Meet the six recipients for 2017.
We appreciate your prayers for all of them!
Recipient #1 – Robin Spurlin
First, I would like to thank Cancer Freeze Board for allowing me to be a 2017 recipient. Let me tell you a little about myself, Robin Spurlin. I am a former high school teacher who is now a stay-at-home wife and mom. My husband, Dennis, and I have been together since high school and have two sons, Will, who is a seventh grader at Opp Middle School, and Wes, who is a third grader at Opp Elementary School. I am active in both the elementary and middle schools PTOs and the Opp Bobcat Booster Club, as well as a board member for the Opp Chamber of Commerce and the Opp Cultural Arts Center. Back in 2015, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her cancer was estrogen+ and progesterone+. She had a bilateral mastectomy and was put on a drug called femara for five years. We talked about genetic testing for me and my sister, but I pushed it all to the back of my mind not wanting to find out if I carried any genes that may cause cancer. I really and truly believed that would be something I would deal with in 15-20 years. On February 23, 2016, at the age of 39, I was taking a shower and accidentally found a lump in my left breast. My heart pounded. I asked my husband to feel if it was really there or not. It was there. It was so pronounced I didn’t know how I hadn’t felt it before then. I was able to call my gynecologist the next morning and get an appointment for that day. I told him about my mother’s history, and since I would be turning 40 in April, he ordered me to have a mammogram. On March 8, I had my mammogram. After it was finished, I waited for it to be read to determine if I needed an ultrasound, which I did. The tech was super nice. She moved from the mass area to under my arm, and stayed in that location for a long time. It was at that moment I knew something was wrong. She left the room and came back with doctor. He sat down and told me the mass and a lymph node were extremely suspicious and I needed a biopsy right then. He also said he was 95% sure it would be cancerous. At that point, I didn’t hear anything else he said. I held my hands up and told the doctor to stop talking because I didn’t understand what he was saying, and asked them to go get my mom out of the waiting room. On March 11, my mom and I sat across from the nurse as she told me the mass was malignant and I had invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer. Cancer! How could this be?? I breast fed both of my boys, I was a nonsmoker, and I hadn’t yet turned 40. How? Why? Now I had to tell my husband. He works offshore and I would have to tell him over the phone that I had cancer. When I talked to him, I expected him to be upset, but he was strong. He told me that we were going to fight this together. He also told me we needed all the prayers we could get, it was time to let all of our friends and family know. The next three weeks I had an MRI and surgical consult with the general surgeon and plastic surgeon. As soon as I was diagnosed, I knew I wanted to have a bilateral mastectomy. Both the general surgeon and plastic surgeon agreed. On April 1, I had my mastectomy with tissue expanders, and sentinel node removal. On my way to my first expansion a week later, the general surgeon called to tell me my pathology results. I was stage 2 Triple Negative with micro-invasion of the sentinel lymph node with lymphovascular invasion present. This meant chemotherapy and radiation. I had it in my mind I would have the same treatment as my mom, so this was another moment I felt like my world had been taken out from under me. I’m not a crier, but I busted out crying when the plastic surgeon came in the room and asked me how I was doing. On April 19, I turned 40 and finally had my drains removed. Over the month of April, I would have expansions done once, sometimes twice a week. On May 4, I had my first chemo. The next week I cut off my hair, I didn’t think I could handle seeing my natural curly hair falling out. Then, after my second treatment, my hair started coming out by the handful, so I had it shaved off. Cancer was going to do a lot of things to me, but losing my hair was going to be on my terms. I had four adriamycin and cytoxan, a.k.a. “red devil”, treatments every other week, followed by weekly taxol treatments for 12 weeks. I finished my chemo treatments in October and am currently undergoing radiation. I was so mad when I was diagnosed. So much so, I quit praying. I would go to church, when I felt well enough to, and get angry. When people would tell me how strong I was, in my mind I would argue with them. But the love and support I received from my family, friends, church family, and community was so overwhelming. I had and still have so many people praying for me, it’s humbling. There is no way I could ever put into words appropriate enough to express how grateful I am. I have seen the love of Jesus through the actions of others. Now, instead of asking why this happened to me, I ask how I can help others. The statistics say that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It is so important for women to have their yearly check-ups, something I did not do, and get those mammograms and know how to self examine. Thank you for allowing me to share my story.
