Erica was a FIGHTER! She underwent 27 radiation treatments at Nashua Regional Cancer Center during November and December. With great hope she went for a CAT scan in early January and learned that the lipo-sarcoma tumor had actually swelled. (Lipo-sarcoma is a malignant tumor that arises in fat cells in deep soft tissue. They are typically large bulky tumors, which tend to have multiple smaller satellites extending beyond the main confines of the tumor.) The oncologist, Dr. Butrynski, and thoracic surgeon, Dr. Wee, conferred and decided to remove the tumor, now the size of a large orange, as soon as possible. The surgery was scheduled for January 16, 2009. Erica was frightened of the surgery because there was a possibility that a section of her aorta would need to be removed due to the way the tumor was growing in that area. If this were the case, there was a risk of paralysis. The thoracic surgical team, alongside a cardiac surgical team, prepared for the surgery that would last 10 hours. At 5:22 pm, Erica’s mom and family received the wonderful news! The tumor was successfully removed and no part of her aorta was affected. The thoracic surgical team lifted the tumor off of the aorta, removed a section of her esophagus and lungs, repaired the area, and declared her to be cancer free. Erica and her family were ecstatic!!
Erica returned to her mother's house in Merrimack to recover. She was very uncomfortable at first, but her health slowly started to improve. It was a good day when she was able to swallow her first solid food. But within about five weeks, Erica started to feel uncomfortable. With advice from the doctors and nurses, her mom tried to tweak the formula she was being fed through a stomach tube thinking that it was just causing Erica to feel nauseous. The unusual thing was that Erica’s stomach started to grow larger and feel hard to the touch. Her mom took her to the emergency room at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua, and the consensus was that Erica was just experiencing bloating from the formula and foods she was eating. The pain did not decrease, so her Mom called Dr. Wee and he told her to drive Erica to Boston immediately.
Erica arrived at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts and was sent for a new CAT scan. The results were a true shock. A new tumor the size of a football had developed in just six weeks in Erica’s lower abdomen. Everyone was in total disbelief and even her doctors said they had never seen a tumor advance this quickly in a patient thought to be cancer free. In order to fight the cancer cells that were believed to now be traveling through her blood stream, the decision was made to start Erica on chemotherapy.
Erica’s first session was awful, but her mother never left her side. She felt very sick and had days when she just wanted to give up. Despite the discomfort, Erica insisted on getting out of bed and walking with minimal assistance around the nurse’s station. Erica ran a fever for nearly two weeks and the doctors did not want to release her until she was able to go without a fever for 24 hours. This was a very difficult time because Erica believed she would feel better faster if she could just get out of the hospital and recover at home. Even a few of the nurses agreed that allowing Erica to go home would help her attitude tremendously.
Erica’s mom, Lisa, stepped in and decided to take matters into her own hands. She asked to be taught how to handle Erica’s pic lines for her IV nutrition, antibiotics, nausea and continuous pain medications, as well as her J Tube for nutrition and health products. She watched every action the nurses performed and asked them to teach her how to check for infection. Everyday Lisa asked the doctors to allow her to take Erica home, confident she was capable of handling Erica’s medications and care, with daily visits from a nurse. After three weeks with Lisa's persistence and Erica’s fever stabilizing, the approval was given, and Erica was wheeled out of the hospital for a week of recovery at home.
The second session of chemotherapy was not as difficult as the first and Erica felt strong enough to return home within a couple of days. The hardest part was watching her beautiful dark brown hair fall out. She decided to go ahead and shave her head rather than lose it slowly. A few of her friends and family sent her beautiful scarves to wear plus a local salon helped her with purchasing a wig. Erica went home to live with her family and cherished all of the cards and messages of encouragement that she received. She was so determined to fight this cancer and get back on her feet to start her life again.
While recovering, Erica continued to write in her journals to chronicle her desires for her life after she won against cancer. These journals brought comfort to her mom and sisters because of the wonderful memories that they contain. One of her final wishes was that she could do something to ease the pain and suffering of others dealing with cancer, especially the children.
Our Angel Erica
Daughter, Sister, Friend
Erica Nicole, a baby girl born with a head full of hair
and a set of big brown eyes that loved to stare.
As she grew into a young little girl,
she loved to play dress up with Nana's rhinestones and pearls.
She was a tomboy in dresses
who made plenty of messes.
Having to sit in the bathtub just to eat her food,
she created a monstrosity as she chewed and chewed.
