Help Dana Bartholomew Koman Fight Cancer

For: Dana Bartholomew Koman
Miami, FL
Organizer: Dana Koman
Help Dana Bartholomew Koman Fight Cancer (Dana Bartholomew Koman)
$16,817
of $10,000 goal
100% Complete
Raised by 145 donors

The Story

Life is a funny thing. Just when you think everything is finally settling into place, a curveball comes out of nowhere and knocks you off your feet.

Greg and I received our curveball on Dec. 4, 2015 when I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma breast cancer – something no person should ever, ever have to hear. Ten emotional, overwhelming and exhausting days later, I had a bilateral mastectomy, which is only the beginning in this long journey.

In a few shorts weeks, I am set to begin chemotherapy – a necessary evil to save my life, followed by 10 years of hormone suppressant therapy.

Since revealing my diagnosis to the world, women have come out of the woodwork – some close to my age – with their own cancer survival stories. I am amazed at how resilient the human spirit is and how much our mortal bodies can endure. And while I’m almost positive I will beat this thing forever, Greg and I found another struggle creep onto our plate – something that’s difficult to admit… Money.

Finances have become a challenge. While I have good health insurance, we are hemorrhaging our savings for copays, deductibles, physical therapy and fertility treatments, the latter of which is not covered by health insurance. 

Asking for money from friends, family and even complete strangers is the last thing we ever wanted to do. We’ve applied for financial assistance and grants as much as we can, but based on previous years’ finances – a time when Greg wasn’t a professional student and I wasn’t on short-term disability – getting approved has been difficult. 

Every day, someone, somewhere needs money or help in some way or another. Today I am telling you that I need your help. I wish I could run 1,000 miles or climb the highest mountain to earn a donation instead of straight up asking for one. But that isn’t realistic right now. But what I can promise you is that I will continue to live my life as a good, moral, optimistic and pay-it-forward type of person.

Greg and I have always believed in the innate good in other people – that not everyone in this world is bad. We have always believed in the basic principle of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

When this is all over, when I am healthy and strong and no longer going to the doctor two or three times a day, I pledge to donate any remaining funds to breast cancer research. And when I’m strong enough to run long distances and climb tall mountains, I know I will once again donate my time and resources to others in need, whether it be an organization or someone in my shoes where I am today – Greg and I will give back and pay it forward.

Please help us cover the costs of my mounting medical bills. Any amount would make a positive difference in my fight against breast cancer. 

(If you have any questions or want more information, please contact the Komans at [email protected]

Sincerely, 

Dana Bartholomew Koman

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on March 17, 2016

Posted on March 17, 2016

Good afternoon and happy Saint Patrick's Day!

It's been one week since my second chemotherapy. Sure enough, as members of my support group warned, the days following chemo become more difficult with each treatment. Although my nausea wasn't as bad as the first time (thanks to a new medicine), my exhaustion, body aches and some other stomach issues are worse. 


I also had the Neulasta shot the day after the second chemo. Neulasta is a medication to help promote white blood cell growth following chemotherapy, which in turn helps boost one's immune system, preventing infection or illness. As you may recall, 10 days after my first chemo, I was hospitalized because my white blood cell count was below 100 and I developed what is called a Neutropenic Fever associated with the abnormally low count. A normal person has a white blood cell count in the many thousands.


White blood cells are produced in one's bone marrow. Unfortunately with Neulasta, the cell production is greatly expedited and can cause extreme pain throughout the body -- especially in the pelvis, legs and ribs. Imagine a printing press operating on hyper drive to produce thousands of magazines a day when it normally produces 100. That's what's been happening inside my bones. Although the bulk of the pain has passed, it rendered me immobile for a time. 


The good news is the pain was worth the gain. Today my blood work showed my white count to be higher than 13,000, which is outstanding. If everything holds, I should be able to avoid the hospital this go around.


I'm fortunate in that I only need four rounds of chemotherapy. My mother endured six. I've met women my age who had seven, 12 or more. Granted, each case is unique and often the drugs are not entirely the same, but the process is debilitating none-the-less. 


While this phase of mine and Greg's lives is temporary, it's emotionally taxing at times. I have to keep reminding myself, "I'm halfway done." 


Each day I am reminded how loved Greg and I are. The cards from so many are taped throughout our living room walls. The gifts sent by some provide a variety of things, including support, distractions, sweet messages or funny notes. I know I may not write that much or update as often as I should, but every day my heart is full of gratitude for all that we've been given.


The temptation to be angry, cry or complain can be overwhelming. But the desire to be thankful for all the little things in life is something I like to think wins more often than not. For example, it was awful being laid up from the bone pain, but at least I had somewhere safe to lay, with a television and a dog who adores me. Yes, I am a bald cancer patient with good and bad days, but I'm also a survivor with a network of family and friends who continue to support me.


