Mesothelioma Patient Stories:
Auto Mechanic Fights Back Against Mesothelioma
Malignant mesothelioma is a latent disease that can take anywhere from 30- to 50-years to become fully developed and symptomatic. The average post-diagnostic survival time of malignant mesothelioma sufferers is between one to two years. Traditional mesothelioma treatments have had limited success in eradicating the disease and have produced minimal success in extending patients' survival time.
Malignant mesothelioma sufferers, when faced with such dyer news, often tend to sit back and wait for the disease to claim them. There are victims who choose not to sit back, instead fighting to live and embrace each moment while striving to defy the odds by recovering from a disease that has thus far been incurable. This is the story of one such man.
In 1963, a Guatemala native moved to the United States in search of a better life. He found steady employment from the City of Los Angeles as an automobile mechanic. In 1982, he proudly became a United States citizen. He had indeed found a better life, until the summer of 2002, when surgeons informed him that a biopsy revealed a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring fiber, was widely used by the auto industry as an insulator and all-purpose fire retardant throughout the 1970s. Its heat-resistant properties made it the perfect material for brake pads and shoes. The use of asbestos waned in the 1980s and 1990s when federal safety officials warned that the inhalation of asbestos can lead to serious respiratory diseases like mesothelioma.
That summer, the ex-automobile mechanic developed a dry, hacking cough that he could not shake. He began to feel unusually fatigued. He continuously sought medical attention to address his concerns. Repeatedly, his true pleural mesothelioma diagnosis was missed or misdiagnosed. Asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis…he was misdiagnosed with them all.
By August, his symptoms had not improved, so a tuberculosis test was scheduled. A positive reading prompted the ordering of a chest x-ray. The image revealed extensive pleural thickening as well as a pleural effusion in the left cavity. He was admitted to a local hospital where he underwent a tissue biopsy.
After diagnosis of mesothelioma, oncologists offered him several treatment options, two of which included radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Surgery was not recommended at the time because the tumor nodule inside the lung was too large to remove. Surgeons recommended using mesothelioma chemotherapy in hopes that the tumor, over time, would shrink enough in size to be surgically removed. However, they could only promise a small chance of his survival being extended to 18-months after the surgery. Before deciding on a treatment, he had to consider that recovering from chemotherapy could take five months and recovering from surgery could take an additional five months. He was left with the grim reality that the amount of pain and discomfort he would be forced to endure would only add a few months onto his life (discounting 10 months of pain and suffering as "living").
Selecting to shrink the tumor, Alimta chemotherapy treatments (designed to attack malignant mesothelioma) were initiated. The treatments involved the intravenous injection of Alimta through a vein for a 10-minute period, once every three weeks. The dosage was based on medical condition, body size, and response to medication.
After months of chemotherapy treatment with Alimta, his body weight withered away to 124 pounds and he lost the desire to eat. In January of 2003, a chest x-ray revealed a small shrinkage to the tumor. Hearing the encouraging news regarding the x-ray renewed his fight to eat more and regain some strength.
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[Page updated March 2006]