Tracy Milner has not had an easy four years. Four times shes faced a doctor who delivered grave news.
Three of those times, she has gone through treatments and/or surgeries. Now, shes facing what some may call Goliath again.
Milner has a rare, soft-tissue cancer known as synovial sarcoma.
Its first appearance was between her chest cavity and rib cage. Subsequent tumors have also been in the same general area. So, in late fall of 2007, after Milner had strenuously stripped tobacco, she suspected the knot that formed on the underside of her upper arm was an over-worked muscle.
In January, Milner found out differently.
The cancer has returned and with it, the need for more surgery and possibly more treatment.
On Jan. 30, Milner will be returning to Bostons Brigham and Womens Hospital for the surgery. Shell have tests on the 30th with surgery to remove whats believed to be a 2.5 centimeter tumor on Feb. 1.
This tumor is smaller than previous ones. She has had two 11-centimeter and one 2.7-centimeter tumors removed.
In August 2003, she had the first tumor removed.
By April 2004, it had returned. Treatment was more radical for the second round requiring the removal of half of one of her ribs, part of her diaphragm and scraping of her lung.
She also had to undergo chemotherapy. She lapsed into a coma on June 3 for four days.
After a lengthy recovery, she believed she was cancer-free. And she was, at least until the fall of 2005 when another 11-centimeter tumor was found.
She underwent five weeks of pre-surgery radiation.
This surgery also claimed another two-and-one-half ribs. All three were replaced with Gore-Tex mesh.
Milner said that after each surgery and clean bill of health, she believes shes cancer free.
However, doctors have now told her this cancer is one that will continue to return.
Unfortunately, with each return, it not only kicks her physically, it also knocks her off her feet financially.
Its always good to have family and friends to back you, Milner said, which is why her boyfriend, Richie Hafer, two of her three daughters and one of her two grandchildren will be making the trip to Boston on Jan. 30.
Milner works as a secretary with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
She will be in the hospital for two to three days and will have to remain in Boston until a follow-up with the doctors on Feb. 11.
People have asked how I can afford to stay that long, she said. I cant, but its more expensive to fly twice than to just stay.
She said she has found a hotel that reduces its rates for patients of the hospital.
Milner said she had tapped out her financial options battling this Goliath. She has borrowed money where she can and is paying on those loans. Her health insurance covers most, but not all, of the medical bills.
I go to work every day and Ive been working overtime, Milner said of her quest to get ahead before she gets too far behind.
Milners daughter, Michelle Morgan, said plans are being made for a benefit Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Cynthiana Elks Lodge.
Morgan said the Elks donated the use of the facility for a dance. There will be a live DJ and several prizes will be raffled, including tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert.
Admission is $10 and guests must be 21 or over to be admitted.
All proceeds will go to assist Milner in her travel and lodging expenses while in Boston.
I think well be alright. I hope, Milner said.