Dear Family, Friends, and Oprah Winfrey or other billionaires,
My sister is my best friend. She is the person I go to when I want to laugh or cry. She is the person I want to road trip with, complain to, laugh with until I cry, have help raise my children, celebrate special occasions with, share my scariest or funniest thoughts with, and just simply to hang out with. She is my person. She is simply the best. She always knows the right thing to say and she always knows how to have a good time and make my laugh until my stomach hurts. Her spirit is contagious and you just can't get enough of her. I always think about what life will be like when I'm an old lady and what I picture is my sister and I driving in a kick ass convertible laughing and road tripping, just like when we were in our 20's. I simply cannot think about my life without my sister right next to me.
Katie was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma in October, 2017. When I got that terrifying call from her when I was at work, I cried and I was really, really scared, but I didn't have any clue what my sister would be dealing with in the months to come. All I knew is that I would be by her side just like she has always been by mine.
Katie started having some vision changes a few months before her diagnosis. It took multiple eye doctor visits before she was diagnosed correctly. Just to give you some perspective, only 2,000 people a year are diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma in the United States. She was told she is 3 or 4 in a million. She started seeing weird flashes and what she describes as what looks like ceiling fans turning in her right eye. Her gut told her something was really wrong and she was terrified to find out what it was. The day she found out that she had eye cancer was one of the scariest moments of her life. The doctor gave her the cancer diagnosis in a room where she was alone and left her with the fear of the C word while he moved on to the next patient. Oh ya, he also told her she would most likely lose that eye. Nobody should ever have to be alone when a doctor diagnoses them with cancer. Nobody. At the time, her husband Phil was in Germany. As soon as he found out, he drove across Germany to catch a flight to get home to her as soon as possible.
My sister was told that to get the right treatment she would need to go see Dr. Skallet who is an eye surgeon that specializes in cancers of the eye at OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) in Portland. She would be the person who would give us all the answers and tell us what to do next. Dr. Skallet treats 5%-10% of all people diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma in the country. The next few weeks consisted of ultrasounds, CT's, and MRI's to determine the best course of action and to also see is the melanoma had spread to other parts of her body. The tumor in Katie's eye was considered to be medium to large size and right on the verge of being too large for radiation treatment. Dr. Skallet said that even though Katie's tumor was among the largest that she has ever treated with radiation she was 90-95% confident that radiation would get rid of her tumor. Thankfully, at this time there were no signs that the cancer has spread beyond the eye. The staff at the Casey Eye Institute at OHSU were amazing. They decided that they would work the week of Thanksgiving in order to squeeze Katie in to the surgery schedule to get her plaque radiation treatment done. Katie had plaque radiation surgically placed over her tumor the Monday before Thanksgiving (picture a gold bottle cap with radiation seeds all over it sewn in with stitches under the whites of your eye) and removed the Friday after Thanksgiving. Let me just say, I would not wish that 5 days on anybody. During the placement of the plaque the surgeon took a biopsy of the tumor and told us we will know in 4-6 weeks if this is the super aggressive type of Ocular Melanoma or the not so aggressive type. She was also told that because of the size of the tumor, it will probably be the more aggressive of the two. If is turns out that this is the aggressive type, 70-75% of the time the cancer will spread to the liver or somewhere else giving you a grim prognosis.
Katie just found out 6 days ago that she has the aggressive type of cancer (Ocular Melanoma Class 2.) What that means is that more likely than not, the cancer will spread to her liver, lungs, or brain at some point and there is no cure. If the cancer does indeed spread, her only hope is to prolong her life with various treatments, but there is no cure as of now. There are some clinical trials available that she has been researching and looking into. It's been a roller coaster ride of high's and low's. The support and the amount of love my sister has seen over the last 2 and 1/2 months has simply been amazing. She has made this world a better place and she has the people surrounding her that know it. Katie has lost vision in that eye and will eventually be blind in that eye due to the radiation. The stitches in her eye took about 5 weeks to dissolve. She is still sensitive to light and adjusting to her vision changes. Her eye is getting back to looking normal. She even wears makeup sometimes! If you know Katie, you know she loves her makeup! Katie is now living an extremely healthy lifestyle and reading everything she can get her hands to help make her body as strong as possible for this extremely difficult fight so she can live as much of this life as she can.
Please continue to share your love and support to my sister and my best friend. The love she has received from her husband, her family, her son Brendan, her step-daughter Reese, her mom and dad, her stepparents, her in-laws, her brother and her sisters, her nieces and nephews, her NIC college students, her clients, her OM support family, and her Facebook friends, has meant the world to her. Please continue to help her, pray for her, laugh with her, and cry with her. You all have meant the world to us.
I am sharing this with you to ask you for your help in raising $5,000 for the Ocular Melanoma Foundation to raise money for research and hopefully a cure for this awful type of cancer. My hope is that one day soon there will be a cure for Ocular Melanoma and with your help I think I is possible. The money, if you choose to donate, will go toward research efforts.
Katie is the strongest women I know. We have always called her a honey badger because she is the toughest chick around. She will fight like nobody's business. If anyone can deal with whatever awful things this rare cancer brings, its my sister.
I love you all. Thanks for reading and thank you for your help. It means more to me than you will ever know.
Elaina (more importantly Katie's sister)