Recipient #2 Kevin Lee Crawford
Kevin Lee Crawford was born on August 9th, 2006, he is now 10 years old and in the 4th grade. He is a very respectful and loving young man. He attends Straughn Elementary school and is a starter on the peewee football team. Up until about 3 months ago, he’s always been very healthy with no question of any problems. All of a sudden he stopped eating and had no energy at all, everytime he ate or got hot he would throw up. He normally had a great appetite, and loved going to school and playing football so this was very unusual for him. We made several trips weekly to his doctor, and tried anything we could think of to get Kevin feeling better. After 3 weeks of going back and forth to the office, the doctor and I agreed that we had to get to the bottom of what was going on with him and get him better. So on that Monday morning, August 29th 2016 we were sent to our local hospital for labs and an abdominal ultrasound. We were instructed by the doctor to return to his office later that day to discuss the findings of the tests. Needless to say, less than an hour after leaving the hospital, the doctors office called telling me to come back immediately. Kevins white blood cell count was extremely elevated and his spleen was very enlarged. We were immediately sent by ambulance to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. They ran many test and confirmed Kevin’s diagnosis as Acute Lymphoblastic TCell Leukemia. The treatment plan is 3 years of intense chemotherapy which makes his immune system so depressed that at times that he can’t even leave home or be around anyone that could possibly be sick. He cannot return to school for at least six months, he will then be re-evaluated to see if his immune system is strong enough for him to go back. We are so very grateful that Kevin has been chosen as a recipient of the Cancer Freeze Organization. We thank you all so much for your support and prayers. Please continue to pray!
Recipient #3 Chris Bowden
Hello. My name is Chris Bowden. I’m 37 years old, and live in Samson, Alabama. I’ve always had a passion for helping others; this passion encouraged me to become a nurse years ago. I continued my education, worked as an ER nurse in numerous hospitals in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and even Texas. I felt as if my life goal was complete. Every smile, every tear made me feel as if I had accomplished something good at the end of the day. My journey was only beginning.
In February, 2015, I was hospitalized with an extremely high white blood count, and an enlarged spleen. Doctors feared I had colitis. But after much testing, x-rays, and a bone marrow biopsy, it was determined that I had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. As a medical professional, I knew this couldn’t be good. But, I lacked knowledge of the different types of leukemia. I decided, with haste, to move back home – to be with my parents. I was in for the shock of my life.
When I had to quit my job as ER director, and move home, I lost my insurance. Little did I know that getting insurance would be such a nightmare. Through bureaucratic red tape I waded. I was denied Medicaid due to my prior income. This kept me from receiving the healthcare I so desperately needed. However, bills came right on time, and as a result, I lost everything I had – even my truck. This caused great strain on my parents, as well. My dad, suffering from Alzheimer’s and my Mom the same also, with crippling back problems. I absolutely hit rock bottom. Area cancer centers were willing to ‘help,’ but a broke man can’t afford a ‘discounted rate’ of $1,000/month for chemo. My condition declined, and finally was approved for full disability. Medicaid dropped me immediately, and I had to apply for private insurance.
Chemotherapy has been the most difficult process to endure. Even worse, the fact that I was temporarily off the recommended regimen, made me even sicker. As a result, even though back on track with oncology, I have congestive heart failure, severe fatigue, night sweats, constant diarrhea, and vomiting. I’m mostly confined to bed, except for days I must go to doctor appointments or times when I have some energy to go to the grocery store with my mother. Leukemia breaks down, not only one’s body, but even more so, one’s mind. As if I’ve not dealt with enough, suicidal thoughts brought on by severe depression have held me hostage at times. God, though, is my strength. In Him, do I trust. I continue to fight this battle each day, and I am blessed to have the support of my friends and family to help me along this journey.
