L.I.F.E. helps Jessica Rager

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Jessica & Dan Rager
October 8th, 2012 – We recently received the message from Daniel Rager in New York, that his 30 year old wife Jessica discovered she had acute myelogenous leukemia the same day her twin boy and girl were born last year.  She has been battling since and it has been a struggle. This past week L.I.F.E. sent them some of the funds we have fundraised to maybe help make their lives just a little bit easier.  L.I.F.E. was officially made a 501c3 non-profit organization 3 years ago with the intent of keeping Eric’s memory alive, and to make an effort at paying forward all the help that was given to Eric to other cancer patients like him between the ages of 18 and 30 across the country.  From everyone here we wish you all of the best Jessica, Daniel, Elizabeth, and Joseph as you continue to battle and overcome this.

Dan wrote their very unique story to us,  you can read it below.

Thank you for talking with me. I am so sorry about your brother.  We have been praying for your family.

The morning of June 28th, 2011 she went into Sisters Hospital for a routine sonogram for our twins. She told the nurses that she was having contractions on and off but they were not time able. So they put her on the monitor and they could see she was having contractions. The sonogram room opened up, and the doctor did the sonogram and one baby was sleeping and practice breathing however the other baby was not practice breathing. Both babies did have heart beats. The doctor looked at both of us and said you bought yourselves a trip to labor and delivery. My wife was not concerned because she had two other children and one of them was born at 34 weeks and spent time in the NICU. The twins at this point are 33 weeks. We go down to labor delivery and check in. We call her father and let him know that there is a strong possibility the babies might be born today, because he has her older two children. Well her doctor is not on right now, but another doctor in the practice is, well she measures her and sees she is dilated and contracting really badly and gives her medicine to try and stop it and by more time for the twins. She tells us, I am going to check her in an hour to see if the medicine stops the dilation. Well the contractions get worse. She comes back in an hour, this poor resident goes and checks Jess and she kicks her because it hurts. Well she has dilated more. So the doctor tells us she is going in for a c-section. So the doctor leaves the room, then all these other people come in and out. One of them was the anstoligist, he was barely in the room when Jess stopped him and looked at him and said I want and epidural not a spinal. He looked at her and said honey your platelets are 52,000 you are being put under. We just looked at each other and went ok. We had no clue what he was talking about. They wheeled her off and completed the c-section. Joseph Oliver Rager was born at 4:31 pm weighing 4lbs 14 oz and Elizabeth Virginia Rager was born at 4:32 pm weighing at 5lbs 01oz. Jess woke out of the c-section fine, they took me in to see her with her step mom, my niece and her sister. We all went up to the NICU to see the babies; they needed very little help just feeding assistance. Little did we know all during this time her regular ob Dr. Adel Chouchani had come on, and all of her blood work had come back. He thought there was a mistake with the blood work and ordered new blood work done. The next morning, Dr Chouchani stood in her room telling her she needed a transfusion, and that he wanted a blood specialist to come in and look at her blood specs. Sisters does not have a blood specialist. Jess did not think anything of the transfusion because of her first pregnancy she had complications and almost needed a transfusion so she thought twin pregnancy draining the system okay makes sense. Well they did not allow her to see the babies at all that day because of the transfusion because she had an allergic reaction to receiving the blood. The next morning Dr. Gabriel Chouchani came in with the blood specialist and introduced him. We had a couple of people coming in to see us and the babies. So we were excited, Jess was feeling pretty good. In walks Dr. Gabriel Chouchani, he grabs Jess’s feet and takes of his glasses and he is crying and says you have leukemia and you have two choices you can either go to Roswell or find your own doctor. Jess looked and me and then looked at him and said Roswell, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. He then looked at us and said you have 45 minutes to say goodbye to your babies they will be here to get you. Well we had to text the people to get their butts up there because we were leaving, then we had the task of telling them, and then telling Jess’s parents she has cancer. When we finally got to Roswell it was 9pm on June 30th 2011. They admitted her July 1, 2011. We were informed that if she didn’t deliver the twins when she did that she would not have made the weekend and the babies and she would have died. They also informed her parents that they did not expect her to make it the weekend let alone the first round of chemo. She started her 1st round of chemo that night. The hardest part the first week there for her was having to tell her two older children from her previous marriage that she had cancer. They were 8 and 5 at the time. It was the hardest thing for her at that point in time. She was fine with the bone marrow, and the port implantation, and the start of the chemo, and recovering from the c-section. It was just the scared look in their eyes.

