A series of devastating events emotionally pummeled Trina Eia and her young family the first week of November, leaving the 36-year-old mother of four struggling to regain her composure.
A Nov. 5 X-ray discovered a 6-centimeter mass in the Paxtonville woman’s chest near her esophagus/trachea/heart region.
A followup CT scan on Nov. 8 revealed a 3-centimeter mass in her lower right lung.
“That first week was especially brutal. My grandmother, who I was really close to, passed away the Sunday before my masses were discovered. The whole time at her funeral, I kept thinking, ‘Am I going to be next?’” said Eia. “I had a hard time sleeping and would wake up crying. I couldn’t think about my awesome husband or wonderful children without bawling. I even recorded a message to be played at my funeral.”
A Nov. 14 bronchoscopy lead to news that she did, indeed, have cancer. On Dec. 6, she met with a team of doctors who shared that her cancer was Stage 3 mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the lung, an extremely rare form of cancer.
“Mucoepidermoid carcinoma is usually associated with the salivary gland, and even then it is considered rare,” said Dr. Rajiv Panikkar, chair of the cancer institute at Geisinger Medial Center. “Only about 6 to 8 percent of people who have cancer of the head, neck or throat have mucoepidermoid carcinoma, and it is much more rare for it to show up in the lung.”
Treatment options for Eia’s condition are limited.
“At this point, they’re pretty sure it is considered low-grade, which means chemotherapy would not work, and I agree with the doctors that surgery would be too dangerous because of where the lymph nodes are placed in relation to the rest of my body,” said Eia. “Because of its rarity, they were not 100 percent sure yet if radiation would work.”
On Dec. 11, Eia had a second consultation at the Envita Medical Center in Arizona and was encouraged by some of the facility’s treatment options.
“We had lunch with someone who actually went there and is currently cancer-free and would recommend it to anyone who has cancer,” she said. “Because they also do more natural ways of dealing with cancer, a majority of the treatment will not be covered by insurance and the typical range for Stage 3 cancer like this at the facility ranges from $80,000 to $100,000.”
Despite the numerous potential hurdles, Eia relayed that she is in a much better place emotionally thanks to her faith.
“One day in the shower, I felt the overwhelming love of God. I did not know if I would live or die, but I did know at that moment that Jesus Christ loved me very deeply,” she said. “Since then, my emotions are a whole lot better. I just keep thinking of how I can best glorify God through this process.”
The experience has led to healthier eating for Eia — which has, in turn, helped reduce some of the symptoms she’s experienced with chest pain and chronic coughing.
“I learned through some research that cancer feeds on sugars, so the day after finding out about the mass in my chest, I cut out all processed and refined sugars,” she said. “Now my diet consists of raw vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. While I do not enjoy eating this type of food, I feel so much better.”
Another thing that has helped throughout the dark moments of the process is the outpouring of support the family has received so far.
“It has been a truly humbling experience. I feel such love from God and others. People have sent cards, prayed with us, cleaned our house, gave our family Christmas presents, brought meals, offered to babysit, gave money and helped our children transition from homeschooling to taking classes at the Juniata Mennonite School,” she said.
Trina and her husband, Shane, are not new to suffering or other’s generosity — but have done quite a bit to reach out and help others. After a series of miscarriages and issues with infertility, the family decided to adopt two children from Ethiopia.
“We sent our paperwork over to start the process, and found out a month later that I was pregnant,” Eia said. “Thankfully, the adoption agency allows us to continue with the adoption.”
Several months later, they were matched with Zeynu and Fozia, both around 18 months old at the time.
“When we brought them home, they were still in 3-6 month clothing. Our son could not handle any textures in his mouth and just started to crawl at that time,” she said. “They received a lot of therapy and once again, we were blessed by those around us.”
Zeynu and Fozia are now each 8 years old, Leif is 7 and the couple’s second biological son, Elias, is 5.
“It is a lot easier now that they are older, but when they were 3 and under, it was extremely challenging,” Eia said.
Despite the dire diagnosis, Eia admitted that God’s love and provision through the family’s current trials is visible through those who have offered their love and assistance.
“It has been very humbling and encouraging to see people’s love and kindness to our family,” she said. “I really appreciate the prayers and I pray that God would be glorified through this all.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family offset Trina’s growing medical costs. It is available online at https://www.gofundme.com/jsw2m5-someone-i-love-needs-a-cure