LIVE 4 TODAY
MISSION & HISTORY.
My name is Allison Phillips. I am a 48 year old, a single parent to a beautiful 13 year old and battling Stage 4 Lung Cancer. I have been pretty lucky throughout my life to live a relatively healthy life up until the past few years...
When i was 45 years old i had to have a back lumbar fusion surgery for L4 - S1. After surgery they did a CT Scan and we discovered a very small 4mm nodule in my lung. This is very normal and my doctors were not worried about it at all.
About a year later I had another CT Scan and we found out that the nodule grew to 8mm. From that point forward my life has never been the same.
I have never smoked. I was told that as a non smoker, healthy young female that the chances of me having cancer was less than 8%. Despite the statistics in my favor, a good friend who told me that i should demand a biopsy of the nodule.
The biopsy was not a great experience to say the least, especially while being awake during the whole procedure. Going into the procedure i was told by the medical staff that it would be simple and quick. It definitely wasn't…
While I lay awake, the doctors explained that they would just be inserting a needle into my chest that was guided by a CT and i would be out and home in just a few hours. While i was laying there, the doctor was inserting the needle and i could tell he was having a small problem because he had to keep reinserting the needle several times. During the procedure they tell you not to move or cough. This was definitely a challenge for me as i suddenly felt this very warm feeling in my chest, up through my mouth and began to cough up blood. All of a sudden more nurses and doctors came running into the procedure room. At that moment i felt like this was the end and that i was dying. It was like a movie when someone gets shot and they just keep having a huge amount of blood gushing out of their mouth. That was what was happening to me and i was sure it was the end. I didn't say goodbye to my daughter, i didn't hug my parents one last time, i didn't achieve all of my dreams, this was all the things i was thinking about as i could keep hearing the nurses remind me to keep breathing. So i listened to the nurses, i started breathing and thankfully, i lived. I was on a chest tube for a few days, since my lung collapsed. I did all of that and they couldn't get a biopsy. Having a lung collapse during this sort of procedure is very rare and happens less than 1% of the time, so clearly it was not my lucky day.
Following that horrific procedure i went for another biopsy a month later and again my lung collapsed, i had another chest tube put in, but this time they were able to biopsy a lymph node because they couldn't get to the nodule. The biopsy revealed the news that no one wishes to hear in there life…..i officially had stage 2 lung cancer. From the moment of recieving the news i formed a great medical team which decided that we should remove the middle lobe of my lung (i never knew you could live without a lung, but now I have a valid excuse as to why I will never run a marathon).
While in surgery, besides removing my lung, my doctor removed 13 lymph nodes. All of which were full of cancer. I moved up to stage 3 cancer because of all of the cancerous lymph nodes. After surgery, besides my lung being removed, they must of hit nerves because when i woke up, i could no longer feel my hand the same. It was always either freezing, or really hot. My fingers are always feeling like that prickly falling asleep feeling and i have sharp pain always running through my arm. I don't feel hot or cold. Everything is luke warm. I have no feeling when it comes to cuts or burns. And I only sweat and get hot on half of my body. And the crazy part is no doctor can figure it out. This has led me to come to terms that this is just my new normal and i will have to get used to living with it.
I went on to have 4 treatments of chemo. While i thought the biopsy procedure was horrendous chemo was definitely the worst thing that i have ever had to go through. My whole body changed. I was so weak. I was so tired. I felt pain everywhere. I couldn't stand. I couldn't think. I had such bad neuropathy that i couldn't even use my fingers to type. I would send my daughter away to stay at her Grandparents or with her Gigi, so i was absolutely alone on a day to day basis. I would have a visitor here and there, but I was mostly alone. There would be nights i would pass out on the stairway, not having the strength to move. One time things got so bad that i literally passed out in the shower and cracked my head open. Another time i woke up on the bathroom floor. The hardest part of it all was that through it all I didn't have a person to hug me or hold me, to talk to me every day and be there with me to hold my hand and tell me i would be ok. I went to chemo alone, i came home and i was alone. Don't get me wrong that doesn't take away from all of my friends and family i had, through it, but it just made it harder mentally and physically. Despite the feeling of loneliness and the depression the chemo brought with it I made it through and was told in January 2021 that i was cancer free.
