Community raises funds for mother battling cancer

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer 

A fundraiser is underway to help a Chelsea family with ongoing medical costs as the mother, Lori Mikesell, battles cancer.

Lori’s battle started on her 41st birthday, Sept. 6, 2018, when she visited her doctor to have a lump checked—shortly after she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Doctors initially felt confident about treatment options and Lori did five months of chemotherapy, with her last session ending on New Year’s Eve 2018.

Then, on Valentine’s Day 2019, she had a tumor removed and everything came back clean. The next step was a year of “maintenance chemo,” which is done on a regular schedule to keep the cancer under control.

Unfortunately, around the beginning of 2020, Lori began experiencing pain in her shoulder and arm. Scans done in February revealed that the cancer had returned—but it was not the same. This time, Lori was diagnosed with stage four metastatic triple negative breast cancer, for which there is no specific treatment protocol. The cancer had spread from the original lymph nodes to her spine and collarbone.

In April, a Gofundme account was started for Lori to help with the ongoing expenses of radiation treatment.

“The radiation treatments were literally killing her, and we needed to find a different treatment,” explained Lori’s husband, Marshall Mikesell. “It was started initially to fund our trip to Mexico and cover the care there. We raised the money in five days for that, and that was roughly $37,000.”

Back in May, the Mikesells went to Tijuana, Mexico to a clinic called Hope 4 Cancer. While receiving this alternative form of treatment, Lori initially got healthier and the couple learned a lot, reporting a positive experience. Upon returning to the States near the end of May, Lori commenced immunotherapy recommended by her oncologist. More scans were done, and these scans revealed the cancer had spread to her lungs.

Lori started another round of radiation the second week of August, when she was moved from Grandview Medical Center to UAB. There, she is currently on a ventilator and has been for about five weeks.

“She has lost weight, lost strength, and has extreme anxiety from a near-death experience,” Marshall said. “Because now that her condition is worsened, we’re probably going to have to move to some long-term care facility soon.”

The Mikesells celebrated their seventh anniversary in September of this year in the hospital. They have two children at home, 3-year-old Rowan and 6-year-old Josie, and three older children, Cole, Gracie and Cameran.

One frustrating thing has been having to follow COVID-19 guidelines because the hospital visitation policy allows only one visitor per day. Marshall spent seven days there at one point, and the family had to find new homes for their beloved dogs. He said Rowan and Josie had not seen their mother for about a month and a half, but they were finally able to visit her in her hospital room.

“Getting family up to see her has been difficult,” Marshall said. “Family drives from nine to 12 hours. We’ve made it work but it has not been easy.”

The $75,000 goal on Lori’s Gofundme page was a guesstimate made about seven weeks ago, and currently donors have raised more than $51,000. But since then the situation has changed, Marshall indicated.

“We were not expecting to be in the place we are right now. Our goal is never-ending to be honest,” he said.

Marshall expressed thanks to those who have given, including their church family at Morningstar Methodist in Chelsea and Pastor Mark Puckett.

“Our church community has been very much involved with Lori’s journey as well,” he said. “For me it’s been the overwhelming support, anywhere from our church community to total strangers, that have donated.”

When Keela Michelle Lowery, owner of Shabby Chik and Shabby Kidz Boutique in Pelham, found out about Lori’s condition, she wanted to do something. She and Lori are members of a Facebook group called “Mama Bears.”

Lowery read Lori’s story on Facebook and was touched, so she decided to give half of the business’s proceeds from everything made on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and 26.

“It’s a heartbreaking situation to be a mother and to see this mother not be able to interact with her children,” Lowery said. “If I can help one person lessen the weight of their load, that’s what I want to do.”

Lowery said that in her eyes, Lori is a warrior.

“She has conquered some things that a lot of other people might not be able to conquer,” she said.

Elizabeth Rodgers of Blush and Blow Salon in Chelsea also donated half of the business’s proceeds from Friday, Sept. 25.

“We definitely feel like Lori and her family are very special people, and they deserve to be as comfortable as they can. We were extremely grateful to people for coming out and supporting them,” Rodgers said.

Anyone interested in donating to Lori’s fund may do so through either Morningstar Methodist Church, Chelsea, or at Gofundme.com/f/936w3-it-is-life-or-death-lets-save-lori-s-life.