Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pray for Rachael!

I thought I'd post this today. My cousin Rachael has cancer and there was an article about her in today's paper. You can see the article at

Aspiring nurse fighting rare form of bone cancer
CUMBERLAND — Since she was a toddler, Rachael Sensabaugh wanted to be a doctor.Then she got sick.“I knew who my doctors were, but I never saw them,”said Sensabaugh, 20, who was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in November 2005 — the beginning of her senior year at Allegany High School. “It wasn’t my doctors who were helping me when I was feeling bad, it was the nurses. I got to know them. They got to know me. They understood me. They knew what I needed.”So when Sensabaugh’s cancer went into remission, she enrolled in Allegany College’s two-year nursing program. She’d completed one semester when the cancer came back.Now, a month before her 21st birthday, she’s fighting for more than the chance to return to school. She’s fighting to receive experimental treatments that could save her life.“The medicine she needs costs $200 a vial,”Sensabaugh’s aunt, Elena Steele, said of a drug called Sargramostim, which is sometimes used to treat leukemia patients. Though it doesn’t actually treat cancer, Sargramostim, also known as GM-CSF, accelerates the recovery of white blood cells following chemotherapy.“She needs eight vials of the medicine a day,”Steele said. “That’s $1,600 a day. She needs this for six month. That’s $288,000.”Sensabaugh’s health insurance provider, Maryland Physicians Care, has denied to pay for the drug. “They do not feel like I need this medicine,”said Sensabaugh, who has received three rejection letters so far and is trying for approval again. “Right now, my oncologist is saying that it’s the only other medicine out there that will help me. How can somebody tell me I can’t have the one treatment I need?”Sensabaugh and her family aren’t giving up. Steele, who helped raise more than $30,000 to pay for some of her niece’s previous medical expenses, plans to rally for community support again. “I’m not even sure where to begin, at this point,”Steele said. “I’m going to be writing letters to all kinds of people. It may be a stretch, but Montel Williams sometimes contributes to cases like this. The American Cancer Foundation. If I have to write letters to Oprah Winfrey, I will.”Sensabaugh, who was tumor-free during her latest checkup six weeks ago, is focusing on regaining strength and stamina after surgeons removed a third of her lung in February. She desperately wants to return to Allegany College of Maryland, where she took a medical leave last winter. Administrators have said they can’t promise her a place in the fall, Sensabaugh said.A spokeswoman in ACM’s nursing school said the college couldn’t talk about individual students. “I’m actually feeling pretty good,” said Sensabaugh, who is taking long walks and doing dance exercise videos to rebuild cardio strength. “I don’t really have any pain. I get out of breath pretty easily. The more I exercise, the more my lungs will compensate. I figure the more I do the better I’ll be.”A new Chihuahua puppy named Bella also keeps Sensabaugh on her toes. “The only way I’m ever going to get better is to keep pushing myself,” said Sensabaugh, adding that nursing school was “pretty tough.” Five years down the road, she hopes to have completed ACM’s program, worked for a couple of years, plus completed a bachelor’s degree at West Virginia University so she can work as an RN.“My thinking is, I’ve been through this once,”Sensabaugh said of fighting cancer. “I know I can do it again.”
You can follow Rachael's story at

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