By Melinda Lopez
I was recently a 44 year old single women living in Seattle, WA, living my dream as a flight attendant. I had just started a new job at Sky West and life was full of excitement for my future! One morning I noticed my breast had changed — it looked different. I didn’t have health insurance yet since I had just started my new job and hadn’t worked enough hours to afford my own coverage, so I asked my closest confidant, my sister, what to do. She found a clinic where I could get a free mammogram and I thought I would just take the precaution and get it done. Little did I know the results would be devastating — stage 3B aggressive Paget's disease which is a very rare form of breast cancer. Breast cancer did not run in my family so I never thought I would be at risk. The diagnoses hit me like a ton of bricks. My life as I knew it changed overnight, and my future and dreams to travel the world, specifically to Australia and the Philippines this year, were put on hold. Because of the intensive treatment plan, I was unable to continue my new job, which meant I would have no money for monthly living expenses. I was beyond stressed and scared.
That’s when my sister stepped in to start a Plumfund as a way for family and friends to help support my long road to recovery. She wanted to give me the gift of freedom to completely focus on fighting the disease.
My treatment plan has consisted of months of chemotherapy, a full mastectomy and radiation five days a week for six weeks straight. I will also require reconstructive surgery and will end up with total hair loss. It is expected to take approximately one year to get through the treatment plan, but I will also have many follow up appointments for years to come.
The contributions and messages I have received from friends, family, co-workers — even strangers — have meant the world to me. My sister has brought everyone I know together in one forum where they can donate money, leave messages and read updates about my condition and progress. Their messages of hope and love have helped me survive the beginning months of treatment. I am very grateful for their generosity and kindness.
My hometown community in Fresno, California, where I was born and raised, has also been very supportive. Recently, as a kick off to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my sister and friends organized a community fundraising event for me called "Bras off Against Cancer," where they auctioned off one-of-a-kind bras modeled by my friends. The event included entertainment by local bands and a raffle where local businesses donated gift baskets and gift certificates. Everyone, even people that I have never met before, came together to help raise money for my cause. It was a magical night.
Currently, to further take the financial strain off, I have moved to Nevada where my family lives. I am awaiting surgery for a full mastectomy, with radiation and reconstructive surgery to follow. I am scared to have the surgeries and I don’t want to lose my breast, however the surgeon told me the only way to get rid of Paget’s disease is to remove the entire breast. While I have been blessed with the support of my “village,” I have a long road ahead of me — I have to undergo several more months of treatment, I’m awaiting disability benefits and I’m not sure how I’m paying next month’s bills. I am hopeful, through the Plumfund page, that I can reach and surpass my $5,000 goal. I am very worried about my future, but hanging on until I can return to what I love to do – fly and travel the world as a flight attendant. I know I will beat this!
This post is part of a series produced by Plumfund, in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. In the series, we'll feature inspirational stories of giving and receiving from users and friends of Plumfund, the free crowdfunding site. You'll find one post every week in November leading up to Giving Tuesday. To learn more about this campaign or start your own, visit Plumfund.com.