At 23 a majority of us see time as a safety net. We have the security of knowing we can make mistakes and ridiculous plans; we are allowed to be a little bit fearless. 23 is supposed to be about going out on your own, working hard to make your dreams come true and being somewhat carefree. Three days before my sister’s 23rd birthday on January 15th 2014 she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her goals and hopes and dreams were forcibly put on hold. Her college degree and job prospects became secondary to understanding her diagnosis and thinking about survival.
For those of you who do not know my sister, I should tell you, she’s amazing. Kelsey is one of the most unique, hilarious, and fearless people I’ve ever met. If she wasn’t my sister and forced to love me, I would want to be her friend. She is the kind of person who stands up for others without hesitating and organizes fundraisers in her spare time. She is an actress, a writer and comedian with an intense passion for art and film. She has excellent taste in music and is always planning her next adventure; Kelsey wants to see the world. At some point in our lives she stopped being just my sister and became a woman I admire.
At the end of January, just a few weeks after her diagnosis, Kelsey was told she needed to have a craniotomy before her tumor became inoperable. This surgery would remove as much of the 8 x 4 centimeter tumor as possible. She underwent a 7-hour surgery that came with warnings of cognitive deficits, personality changes and paralysis. She luckily came out of the surgery with minimal side effects, but left the hospital with incredible pain, over 50 staples in her head and a long road ahead.
Just as Kelsey was moving forward, feeling healthier and able to slowly walk around in public again she received the results of the biopsy taken during surgery. She was diagnosed with Stage 2 Anaplastic Astrocytoma, which in the past month has been upgraded to a Stage 3. This is an aggressive form of brain cancer. Kelsey’s new mission was figuring out how to fight her cancer. Today, she is juggling the opinions of numerous oncologists and sorting through lists of side effects and outcomes, armed with the knowledge that 50% of the tumor is still in her brain and possibly growing. In the future she may have more surgeries if the tumor grows. At the end of this month Kelsey will start radiation in combination with chemotherapy for a period of 6 weeks, then restart the chemotherapy for at least a full year.
At 23, Kelsey is now faced with insanely scary and complicated decisions that no one should ever have to make. She is still working, as much as she can, from home. However, student loans have come due and Kelsey is unsure how much, if at all, she will be able to work while going through periods of treatment. Our family has been traveling to see specialists in numerous cities, logging hours of time, miles and many extraneous expenses. Costs are building and there is no insurance for the daily needs of person (and her family) going through cancer treatment.
My sister has shied away from attention, refused pity and claimed to not be at all brave throughout her battle so far. She is finally asking for help. She will need emotional support throughout her journey, which has been present in droves, but she will also need financial support. Right now Kelsey needs to be allowed to focus on fighting and healing and she shouldn’t have to be afraid of bills. Our family is working as hard as we can to help my sister through this, but we need some help. Although we have insurance that covers many of Kelsey’s needs, there are limits. Not all of the high cost of chemotherapy and radiation will be covered and gene therapy is not covered. MRIs are costly and need to be conducted frequently to track tumor growth, often more than insurance allows. My parents are taking periods of family leave to better care for and support my sister. Please, please, please help support my sister in her battle whatever way you can. Every little bit helps.
Here is where your generous gifts will go:
- Medications not covered by insurance
- Non-FDA approved chemo drugs with participation of clinical studies
- Numerous travel expenses (lodging for out of state visits, gas mileage, etc.)
- Supplements – Holistic medicine, vitamins, calcium, etc.
- Groceries (staying healthy is sadly expensive)
- Co-Insurance and Co-Payments
- Salary missed (both Kelsey and our parents)
Again, thank you.