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My Cancer Circle

Story Project: Prayers for Patrick

by Kelly Conlan

In 2009 we were thrown a curveball. After the arrival of our 3rd child, Grace, my husband Patrick started feeling chest pain. He thought he pulled a muscle in his chest because he was feeling stabbing pain that didn’t cease. A couple weeks later he went to the doctor, and he was told he had a flu or chest infection. He was treated and was on his way. But the pain stayed. Finally one day while sitting at his Manhattan desk he decided to find a doctor near work so he could sneak out at lunch.

The doctor was extremely thorough and immediately ran a million different tests. That following Monday she had him come in first thing. She looked him square in the face and said he had a tumor. My husband was in shock. This was not supposed to happen to us.

He had a germ cell tumor, that was in operable due to the proximately to his heart. It was growing aggressively and needed to be treated immediately. At this point I realized our life was not going to be the same. But I didn’t have time to be scared or think too much about it. We just needed to get this cancer out of our lives!

The first thing I thought to do was look for online tools that could help organize my family’s busy schedule so I could care for my husband. Patrick decided he wanted to treat this as outpatient so that he could be home with our family. We lived in Long Island so our commute to Sloan Kettering was about an hour each way. Pat went in for chemotherapy for about six hours a day for five days straight, usually ending up hospitalized the following week or two — only to start everything all over again once he was feeling better. His clinical trial consisted of five cycles. Managing care for my husband in the hospital and taking care of my children was crazy. Then I found Lotsa Helping Hands. Using the site was great: we created a Community and it had everything I needed and more.

Our Community literally held my family up. Pat wanted to be home with us, and I wanted to be there with him at the hospital every day for his treatment. My friends and family in my Community basically did everything for us. When I got home at 8 p.m., there was a hot meal waiting for me, and my house was always clean. My daughter had been taken to ballet and Irish dancing classes, everyone was fed, and our laundry was washed and folded.

Outside of caring for my family, our friends and family loved this because they could see his progress, volunteer for an activity or just say hello. We found that some people were afraid to burden us with questions of Pat’s progress, but our Lotsa Community was a place where they could see what was going on without feeling like they were imposing. We had a section where people could post their own chemotherapy experiences, get information about direct blood donations for Patrick or just read his daily log. We soon had 200 members from all over the country!

About half way through this whole ordeal, I knew I had to get involved. I felt so fortunate to have had so many people reach out to us – some of them strangers – during our time of need. I wanted to help those who couldn’t help themselves or that didn’t have a support team like we did! And so it began. I formed a team called Prayers For Patrick. I used Lotsa to help keep everyone informed of events we were sponsoring and all of the companies that were so gracious to jump on board. Our entire Community joined in the fundraising efforts and within two months we had raised $17,000 in donations. Today, we continue to raise money in Patrick’s name so that someday we will only read about cancer in history books.

Today I am happy to say that Patrick is in remission and feeling great! I look at each and every day as a blessing, and I have learned to take one day at a time without sweating the small stuff – because believe me there is always someone else who has it worse.

Today I am able to take all that I have learned in a time of such uncertainty and help other people that are in the same boat. In my position now I work with Caregivers and Patients in treatment and help make their lives a little easier so that they can fight their battle. I walk into work everyday with a big smile on my face and believe I can make a difference in someone’s life.

If it were not for Lotsa I honestly do not know what we would have done — I was able to care for my husband and be there emotionally and physically while my children were being cared for by a Community filled with friends and family. One of the most amazing things that happened during that time was that there were so many people that we didn’t know too well who stepped up to lend a hand and have now become lifelong friends.

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