Come On Eileen – Bravelets

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Come On Eileen

Posted on April 21 2014

Come On Eileen
Thank you Tricia Chasinoff for creating the Come On Eileen Fundraiser website and sharing Eileen's story.

Eileen Sweeney is a beloved 5th grade teacher from Wellington, FL.  She is 32 years old and fighting stage 4 colon cancer.  Her local doctors have told her that 2 years is "optimistic".  She has the opportunity to receive treatment at Envita Medical Center in Scottsdale, AZ.  Envita combines cutting-edge, genetically-targeted chemotherapy with integrative therapies like IV nutrition and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  The physicians at Envita believe they can offer Eileen far more than 2 years and even believe that remission is possible. Their amazing success stories support this belief, and Eileen intends to be one of them.

This treatment will cost Eileen and her husband approximately $90,000 out-of-pocket.    Please donate, and help give Eileen the best possible chance at survival.

Here is Eileen’s story in her own words:

I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, and a teacher.   I am 32 years old.

I want to live.  I want to live longer than my dogs.  I want to live long enough to grow old with the only man I’ve ever loved.  I want to see my nieces grow up and fall in love.   I want to watch my students change the world.

I had only been married for a year when I was hospitalized for a GI bleed on May 31st, 2012. When I arrived at the ER that Friday night, I had no idea how dramatically my life was about to change.  I felt fine – I had not been in any pain or had any indication that something was wrong.  My husband and I had spent the prior weekend camping with friends in the Ocala National Forest.   It was surreal to be in a hospital, getting a blood transfusion.    

I was diagnosed with colon cancer that weekend, and had an immediate colon resection.  We all prayed that the cancer was caught early, and we were devastated to learn that there were 3 masses on my liver.  I was 31 years old and I had stage 4 metastatic colon cancer.

I missed the last week of school with my students.  I wasn’t there to celebrate with them at their big dance, and I wasn’t there to beam with pride during the awards ceremony.   Instead, I was getting ready to start chemotherapy and begin to fight for my life.

I made it through that summer of chemo and was able to return to school in the fall.  I was teaching 5th grade that year, and that group of students was particularly special to me.  I began my career at Wellington Elementary as a kindergarten teacher, and over the years, also taught 1st and 2nd grades.  Many of my 5th graders that year had also been my students in kindergarten and 2nd grades, meaning I had been their teacher for 3 of their 6 elementary school years.  It was an honor and a responsibility I didn’t take lightly.  The kids knew about my cancer diagnosis, as I would need to leave work for chemotherapy. Some of my students were afraid, because they had relatives who had died of cancer. I told them there was no reason to be afraid – I told them they were going to see their teacher “live of cancer.”

After consultation with Moffitt Medical Center, it was decided that I was a candidate for surgical removal of the tumors in my liver. That surgery was scheduled to take place in December.  In the months before surgery, I underwent radiation to shrink the tumors as much as possible.  The radiation had limited success, and a scan just prior to the surgery indicated that the cancer had continued to spread.   In light of that news, my doctors determined that in addition to the removal of the right lobe of my liver, a hysterectomy and the removal of the gall bladder would also be necessary. I had surgery on December 27th, 2012 and spent 3 weeks in the hospital.

I was able to return to work in February, while continuing chemotherapy for the remainder of the school year.  It was a joy to watch my students grow and thrive, and I was so happy to be able to help guide this beloved group of students through their last months of elementary school.

I finished chemotherapy in May and had an amazing start to my summer.  In June, a federal grant allowed me to travel to Boston to participate in a program called “Teaching American History.” American history is my passion. I love to inspire my students with the story of our country.  Because I am such a history nerd, Jason (my husband) and I also went to Washington D.C. that summer.  I love Washington D.C. -- I co-chair the safety patrol club at my school and have always chaperoned the annual trip, but I had never had the opportunity to go on my own.  This trip with my husband was planned as a celebration of the end of my cancer treatment.

I had another recurrence of cancer to the liver in July. I started a new school year (a teacher’s life is always measured in school years) in August, but was scheduled for another liver surgery in November. This surgery was easier but I had several complications, and was hospitalized two more times. Fortunately, I was able to spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family. We rang in the New Year in Orlando and enjoyed a New Year’s Day touring the world in Epcot.

A follow-up scan in February indicated another recurrence. This time the diagnosis was more severe. The cancer had once again recurred in my liver, but this time there was new spread to my lungs. Surgery is no longer an option due to the extensive metastasis.   My doctors are telling me that 2 years would be “optimistic”.

I refuse to accept that I will not live to be 35 years old or celebrate my 5th wedding anniversary.

Chemotherapy is cumulative. That means that every time I resume it feels like it never stopped. Round one in July of 2012 wasn’t so bad. Round one in March 2014 feels like round 20. My hair has started to fall out, and for the first time I feel like I have cancer.

The doctors at Envita are on the cutting-edge of cancer research and treatment.  No other cancer center in the country is doing what they are doing, and most importantly, no other cancer center is seeing the kind of results they are seeing.  They are confident they can offer me more than 2 years.  They believe remission is possible.    The proposed treatment plan at Envita gives me hope that I might grow old with my husband, and that I might see my amazing students change the world.

The success stories at Envita are inspiring.  I intend to be one of them.
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