About this fundraiser

My cancer story does not begin with simply cancer. It begins months before I ever thought about that word. In September 2021 an undiagnosed infection caused me to go into preterm labor and give birth to my daughter Georgia, at 17 weeks. Stillborn.

Nothing prepares you mentally or physically to bury a child and as the weeks passed from losing our Georgia, my physical wellness seemed to sink as I fought so hard to keep my mental health, above water.

In April of 2022, my gynecologist began discussing testing to delve into my new, yet severe anemia and off-the-chart lab results. Aside from being colonized with Group B Strep, I had never had any other testing done at 32 years old. He mentioned genetic testing for various cancers and I immediately agreed. My mother's family has a long history of cervical/ uterine and stomach cancers while my father's family held a strong breast cancer gene .. Labs and swabs were taken.

Then, I waited. I waited and called and followed up. Nothing. No one could find my test results..

Finally, after 4 months, I got a call to come into the office in August 2022. After apologizing for losing my results, my Dr. Reviewed them with me. He explained I was positive for BRCA genes and that according to the pages attached, my genes had mutated and cancer was forming. That my likelihood of fighting breast cancer in the next 5 years was 3 times the normal rate.. Waiting and treating what formed was the typical option. More invasive, was removing the tissue now.

I am the divorced mother of 2 stepdaughters whom I raise ( 10 &12) then have my biological 8yr old daughter, a 3 yr old son and just buried my last baby... I am the breadwinner and baker. If it happens, mom makes it happen. Every school event, church event, fundraiser, and barrel race, it's Me.

I'm self-employed as a mail carrier on a highway contract route for the USPS.. So no benefits or sick leave...

In 5 years, who is going to take care of my children while I undergo treatment? Who's going to pay my bills? In the last 5 years, my life turned completely upside down, I refuse to allow that to happen in another 5.

"Bilateral Mastectomy. Yes, I'm sure."

Referrals and appts were arranged and in January 2023 I had my hysterectomy. 2 months later on March 8th, I underwent my nipple sparing bilateral Masectomy..

I planned for my children to stay with their father for 2 weeks, and I planned to be out of work for 2 weeks. I planned to pause, for 2 weeks.. Then, I woke up from surgery..

Home the next day, back to the hospital in 3.. Nerve trauma from drain placement and expanders landed me in severe pain. Pain that turned out to be a blessing! While reviewing a CT of my chest, Dr.s found pulmonary embolisms in my right lung. Never in my life had a blood clot. Til now. Another 4 days in the hospital for treatment and monitoring.. now almost 4 weeks out from surgery I am still sporting My drains and now have developed a necrosis-style wound under my left nipple due to my skin being so extremely thinned after the tissue was removed. This open wound along with sore, prolonged drain placements and reaction to medications have kept me from being able to work at all. Being able to hold my son, and carrying my groceries and the medication to help the pain, keeps me from driving. I feel completely useless, a complete burden..2 weeks. I made this decision to protect my children from seeing me go thru treatment and surgery within their next 5 years, so I planned.. 2 weeks.. Now, at 4 weeks, we are looking at 6 weeks before I can return to work..

I am from a very small town here in West Virginia where poverty is not an income base but rather just a way of life. The two weeks I planned to be off work were the only savings I had and though I am very thankful for the help from my ex-husband with helping care for our children, the childcare, and household bills are quickly adding up. We live a modest life. $43k as my annual income is enough to sustain us as long as I am healthy and can work all year.. With every week I am off working for complications, that income suffers.. Meanwhile, children keep growing, new shoes need to be bought, new sports need to be financed and life must carry on..

I feel so blessed, and so fortunate that my cancer could be caught so early. That my life could be spared with such screening. I feel like I won the jackpot when it comes to cancer detection! Just the same, I feel so guilty for the added expenses that my winning, is costing my family.. the weekly 3 hr drive to Dr visits, the added lodging and such.. My children ask about taking our 1st family vacation this year and doing adventures this summer! I listen with heartbreak because the funds are not there for such.. I will be fortunate to build my savings back to enough for school clothes by this fall.. I want so badly to give them the cancer/ sick mom-free style vacation they daydream of!

Cancer didn't cost me my life and for that, I praise God daily!

But daily, Cancer certainly costs...

Organized by

Joanna Fullen

Frankford, WV, USA