A daughter who gave her mother a run for her money,
who woulda thought, she'd grow up to be so funny.
She went from bullying her two sisters and brother,
to a young woman who protected and loved them just like her mother.
She was a loyal and true friend,
all the way from beginning to end.
She puts the sun in our sunshine,
because our hearts will forever intertwine.
With a smile that would light up a room,
and an enticing scent of sweet perfume.
Beautiful, intelligent and talented too,
are qualities of Erica's just to name a few.
Strong courageous and brave also come to mind,
Our Angel Erica is truly one of a kind.
ERICA'S 5K RUN and KIDS 1K FUNRUN are annual events to honor our angel, Erica Nicole Pombrio, and celebrate her life. Since 2010, the Erica Pombrio Foundation has brought Merrimack and surrounding communities together to honor and remember cancer survivors, co-survivors, and sadly those we have lost. These events continue to fufill Erica's wish to help those affected by cancer and let them know they are not alone in their fight! The proceeds from Erica's Run and other fundraisers are donated directly to local families battling this disease.
Please join us this year and help Erica’s friends and family fulfill a wish from Erica’s journal.
Erica's Fight Against Cancer...
Erica was raised in Merrimack, New Hampshire. She attended Mastricola Elementary School, Merrimack Middle School, and Merrimack High School. Erica worked as a time share sales representative in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina since the age of 19. She was beautiful, smart, strong, funny and very ambitious - assets which helped her succeed in business. She was always extremely independent and motivated to succeed in life. In October 2008, Erica was diagnosed with a rare type of malignant sarcoma tumor located above the crus of the diaphragm and extending to the right of the spine and the back wall of the heart. She was determined to use her incredible fighting spirit to win this battle with cancer. She requested a medical leave of absence from her job, but was denied because she had not been in employed with the company for 90 days.
She lived with her mother and two sisters in Merrimack, NH and had no insurance. After the pet scan was performed and the results were reviewed by Dr. William Nugent at Dartmouth Hitchcock in Lebanon, she was immediately sent and admitted to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a hospital which specializes in sarcoma tumors.
A Message From Erica:
"Hello everyone! Thank you for everything you’ve done for my family and me! Your support during these long weeks has helped me to keep focused on fighting. I’m humbled by all of the ways you’ve shown your love - through visits to me in the hospital and at home, cards with encouraging words, delicious meals and desserts prepared for my sisters and Bill, thoughtful gifts of everything from warm robes to stuffed bears, and amazingly generous gifts of money to help with my medical bills. I’ve also enjoyed the outings to the salon and the incredible fundraising events held throughout Merrimack and around the country."
"I want to beat this cancer and go on to help other young people in my position. Thank you again for your love and support. My Mom (Lisa), Bill, Michael, Katherine and Jacqueline all sincerely appreciate all you’ve done for us!"
A Message from Erica's Dad
At 1:22 pm on September 19, 2009 - 1 year 1 week & 1 day after being diagnosed - Erica Nicole Pombrio ended her battle with cancer. She fought bravely and quietly with dignity and determination, surrounded by a love her nurses and doctors say they had not witnessed before. This cancer/ tumor grew at a rate that none of her health care professionals had ever seen or even heard of, growing to the size of more than two basketballs in less than two months, yet she continued to fight with a courage and ferocious tenacity that was nothing less than awe-inspiring. Erica loved life to such an extent as to affect everyone that crossed her path. Friends and strangers alike would just stare at her in amazement. This love of life can be seen in just about any photograph taken of her. The effect this gift had on the nurses, doctors, other patients and visitors, that Erica met on her journey, was nothing short of a joy to behold. Some would come in on their days off to check on her, often times there would be a line of strangers outside her door, coming from all over the hospital, just to say hello. When she was sad; she made others laugh - when she was in pain; she made others comfortable - and when she was afraid it was usually for someone else. My heart breaks, not for her family and friends (including & especially her animal friends) for we know that God truly & dearly loves us because he put her in our lives, but for everyone else who never had the chance to meet her. Please pass this on to all that knew and loved her, she will be dearly missed. Thank you.
Our Angel ~ Erica Nicole Pombrio
August 26, 1986 ~ September 19, 2009
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Erica's Run to Strikeback Against Cancer/Erica Pombrio Foundation 458 DW Highway Unit #8 Merrimack NH 03054 (603) 262-9299 Email: EricasRun@gmail.com