In 2008 my Mom (Shelly) noticed a small lump on the side of her neck. She had it looked at by her doctor, however, the lump did not bother or hurt her and she was advised to return if it grew in size or became symptomatic. In 2010 the lump grew much bigger and began to hurt her, she returned to her doctor and a biopsy was performed. While the biopsy came back benign the decision was made to remove the tumor. Once removed the tumor was sent to pathology and when the labs returned, they concluded it was cancer. In 2010 my Mom was diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, what the Oral Cancer Foundation defines as “an uncommon form of malignant neoplasm that arises within the secretory glands.” In her case, the tumor was in her Salivary Gland and had grown around a nerve in her neck and face.
My Mom started a full round of radiation treatments immediately, working with her doctors at the University of Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. After radiation, scans would be performed every six months to monitor her health closely. About a year after surgery, one of her scans illuminated in her lung. Initially thought to be pneumonia, it was ultimately determined cancer had metastasized to her lung. The nodule in her lung was too small to operate, so my Mom and our family waited for the nodule to grow. When the nodule became large enough to operate, she underwent surgery to have it removed.
In 2013, my Mom began to experience back pain. Her doctors discovered that a vertebrate in her back broke as a result of cancer spreading to, and weakening her bones. She began her second round of radiation. My Mom was a 2nd Grade Teacher and extremely passionate about her job and the children she taught. Throughout her battle with ACC, she insisted on teaching as long as her health would allow (even if she were in severe discomfort). In August 2013, just a couple days into the school year, my Mom, and Dad (Rich) woke to begin their day like any other day. It didn’t take long to notice that my Mom’s speech was slurred and she wasn’t “making sense.” My Dad rushed her to the University of Penn Hospital. Scans showed cancer had metastasized to the lining of her brain, causing swelling and pressure which was impacting her speech.
Doctors met with our family and informed us that without treatment, they expected my Mom might live two weeks. With radiation and steroid treatment, they estimated she might have five months. Together, my Mom and Dad chose to undergo radiation treatment, ensuring we had time as a family to “say goodbye.”
My Mom, Shelly Louise McLaughlin, passed away peacefully on December 23, 2013, at home surrounded by her family. She was 62 years old.
My mom was a beloved daughter, wife of 43 years, mother, grandmother of 14, sister, aunt, friend and teacher. She possessed a passion for her family, teaching children and The Lord. Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma is a rare cancer and little is known about it, where it comes from or what causes/contributes to it. It is known for being chronic and relentless, and true to form it stole my Mom away from all who loved her far before her time. Billions of dollars are raised each year to fund cancer research, however, very few of those research dollars are invested in researching ACC and other rare Oral Cancers. It is my Family’s hope that with increased awareness of these rare, terminal cancers, more dollars from Cancer Research Foundations small and large will be allocated towards disease education and Oral Cancer Research initiatives.
To all those that donate in memory of my Mom, our family thanks you from the bottom of our hearts.
Christine Louise McLaughlin
Funds donated in Shelly’s memory will advance the goals of the Oral Cancer Foundation to reduce suffering and save lives by spreading awareness, supporting research, and helping those affected by cancer. Thank you for honoring Shelly’s memory and helping to fight this terrible cruel disease with your donation. For more information about the Oral Cancer Foundation and their current campaigns, please visit, www.oralcancerfoundation.org
Donations to the Shelly Louise McLaughlin Memorial Fund can also be made by mailing a check payable to the Oral Cancer Foundation to the address below. The foundation can also accept credit card donations over the phone at (949) 723-4400.