I challenge you to find the good in a bad or unfortunate situation today. Your car may break down, but at least you have a car that's gotten you this far. Maybe your boss is a mean person, but you have a job and can choose to live in joy. Whatever your plight, I encourage you to find the good. It'll make all the difference in the world.


Until I write again, thank you for all your support and well wishes. Greg and I are grateful more than you'll ever know.


Sincerely,


Dana and Greg

Posted on February 20, 2016

Posted on February 20, 2016

Dear family and friends,


I know it's been a while since my last update. Following the IVF egg extraction on Feb. 2, I developed severe medical complications that required me to be hospitalized for eight and a half days at South Miami Hospital. I entered the hospital on Friday, Feb. 5 until the 13 -- far longer than I ever imagined when we initially went to the ER. Although the stay was long and certainly scary, we were in good hands and I made a full recovery. 


Unfortunately, the hospitalization caused chemotherapy to be pushed back by one week and my return to work by another two. My hematology oncologist, Dr. K, assured me that a one-week delay would not impact any future prognosis of cancer reoccurrence. 


This past Thursday, Feb. 18, Greg and I entered Mount Sinai Hospital for my first chemotherapy treatment. While I was anxious and entering the unknown, the process itself was quite boring. Thanks to goodies sent by loved ones and strangers alike, Greg and I had plenty of things to keep our minds distracted during the day-long procedure. At one point, I even fell asleep, which was good.


Although my first chemo is over, I remain focused on hydration and good nutrition. As ironic as it sounds, the doctors want chemo patients to get the toxins out of the body as fast as possible -- and that's where hydration, nutrition and a little bit of sweat come into play. 


Without getting into too many specifics, I'd like to say that I'm doing much better than I thought! Aside from feeling a bit more tired than usual, I'm doing great. I've been to the gym both Friday and today and feel fine. I've walked the dog, gone to the park, ridden my bike and continue to live each day to the fullest.


I hope you're having a wonderful weekend, full of laughter and love. Hug your loved ones, hold them close, bring the dogs inside, brush the cat, hold hands and go back for seconds. Life is too short.


Love,


Dana

Posted on February 4, 2016

Posted on February 4, 2016

Hello friends and family!
That's it. I'm done. I officially quit cancer. Now who do I give my resignation letter to? If only it were that simple.
These were my thoughts last week that followed my port placement surgery. In case you're not familiar with a chest port (or chemo port, as it's more commonly known), it's a small station under the skin in my chest where doctors can access a central artery for blood or, more to the point, administer chemotherapy. 
Although surgery was not fun and I was in a fair amount of pain, I know the port is the right decision for me. Almost daily blood draws from my left arm vein and a few IVs later, I decided there is no way in you-know-what that I want to have chemo administered through my arm. The chest port makes it easier for me all around.
As you may know, I delayed my return to work by three weeks. Although it was a difficult decision to make, I know it was the right call. My arms continue to improve with physical therapy and the bulk of my appointments should be behind me after this week is over. Dealing with this diagnosis really is a full-time job.
Whenever I can fit it in, usually two or three times per week, I see an acupuncture specialist at the physical therapy clinic I attend. The severe nerve pain in my right arm is completely gone and I've regained a minuscule amount of feeling in the area above my elbow. My regular doctors are amazed and cannot believe how quickly and by how much my arm has bounced back! As you may know, a major nerve that controls feeling in my upper right arm and a small portion of my back was severed when all of the lymph nodes were surgically removed from that area. This often happens with cancer patients because the lymphatic system is submersed in tissue throughout your body. I am hopeful the feeling in my arm continues to come back. I know it's doubtful all the feeling would return, but I will take any improvement I can get.
The fundraiser continues to be the most wonderful and humbling experience to happen to us since this all began. Greg and I were able to complete a full cycle of costly fertility treatments, as well as get a jump on various medical bills, because of the fundraiser. Everyday, no matter what pain I experience, I thank the forces that be for the love and generosity of so many people. 
The egg retrieval took place Tuesday and an astonishing number of eggs were successful collected. Of those eggs, more than half were fertilized. In five days, we'll find out how many embryos matured to multicellular organisms to be frozen. My hope is we'll have a number of healthy pairs. 
My first chemotherapy begins Feb. 11. Thankfully, I won't be there alone. Greg and his mother, Barbara, will be by my side. My mom, Susan, will be here for the following two treatments and I'm sure one of our parents would return for the fourth. Either way, I am so blessed to have an amazing support system from Greg, my parents, our families and friends. Everyday I receive a card from someone thinking of me. While not required in any way, each card brings a huge smile to mine and Greg's face, and is added to my now-covered living room wall.
Although this journey is far from over, I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you so much for your messages and love. Whether it comes in written form or via good vibe, I'm feeling the love and hope you feel it in return.
Many thanks. 
Dana and Greg Koman

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