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Beating the Odds
Marlyn Landin was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma when she was 47 years old. Like all cancer patients, Marlyn was scared. But that didn’t stop her from being determined to do everything in her power to overcome mesothelioma. She is now among the longest living mesothelioma survivors.
Decades after her diagnosis, Marlyn’s life isn’t the same. She is, however, grateful to have survived. Marlyn and her husband, a retired Air Force veteran, split their time between their family and traveling.
Their travels include conferences on mesothelioma where Marlyn likes to meet more people like her and spread hope for others living with mesothelioma. Her amazing triumph over her original prognosis of 16 months adds weight to her advice.
Snapshot of Marlyn Landin’s Mesothelioma Survival
Pneumonectomy/decortication surgery; chemotherapy
Getting the Diagnosis
Marlyn, a resident of Maryland, worked as a hair stylist for 25 years prior to her diagnosis. Life was simple, and she enjoyed spending her down time in the company of her grandsons. She was in good health but did have an experience with a collapsed lung in the past.
Then, in the spring of 2000, Marlyn started experiencing back pain that she said felt like a pulled muscle. To be on the safe side, she went to the doctor. The doctor requested an X-ray.
The x-ray findings left her doctors concerned. A CT scan was ordered hoping it would provide more information. The results showed a tumor in the right lung. More tests were performed because imaging tests alone aren’t conclusive when it comes to diagnosing cancer. Marlyn’s doctors ordered a biopsy and a pathology report from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Marlyn was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. The tumor was large and attached to the bone. She was given a prognosis of 16 months.
Marlyn’s Treatment Plan
The Naval Medical Center was not equipped to treat a disease like mesothelioma. Luckily, Marlyn’s doctors immediately suggested a consultation with a mesothelioma specialist.
Marlyn was referred to Dr. Valerie Rusch at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Dr. Rusch is one of the leading mesothelioma specialists in the country. She is on the frontline of mesothelioma research and has been the principal investigator in many clinical trials. Marlyn was in good hands.
Gemcitabine and Cisplatin
Dr. Rusch prescribed chemotherapy to shrink Marlyn’s tumor before surgery. Marlyn experienced some side effects at first, such as nausea and vomiting, but Dr. Rusch adjusted the dose and continued more rounds of chemotherapy.
Cisplatin, the current standard treatment for mesothelioma, still hadn’t been approved in 2000. Gemcitabine and cisplatin used together, however, were showing considerable success in many patients. Maryln is a stunning example. Her mesothelioma responded very well to this particular chemotherapy combination.
Every patient is different and some respond to types of chemotherapy that other patients do not. In Marlyn’s case, the gemcitabine and cisplatin combination was effective.
Her tumor shrunk considerably and she was soon able to have surgery.
Marlyn had pneumonectomy with decortication (P/D) surgery to remove her tumor. Dr. Rusch removed part of her right lung, the lining surrounding the lung and five ribs during her surgery.
Dr. Rusch’s decision to perform a pneumonectomy was the best decision for Marlyn’s case. Marlyn’s mesothelioma hasn’t needed any treatment since.
Doctors like Dr. Rusch have the most experience with this rare disease and are able to interpret each diagnosis better than a general oncologist. Mesothelioma doctors have the knowledge and experience needed to be able to customize and adapt treatments to the individual patient’s needs.
Life After Treatment
Marlyn is appreciative that she was able to take her life back once her disease reached remission, even if it isn’t the same as before her diagnosis. She has experienced some lasting effects from her battle with mesothelioma. However, she is thankful that she has been granted more time with her family.
She credits her survival to her doctors’ quick, decisive action.
The doctors at the Naval Medical Center didn’t hesitate to recommend a specialist, and the specialist they recommended was experienced enough to know what to do.
Like many cancer survivors, Marlyn believes that positivity is crucial when facing mesothelioma. Letting go of negative emotions like anger and despair is necessary to developing a mindset for healing.
“Never give up,” she says. “Believe in yourself, your faith, and your ability to beat meso.”
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