JOLIET – Nicole Alaimo of Joliet has two good reasons to beat her cancer.
She wants to walk down the aisle next August and wed Trzemyslaw “Shem” Wisniewski, the father of their 2-year-old daughter, Isabella. And then Alaimo wants to be present when – someday – Isabella takes her own trip to the altar.
But Alaimo’s aunt, Patty D’Andrea of Plainfield, said Alaimo’s oncologist wants Alaimo to move up her wedding date. Last fall, Alaimo’s cancer – previously in remission – reappeared in her lungs, neck and back.
A clinical trial in Cleveland offered hope, until Alaimo was rejected after 10 tumors were found in her brain. Alaimo wants her health back before the wedding, which is one reason why she’s holding off, but D’Andrea said Alaimo doesn’t have the money, either.
In the meantime, Alaimo, 34, is optimistic she’ll beat the cancer by next year.
“Nicole is a very positive girl,” D’Andrea said. “She’s been very positive through all the negative news she’s received.”
In March 2012 – two days before her grandmother died – Alaimo found a lump. Subsequent tests showed a type of breast cancer called triple negative and the presence of the BRCA1 gene.
Triple negative breast cancer means the tumor doesn’t have any of the three types of receptors known to promote cancer growth, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Alaimo said she began chemotherapy immediately after diagnosis and had a double mastectomy Sept. 28, 2012. She then began the process of breast reconstruction and follow-ups with her oncologist.
“I was good until October of last year,” Alaimo said. “I went in for my normal six-month followup and they called me back right away saying, ‘Your tumor markers are off the wall.’”
Alaimo had more chemotherapy followed by radiation. Treatment appeared to be working until June when cancer also was found in her hips, and then her brain – eight small tumors and two large ones.
She is back on chemotherapy and is exploring other clinical trial options through the University of Chicago. Wisniewski is walking this journey with her every step of the way.
Alaimo met Wisniewski through a dating website in October 2013. They became engaged on Christmas Day 2014 when she was still in remission. From the start, Alaimo was candid about her chances of conceiving – slim to none – because of the type of chemotherapy she had received.
Isabella came along anyway. But Isabella had trouble with her lungs, and Alaimo lost her job. Once life settled down, Alaimo found a clerical job, which she worked until her health declined in March.
“There was no way anyone could keep me on,” Alaimo said. “I practically live at the doctor’s and the hospital.”
Alaimo’s face lights up when she describes her dream wedding. A beautiful dress. Eight bridesmaids – Alaimo is one of six siblings. About 130 guests, including her many cousins. A service at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet. A dinner at a banquet hall. A DJ.
To raise money for the wedding and medical expenses, the family began a YouCaring page for Alaimo. In addition, an anonymous donor paid for a dress, D’Andrea said. The family may also have donations for flowers and a banquet hall.
“I just want to look like Cinderella,” Alaimo said.
But Alaimo’s recent fainting spells mean she can’t drive or be alone. Her mother, Darlene Baez of Joliet, cares for Alaimo and Isabella while Wisniewski is at work.
“On weekends, Shem takes over,” Baez said.
After putting in a full day on the job, Wisniewski comes home to cook, clean, care for Alaimo and take Isabella to gymnastics. Several members of his family have also battled cancer. He worries about Alaimo; he worries about Isabella and her future.
Wisniewski will be 30 on Oct. 1 and he has one birthday wish.
“I just want her to get better,” he tearfully choked out.
To donate to Nicole Alaimo’s dream wedding and medical expenses, visit shawurl.com/2u7v