From that moment in which i was told i was cancer free i went on to have 12 more surgeries or procedures all within this past year. From a lump on my foot, to rotator cuff surgery (because my shoulder got torn with how i was placed on the table during my lung removal), to more biopsies, to lymph node removals, removal of my port...etc etc. With all of these surgeries and procedures and chemo i wasn't able to work as much. To top it off covid had a severe effect on my business as well and i simply didn't make as much money. Even with health insurance i found myself $70,000 in debt.
One goal i made for myself during the whole experience was that if i made it through, if I lived, that I would take a dream vacation to Hawaii. So it was that...the dream of this trip that kept me living. Besides my daughter, family and friends, the thought of going to Hawaii made me wake up and fight. When i was getting my chemo treatments, laying on the floor not being able to move, laying in a hospital bed....i would close my eyes and picture being on that beach with the ones i loved and that thought made me smile, made me have strength, made me wake up every morning, made me live and save me. I was blessed for family and friends to help me and my daughter afford to take this dream trip to Hawaii. It refreshed me. I was happy. My daughter was happy. And we lived.
Following the Hawaii trip, i got test results back on a Monday from tests I had prior to the trip and they had me in for a surgery on that Thursday where my doctors went in and took more lymph nodes and my lower lobe out and found out that it was full of cancer again. The nightmare was back.. As i laid in the hospital bed, with another chest tube in...i realized how much the Hawaii saved me and gave me the strength to go through all of this, the surgeries, the chemo, everything again.
From that moment, I decided i wanted to help others live out their dreams, and give them their dream trips. To help a person have a dream and something positive to think about when they are getting their chemo treatments or having surgery after surgery. When they feel like they are dying, to have something to wake up to every day and know that there is actually something to look forward too! It was at this time that LIVE 4 TODAY was born!
I started working with my brother, who was also my best friend. He designed the LIVE 4 TODAY logo. Talked with me hours upon hours of how to start it and brainstorm. He was doing all of this for me and promised that he would keep Live 4 going if/when I passed. Than one day, we were on the phone and he was telling me how he wasn’t feeling well. I saw him a few day later at Thanksgiving, he lost A LOT of weight in just a few weeks and was worried something was wrong with his kidney. He went into the Dr that following Monday, they sent him straight to the ER. He was admitted to the Hospital and they found out that he was Stage 4 Multiple Myeloma. My whole family was in complete shock. I was the one with cancer, not him. And here he was, in a hospital bed, his mind was going and we were watching him die right in front of us. He went in to the hospital on a Monday, moved to hospice that Thursday, and died just 2 days later. So now, more than ever I knew this is what I was meant to do. Now not for me and other cancer patients, but for him.
Before cancer I traveled a lot. I had financial resources to do things. I took 3-4 vacations a year. I never worried about money or what i was going to do. Now, as i have cancer and am sick...I have 4 jobs. I have my own company that i am trying to rebuild after covid, I have another full-time job because i need health insurance, i have a part time sales job that i love and i took a 4th job which is having me travel weekends. And i am a single parent to the best daughter ever, so i also try to be there for her at every moment. I now live with constant pain. Pain on my right side of my body which is so bad that i know if i stop to think about it, i will cry. I just started chemo treatments again. I am not saying any of this for pitty...but to point out to people who are healthy and don't understand, that when I should be home, resting and recovering. I can't. I have to work. I have to work a lot. I have to pay medical bills, because they just keep coming. And it is when we are sick that we need a trip. We need a break, an escape.
I choose to LIVE! I take every day as a gift and i am beyond grateful! Through the formation of LIVE 4 TODAY I hope to be able to help individuals and families battling cancer to take a dream vacation and remind them all that there is a reason to LIVE!