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Stage 4 Cancer Survivor Chooses Life Refuses to Give Up

Stacy Alexander, a home schooling super Mom of eight, was admitted to the ER On January 21, 2012 and on January 25th she was diagnosed with stage 4 Esophageal Adenocarcinoma which had spread to her lymph nodes and liver. This diagnosis was bleak. The tumor was HER2 positive meaning that it was overproducing a growth factor that made the cancer especially aggressive and it was also inoperable. A Cancer Treatment Centers of America study showed that only 6% of patients with this diagnosis survive 2 years and only 3% survive 5 years or more. Walt, Stacy's husband, who is a travelling data warehousing consultant was faced with the very real possibility that he would be raising their 8 children alone. 

Even though this diagnosis was devastating Stacy and Walt along with their family and friends rallied in prayer and support as she began chemo therapy. Stacy responded very well to the chemo and after 8 months a miracle had occurred the cancer was in remission.They had no idea that God had yet another miracle in store for them. Two months after the completion of treatment Stacy and Walt found out they were pregnant. This would be their 9th child. They were faced with a stark choice. Stacy could not receive any additional diagnostic PET scans to monitor the status of the cancer nor could she receive any additional treatment during the pregnancy without putting her baby at risk. The other option was to abort her baby to minimize risk and Stacy refused to consider it a possibility. She chose life and successfully delivered a healthy baby boy on July 3, 2013 at the young age of 44. The first follow up scan showed that the remaining spot on her liver had shrunk during her pregnancy and that she was cleared of the disease.

Everyone was elated at Stacy's recovery and the blessing of the new baby but during the fight finances had lapsed as they tried to balance the costs related to the medical treatment with the costs of maintaining their large family during the cancer treatment. On October 23rd Stacy received a notice that 170k balance on a loan they had taken out during her treatment had matured and was due in full. Faced with this new challenge Stacy wrote the following on her blog.

"Well, look on the bright side - at least I am still alive to get the notification!!!  We are being challenged as our credit has taken a hit due to the medical bills and cost associated with travelling to and from treatment facility.  We are a family of 11 and the basics of everyday life are expensive especially when multiplied by 11.  We have done so well to date and it saddens me to write this but I feel it is my responsibility to do what I can to help provide for my family - if you would kindly pray that we find a suitable solution to solve our financial needs in regard to housing it would be most appreciated.  Prayer is powerful and we have great faith that our needs will be met.  We worked so hard to provide for our family and my illness took a toll on our financial well-being. "

Stacy and Walt had just finished one fight when they were faced with the reality of dealing with the financial aftermath.This is not uncommon. Fighting cancer can take a tremendous financial toll. A study led by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that “Cancer patients are two and a half times more likely to declare bankruptcy,”. 

Life was just getting back to normal both financially and otherwise with the cancer fight starting to recede into memory when on Friday August 1st, 2014 Stacy and Walt received bad news. It was the news that every cancer survivors dreads. The cancer had returned. 

Walt sent out the following update to friends and family.

"The cancer that Stacy was cured of almost two years ago has come back. We do not know the extent of it yet, but have testing planned to determine this, so we can figure out a strategy for attacking this.The doctors banded together very quickly and stressed addressing this aggressively as soon as possible.This has taken us by surprise and we are still trying to digest this."   

Stacy's doctors determined the the cancer that had returned was localized in her stomach and that after initial treatments with chemo to help shrink the tumor that she would need to have all or part of her stomach removed. The surgery was scheduled for October 6th, 2014. 

Stacy checked in for the surgery at 6 am with Walt by her side. The surgery took nearly 7 hours during which the surgeons performed a subtotal gastrectomy leaving her slightly more stomach than a gastric bypass patient and removed 21 lymph nodes two of which tested positive for cancer.

The remaining spot on her liver was removed using Radio frequency ablation and thankfully turned out not to be cancerous.

Stacy posted this concerning her most recent PET scan on

Nov 20 2014. 

So as far as results go - it was all clear EXCEPT a "new area of metabolic activity in vague hypodensity within the dome of the liver - suspicious, although not definitive, for metatastic lesion." Personally, I think it is showing the stress and trauma my liver experienced during the recent RFA and surgery. The portion of my liver that was removed during RFA was suspicious and proved to be non-cancerous. I believe my liver is in healing mode.

Nonetheless, the local oncologist as well as the team at UMMC all recommend follow up chemo due to the 2 out of 21 nodes that tested positive during surgery. The adjuvant protocol is 6 months of chemo beginning January 12, 2015 - every other week for 12 rounds. 

Not exactly how I planned to start 2015 but it is what it is. I have to stay healthy and strong for me and my family! I will do what needs to be done. June 2015 cannot get here fast enough - wish I could fast forward to summer!!!

If you would like to provide support via either good will, prayers, or donations this holiday season you can do so at the following links. It will be greatly appreciated.

Team Alexander - #faithbasedplan

https://www.facebook.com/faithbasedplan

Walt & Stacy Alexander Fund

http://www.gofundme.com/alexanderfamily

Stacy and Walt Alexander live with their 9 kids in Decatur Tennessee. 

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