recovery at home.
The second session of Chemo was not as difficult as the first and Erica felt strong enough to return home within a couple of days. But what was hard was watching her beautiful dark brown hair fall out. She decided to go ahead and shave her head rather than lose it slowly. A few of her friends and family sent her beautiful scarves to wear plus a local salon helped her with purchasing a wig.
Erica is at home and welcomes any messages of encouragement. She is determined to fight this cancer and get back on her feet to start her life again. It is unknown at this time if Erica will need surgery again or if the chemotherapy will be enough to kill the tumor.
Thank you for the unconditional love and kindness you have shown Erica and her family during Erica’s Fight!
Please send cards and letters of encouragement to:
6 Railroad Drive
Merrimack, NH 03054