First week was pretty easy. She was recovering from the c-section she felt like an experiment, because has disappeared at this point in time). To if we don’t find her a transplant all we can do is consolidation chemo. So those were all our choices. That’s what we were dealing with. We weren’t given great odds. So we were really praying to God that he would help us. She kept plugging along day after day. The twins were discharged they went to her dads, her ex-husband decided to play some head games and cause some troubles so all Jess was allowed to see her older children for was a two hour visit once a week. When she has sole custody that is the first time she has ever been longer than a week away from them. She didn’t get to see the babies for a month after they were born. So you put all that together you get one really bad day in August. She was having pain so they gave her pain meds, well they gave her too much in to short of a time frame, and she got a little delusional and seeing things. So the doctors cut all of her meds which included her anxiety meds. Well she had a major anxiety attack and couldn’t calm herself down all the doctors thought she was going to sign herself out of Roswell, they ended up giving her meds back and she calmed down. That was the only time I have ever seen her have a break down over any of this. Her goal was to be released before her older daughter’s birthday at the end of august. Which she did get out a couple of days before. The day she got released she was so weak. She got in the car, we went to Tim Horton’s got an Ice Tea because she wanted one and went and got her two older kids because she wanted them in the worst way. She knew she could handle them. She couldn’t hold the babies yet. She wanted the babies, but knew she wasn’t strong enough yet. We went to her dad’s everyday to visit with the babies so she could bond with them.

Then we started the every other day trips to Roswell for blood, platelets all that good stuff. Then beginning of September her leukemia doctor started consolation chemo. She had to have a bone marrow biopsy done before the chemo could start and this was before my birthday which was September 8. This was the only bone marrow I was not there for. She had the bone marrow done, went and signed in to the infusion chemo center was told it would be two hours before they would her transfusion so she I will go get lunch. She was standing in line and fainted. They took her right to transfusion and got her in right away, I guess if you want your blood right away in Roswell all you have to do is faint. Well on September 7th we got the bone marrow results which showed some leukemia but not enough that she could start the chemo at home. Well she was napping on the September 9 when Lori the BMT coordinator called. So I woke Jess up, she found her a perfect ten out of ten match. Transplant scheduled for October 28, 2011. She still had to do the consolation chemo. Jess made sure that she had everything in order before she went in for her transplant. That the twins were baptist that she was baptist herself that our marriage was brought into the church. She made sure the older kids teachers and leaders knew what was going on how to reach her at all times. She was very proactive at this time and very upbeat. She went to Father Bakers Basilica and prayed before the transplant.

Transplant Day New Birthday. It wouldn’t be normal day if something didn’t happen. Jess passed out in the bathroom. She had all these nurses and doctors in the room. She still had the transplant. All went good with that. I however ended up sick and not being there for two weeks and putting Jess on precautions and ticking her off. Because if she wanted to walk the halls she had to wear a mask and gown. She made a lot of friends on the BMT unit she would walk with and talk with. She and some of the other girls got permission to play cards at the end of the hallway at night time. She would kick me out at 5 even though the game was at 7 because she needed time to get ready. Life was different for her on that unit, than on the leukemia unit. She got released on December 2nd. The older kids came home on December 4. The babies came home on the weekends, until her Roswell visits dropped to once a week. So middle of January they came home full time, and then they got the RSV virus and were highly contagious and had to go back. So it was uphill battle, now the babies are healthy and are home permantly. As for Jess she is 280 days post transplant with some minor graph vs. host issues. Which we will take. They told us from the beginning that they want a little graph vs. host. I finally have my family all together.

We are coming up on her one year from her transplant on the 28th of this month.  She has her one year bone marrow test on the 18th, then we go back on the 25th and hope that we have some early results back.  Her back and her right hip and knee are hurting her bad and she is PT once a week for it.  They said it is disc degerenration and we think it was all the chemo that helped weaken it, plus her side of the family has a lot of rhemotiad arthritis.  She is having a little neurapthy in her hands and feet.  Some days that is good and some days it is bad.  All in all she is doing pretty good I would say.  The kids are doing great.  There is a little boy in Jess’s sons grade that was diagnosed with acute lymphoplastic leukemia.  Jess was asked to speak about her story and how it affected dylan and abby,  Then the kids all raised money for the little boys family.  Well we have no money ourselves to help the little boy out, let alone just enough to get by ourselves.  Well Jess belives in paying it forward.  Well it wasnt good enough for her to just talk about her story.  She went and got pizza, chips, doughnuts all donated for all the kids to thank them for helping him, an electric leap pad for the boy to have at Roswell when he is having treatment.  Then she is organizing a basket raffle for December 6th to help the family out with his costs.  She is a strong believer in paying it forward.  I love her for that.  I hope that you are doing well.  If there is anything I can do for you let me know.  As soon as we have results from her bone marrow test.  I will email you.


-Daniel Rager

Jessica & Dan Rager