Son inspires young mom to fight cancer

  • Charles County,St Mary's County
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St. Mary's County, MD --  "My son is the number one reason I am still fighting," Caitlin Machnicki says. In fact, this young mother says if it wasn't for her 14-month-old son, she might not have had the courage to fight cancer in the first place. "If I was not pregnant with him I probably would have never started chemotherapy in 2018. The long and short term side effects scared me and I honestly didn’t think I would be able to get through it all."

Machnicki, 25, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer called Gray Zone Lymphoma back in January 2018 when she was in the first trimester of her pregnancy with son, Mahkai. Fearing damage to her developing baby, she postponed chemo and hoped that the cancer would not progress.

She was able to postpone treatment until she was 7 and 1/2 months along. An MRI showed that the disease was progressing and doctors advised her that chemotherapy would be less likely to harm a baby at this stage of her pregnancy. 

Caitlin gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Mahkai, on July 6, 2018. She went into labor the night before one of her chemotherapy treatments. She completed her first round of treatment on her birthday in September of 2018. She continued working and going to school while taking care of her new baby, but the cancer returned the following January. 

Doctors now feel her best option is a stem-cell transplant using cells donated by Caitlin's sister, Brittany. Machnicki says her entire family, which is addition to her son and sister includes two younger brothers, her mother, father, and stepmother have been there for her, "since day one and have not skipped a beat, doctor appointment, treatment etc..."

While the 2011 McDonough High grad says support from her family, the community,  in St. Mary's County and her employers at Precise Systems has been amazing, she's still in a tight spot financially.

She's used all of her medical leave and her doctors recommend that she plan for up to six additional months of medical leave. Caitlin's family is doing their best to assist with medical copays and deductibles, prescriptions, lodging, caregiver, transportation, child care, personal rent and other expenses but help is still needed. 

A One-to-One fundraiser has been started to help assist with those expenses. Click here to learn how you can help out. 

In addition to her son, Caitlin says she's fighting hard to set a good example. 

"Hearing and seeing peoples stories have kept me motivated. I have so many eyes on me that giving up is not an option anymore. Also, I want to give those in similar situations a glimmer of hope. It is so easy to fall victim to your own situation and start to feel bad for yourself but that was one thing I refused to do. I remained working, going to school, getting out and enjoying life. Nowadays, when we hear the word cancer one automatically think death. I want to defy those odds and possibly help someone who is where I once was. Beating Cancer is 70% mental and 30% physical."

Once her cancer is cured and her immune system rebuilt, Caitlin plans to finish her bachelor's degree in business management and return to her job at Precise Systems. "There is still so much I did not have the chance to learn due to my condition. Also, I have plans to create a scholarship or grant fund for cancer patients being that I know how much of an impact it can have."

But her inspiration will continue to be her son. "My main goal is to provide my son with a positive outlook as he grows up.  I want to continue to be the best mother I know how to be. I want him to know that nothing is impossible, and that he can do whatever it is he sets his mind to, despite how what people may tell you or think."


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