Recipient #4 Yan (Pronounced Jan) Negron
Hi, my name is Yan Negron, I’m 30 years old and I’m currently battling Breast Cancer. At the beginning of this year I unintentionally found a lump on my right breast while getting out of the shower, it has been one of the scariest feelings ever. Right away I felt chills going down my spine and my grandmother came to mind. My beautiful grandmother had been fighting cancer for a couple of years now and in a very strange way this discovery made me feel closer to her, kind of a random feeling, it was like I knew right away. I called my gynecologist the very next morning but it took almost a month to be seen. Because of my age I never had a mammogram before and the doctor thought it was just some tissue that turned into a cyst, he ordered an ultrasound to keep me at ease which came back as “suspicious” results. The next step was to get a biopsy done which confirmed one of the biggest fears a person can have… I was diagnosed with grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma triple positive. My whole world got shaken. Immediately I started looking into options and it might sound silly but my biggest concern was not being able to afford a situation like this! What do you do when your stability gets challenged and your health is not what you thought! As a bad plus some genetic testing determined that I carry a rare gene mutation (TP53) know as Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. That means that I can develop more than one tumor at a time. A lot of mixed feelings came to me but the plan was to be proactive and start fighting right away. On June 8th, 2016 I had a bilateral mastectomy with a DIEP flap reconstruction at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. A couple of little complications came along, like having a hematoma post surgery and requiring a couple of blood transfusions but I was determined to put this behind me. I started chemotherapy on July 18th, and I’ve been fighting since then. Recovery has been a long road and after 4 long months of been unable to work I’m finally getting back to normal. I want to thank my family, my friends and my work family for everything they’ve done for me since day one. When you are challenged with a Cancer diagnosis it almost feels like you’re staring death on the face but there’s no other option than to fight. I want to thank Cancer Freeze for the great opportunity of letting me be a part of this amazing organization and showing me that there are incredible people out there willing to make a difference and create HOPE. I want to dedicate my journey to my grandmother Nellie, who passed away on October 30th being the great warrior she thought me to be.
Recipient #5 – Lilly Matt
Starting from the day Lilly was born, she has faced medical challenges dealing from her right kidney, she was diagnosed with hydronephrosis. She underwent twelve surgeries throughout her life. February of this year, she was in the hospital for a UTI, which we were used to, they performed a minor test called a mag 3 renal scan to test the function of her kidney. She did okay with the test and shortly have being discharged the same day she began complaining of a headache and threw up a little bit on the ride back home to Opp, AL. We thought it was from the anesthesia, so we let her go home and sleep. At 1 AM the next morning she began throwing up uncontrollably, and by 6 AM she was fully lethargic. We rushed her to the local hospital in Andalusia, AL, they immediately transferred her to Sacred Heart in Pensacola, FL. She was still not waking up, the doctors said it was from the anesthesia, but decided to do a cat scan once she was upstairs. They moved her into the PICU, and that’s when we heard the worse news any parent could hear. They informed us our daughter had a brain bleed. They would monitor her throughout the night while we painfully waited. The next morning they performed an MRI, where they determined the bleeding had stopped, but our daughter had a tumor dead center of her brain. We met with many doctors and it was decided that on March 2nd, she would undergo Brain Surgery, to attempt to remove the tumor and get a biopsy, to determine what this mass was. On March 2nd, they performed the surgery and unfortunately, the surgery left her blind in her left eye, she had short term memory problems, and difficulty when walking. They also were not able to remove all the tumor, they could only get enough for the biopsy. On March 8th, the doctors came in and informed us that our daughter has been diagnosed with stage 2 brain cancer. She will have to have chemo for a year, to attempt and kill the cells of the tumor. So we drive every week from Opp, AL to Pensacola FL for chemo. We make numerous trips to Pensacola, due to her counts, headaches, fever, infections from her kidney. She has had to have a blood transfusion already, and we still have a very long road to go. Due to her immune compromised state, she is unable to attend school with her friends, so she attends an hour every Monday and Tuesday, after the rest of the kids have left. However, when you meet Lilly, you don’t see someone who is sad and depressed, you will see a bright beautiful little girl, who wishes to make everyone smile and know that she loves them!
Recipient #6 – Heather Odom
My name is Heather Odom. I’m 31 years old and I live in Mckenzie, AL with my husband of 7 years and 3 boys. Just a few months ago I was a full time wife, mom and LPN and now I’m fighting my battle with breast cancer. This is my story.
Dusty and I married on July 11th, 2009. He was my high school sweet heart and I had dreamed of this day for so long. We had often talked about this day, our careers and future children. We always talked about the good we never imagined having to watch myself and our youngest son fight for our lives, and we never ever imagined we would be doing it all over again right at the one year anniversary of what we thought was the worst thing we would ever have to go through.
