Meet our Recipient: Christine Wesoloski
I'd like you to meet one of our incredible warriors, Christine. She is currently battling Stage 4 Metastic Breast Cancer that has spread to her bones. She was kind enough to share her journey and her story with us. Please keep her in your prayers and take a moment to read her story below - she is truly one of the kindest and most inspiring people I have ever met. -- Melissa
Hi, my name is Christine Wesoloski. I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in February of 2007, right after Valentine's day. I can remember the doctor saying to me, "honey, didn't you realize you had this big lump?”. I told him "Of course I realized it!”, after all I had been telling the nurse practitioner, whom I had been seeing for well over 10 years, that I felt that there was something wrong for over a year. She kept telling me that my mammogram was normal, it was probably just a fibroid and nothing to worry about. It turns out that it was actually misread. (The radiologist apparently had misread numerous mammograms or other films & was let go) I had faith in these people and walked around for an entire year like that, despite returning several times and expressing my concern. Finally, I was referred to Dr. Bruce Weiner, who immediately performed a very painful needle biopsy in his office. I had no clue what was going on - I’m very thankful for comfort of the two nurses holding me during the procedure.
Four days later for the results, which were positive for breast cancer. I didn't even cry. The doctor told me it was normal to cry. I just said, "I don't have time for this BS. Let's get started, what do we do first?”. He smiled and told me I was going to be just fine. Within three weeks I had numerous tests, bloodwork and dental work and and I was scheduled to have a port put in & start chemotherapy. My surgeon and the oncologist met and went over my case together. They felt it would be better for me to have chemotherapy first, in an attempt to shrink the tumor, then decide on a partial or full mastectomy.
I started chemotherapy on March 5, 2007. I received a mix of 3 different medications, Taxotere being one, a steroid and one other medication. They would also give me an entire IV bag of Benadryl. I would bring a book, crossword, magazines, snacks, etc. to my treatments and I would, without fail, be sound asleep 5 minutes into the treatment. I had 6 treatments, 3 weeks apart. I didn't start losing my hair until after my second treatment. It was so itchy so I kept getting my hair cut shorter and shorter. The one day my head itched so bad because the hair was falling out, so I had a friend go into the bathroom with me & we put packing tape on it to pull the loose hair off. We were laughing so hard that a crowd had gathered outside of the bathroom! After that, I had her use clippers to buzz my hair, then I had my brother shave it. Surprisingly, it didn't bother me at all to lose my hair. I was just so focused on fighting the disease and shrinking the tumor. I would use positive affirmations, positive visualization and meditation everyday. After 6 rounds of chemotherapy, the tumor had shrunk a considerable amount. It was decided that the surgeon would do a partial mastectomy instead of a full one. They convinced me it was the best way to go. I should have stuck to my gut instinct.
I had surgery to remove the tumor in July, then had a month of rest before starting radiation treatments. I underwent SO many radiation treatments, everyday, for weeks. It was so awful that I can't remember how many. My hair started growing back and was so cute! It was super short and came back in wavy. I worked the entire time I was fighting for my life, except for a couple days after treatment if I felt sick. I took naps every day on my lunch break, either on the floor in someone's office or in my car. I felt so nauseous. All I wanted were cheese burgers and milk shakes but in reality, I mostly ate crackers and ginger ale. The days I stayed home, I still made sure I got up, showered & at least put clean PJ's on and did something. Even if it was just to walk around the block or to the corner & back.
I have never felt such fatigue in my life before. I was always tired but because of the steroids I couldn't sleep at night. I finished up my radiation treatments & had a month of rest again before having 4 more chemotherapy treatments which started back up the day after Christmas. Again, I lost all my hair. This time I didn't waste time, I just had my friend cut it as short as she absolutely could, then I had my brother shave it again. It's no fun being bald during the winter with freezing temperatures. I am very lucky though: I have a perfectly shaped head with no weird bumps or anything. Thank you, mom!
After my chemotherapy treatments were done (10 in all), I had another month or so off before having reconstructive surgery on my right breast, to match it to the smaller size that my left breast was. After all of that, I was put on a hormone blocker to keep the estrogen levels down. After a year or so with no changes, I was considered to be in remission. I continued to see the oncologist every 3 months, then every 6 months. I would have bloodwork, mammograms, bone scans & CT scans every few months. I was thrilled at every milestone that I made. Every year I would get a special bead to put on a breast cancer bracelet. FIVE YEARS clear, I was ECSTATIC.