We have 3 sons, Kayden 6, Karson 3 and Kayson 1. They are our biggest blessings. On Monday August 31, 2015 I went into early labor with Kayson at 34 weeks. That whole morning all I kept saying was how we weren’t ready yet. His room wasn’t finished. We didn’t have everything we needed for him. We hadn’t prepared Kayden and Karson enough for his arrival. I had dropped Kayden off at school and told him I would see him when I got off work, little did we know I wouldn’t see any of my boys for what seemed like forever. Kayson was a perfect 6 pounds and 2 ounces but he just wasn’t ready to be born yet. He was transferred to another hospital and put in the NICU to fight for his little life. I was discharged on Wednesday. I remember fighting through the pain of the c-section and trying to prepare myself to see Kayson all hooked up to machines and tubes. It was overwhelming. I was scared. I prayed so hard for my new little miracle and I was comforted by my favorite Bible verse Exodus 14:14, just “be still”. I whispered to him over and over “be still, the Lord is fighting for you. He has a purpose for you and a plan.” I remember his sweet nurse who let me stay just a little bit longer than I was supposed to bond with him. She said everything stabilized when he heard my voice and he stabilized even more when I held him. I knew he was in good hands and he was a fighter. Looking back now, I can see God’s blessings through that time. I needed that few hours to help me fight through the next few weeks. I kept feeling like something was not right with me. The pain I was having was so much more worse than the previous two c-sections. Later that night I was rushed back to the hospital with uncontrollable vomiting, nausea and the worst pain I had ever felt in my whole life. As the days progressed I got worse and worse. I don’t remember much, I just remember the horrible pain, not being able to breath, and feeling like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. On Friday, I had become septic. I had fought hard and prayed even harder, but my body was just too tired. As I prayed I was reminded again to just “be still, the Lord is fighting for you.” That night I was rushed to surgery where they found I had a perforated bowel and had to remove a large portion of my large intestine. I remained on the ventilator for the next few days to give my body time to rest and try to heal. I remember my husband saying all he could do was pray. He was going back and forth between two hospitals, trying to be in two places at the same time, and just praying we would both be okay, along with trying to make sure our other two boys were taken care of back at home. Eighteen days later Kayson and I were released on the same day and were finally heading home.
A year later we were planning Kayson’s first birthday. A few weeks prior I began to have some back pain. I pushed it off to just be a pulled muscle from picking up the boys. Mama’s don’t time to be sick anyways, right? On August 9th I began to have unbearable back pain. I am a nurse for a nurse practitioner and when I got to work she worked me up to have a CT scan. From there we had a MRI which confirmed a mass which was believed to be metastatic and we went on to have a biopsy. I still remember the day we were told the results of the biopsy as if it were yesterday. I just couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. As she said the words “breast cancer” I immediately began to panic and cry. For the most part I just sat in silence and cried as questions were rolling through my head. How? I hadn’t felt anything abnormal or anything I believed was abnormal. And I had no family history of breast cancer. I’m only 30. I’m too young for breast cancer. You aren’t even supposed to have a mammogram until the age of 40 unless you have a family history or abnormality. And why? Why me? Why now? We were about to celebrate a year of good health. A year of so many blessings. I have 3 boys who need me. Three boys I want to see grow up. A husband that I’ve spent most of my life with and want to grow old with. He needs me and I need him. I have friends and family that need me. Everything moved so quickly after that, and thankfully so. We were referred to the Montgomery Cancer Center where I underwent several test and biopsies. On Friday September 2, 2016, just 5 days before my 31st birthday, I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer that is hormone receptor positive. It was confirmed the cancer was in my right breast, lymph nodes under my right arm, a tumor on T10, and a spot on my pelvic bone. Most worrisome of all the tumor on my spine was quickly deteriorating the bone and they were worried about it collapsing. So on September 14, 2016, I had surgery on my spine to remove what they were able to of the tumor on T10 and to stabilize my spine so it would not collapse. I have also been started on injections. One to help strengthen the bones affected by the cancer and one to stop my hormones to help keep the cancer from potentially spreading. I’m also taking Femara which is a hormone based chemotherapy to help treat the breast cancer. Our plans at this time are to start oral chemo at the end of October and then radiation in November. We will be repeating scans in December and then proceeding to schedule any necessary surgeries from there.
My family, friends and most of all my faith are what keep me strong. I have been blessed with an amazing support group.Cancer is a scary. It doesn’t care how old or young you are. It takes things away physically, financially, and emotionally, but I refuse to let cancer beat me! Its not going to be easy but I will come out the winner! I have too much to fight for and too many people wanting to see me succeed. Again I have been comforted by my favorite verse: Exodus 14:14 “the Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”
My battle with breast cancer has had some positive. It has taught me to accept the help and generosity of others and to not fight alone. You do not have to fight alone. There are good people in this world and they are willing and wanting to be a blessing. It is such a huge blessing to be accepted as a recipient for the Cancer Freeze Organization. Please continue to pray for not only me but all of the recipients of the Cancer Freeze Organization.