In the back of your mind though, every little pain or ache scares the daylights out of you. I made it a few more years, and I got a little lax about making my checkups exactly every 6 months. My dad suffered a heart attack and I was so focused on him. My mom was then diagnosed with uterine cancer and required a hysterectomy. I also had an elderly Grammy, whom I loved & adored so much, and needed extra care and help. So, I let my own health be put on the back burner. I worked for an agency that has 12 hour shifts where you sit 90%of your day on very uncomfortable chairs and don't get to move around too much. When I started having terrible pains in my lower back, pelvis & hips, I thought it was just from sitting so long in uncomfortable chairs at work. I went to a chiropractor for months trying to find relief. Then, I started getting the bone-weary fatigue again and I worried. While I was in bed one night, rubbing icy hot on my back, I felt a lump. It was 11pm and I picked up the phone as fast as I could to call my doctors office. They were closed so I left them a message that I needed to be seen the next morning, asap. They called the next day and had me come right in. Upon my exam, I was immediately sent to the hospital for stat tests to be done. I got a call the next day...."We need you to come back in…”. I knew it was back. If I didn't know then, I certainly did after seeing the Doctor's face. This time I cried a little. I was SO mad.
I made an appointment with my oncologist and had all the usual tests done again. On August 12, 2016, I was told that I had stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer that had spread to my bones. There is no cure for it. They can try to keep it from spreading any further, but it doesn't go away.
I was immediately started on oral chemotherapy and hormone blocking medications again. At this point, I was seeing my oncologist once a month. I had a bone biopsy done, which was awful! I woke up not once, but 2 times during the procedure. I decided to switch providers and go to Fox Chase for treatments. I have been SO much sicker than the first time I was diagnosed. Last year alone, I ended up in the hospital 9 times for cancer-related illnesses.
I was working this entire time. In excruciating pain and having extreme fatigue everyday. I had to ask my employer to put a cot in our locker room for me to nap on during my lunch break. It finally got to the point where I just couldn't sit for 12 hour shifts without being in terrible pain. I went on FMLA, then medical leave (each lasted 90 days). I filled out paperwork every 3 months to renew my request for approved medical leave. After working for this agency for 31 years, I was "let go” while out on medical leave with stage 4 bone cancer.
While I was out on medical leave I was put on disability, and had to file for SS disability. I was approved for that, but I don't receive enough to pay my monthly bills; for heating oil, electric, water, insurance, mortgage, etc., let alone the astronomical medical bills that I have been incurring. I try not to stress over all of this, and just take one day at a time. Stress just makes everything worse. So, one day at a time and I pay what I can on the bills. I pray so hard and I apply for assistance wherever I can. It is absolutely crazy, because even though I can't afford to pay these bills, they say I get “too much” to qualify for Liheap, medical assistance and I only get $15 a month in food stamps. It really is very discouraging.
It’s hard to explain how truly debilitating the pain is, and how you try to hide it from your loved ones, so they don't worry more than they already do…which is ALL the time. This disease changes you. I was a total warrior the first time I had cancer. (Stage 3 breast cancer) I pushed so hard through every single day to the next. I was bound & determined that I would beat it. My faith in God was very strong and I knew that he was listening and helping heal me, along with my terrific doctors. I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Weiner. They believed in me. They believed that I could do it, and I believed in them.
I know that God answers our prayers & that one day I will be “okay” again. In the meantime, I try not to sweat the small stuff. Although bills cause me a lot of anxiety, I don't let that rob me of happiness and hope. They'll always be there, so I take care of what I can, when I can & I try to make the most out of each day. Each and every day is truly a gift and I am so very grateful for each one.
A dear friend of mine, Kim Swoyer, had contacted me and asked if I would mind providing some details about what I had been going through, to perhaps receive help from a wonderful foundation through her workplace. I cried so many tears. I couldn't believe that people who didn't even know me were/are willing to help me. It has been so stressful just trying to make minimum payments so I don't get turned over to collections.
Through Kim, I have been introduced to your wonderful foundation, and to you. I am so very humbled that you want to, and are, willing to help. It means more to me than you will ever know. I just cannot adequately put into words how truly grateful I am and how much I truly appreciate it.
Thank you so very much for your kindness, compassion and generosity.
If you would like to make a donation directly to Christine, please note her name on the donation. Thank you for all of your support and generosity!