Type: Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Survival: 18 years
Kendra is an artist, teacher and mother diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma at a time when there was no standard treatment available. Not letting that stop her, Kendra took her prognosis into her own hands.
A Mother's Story
Kendra Ferreira of Rhode Island enjoyed making and teaching art while living a great life with her family before she was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2001.
Close to two decades later, she is healthy and continues to have a passion for art and her family.
Kendra is the mother of three boys, all of whom were teenagers at the time of her diagnosis. They were essential for pushing her to beat her diagnosis.
She also stayed positive, did her research, found the best doctor to treat her and was open to clinical trials. She truly took her prognosis into her own hands.
Getting the Diagnosis
Nobody expects to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, and early symptoms are often perceived as something minor. Kendra had been experiencing abdominal pains and trouble with digestion before her abdomen began swelling. The swelling was due to fluid buildup called ascites. The tumors in her abdominal lining was responsible. According to her, the swelling became so severe it looked like she was a few months pregnant, so it was at that point that she decided to see her doctor.
“He did some tests, they thought it was ovarian cancer,” she said.
Many people underestimate how rare peritoneal mesothelioma is. There are only approximately 400 cases per year. By comparison, there are nearly 22,000 cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed every year. It makes sense that Kendra had never heard of it. She was very candid about her feelings upon her diagnosis, saying, “I was shocked. I was 42 years old. Absolutely shocked. I was petrified. I said, ‘oh my gosh, I’m not ready to die.’”
The doctor who diagnosed her wasn’t a mesothelioma specialist so she was sent to several treatment centers on the East Coast. She traveled from Rhode Island to New York where she met with Dr. Robert Taub.
Kendra's Treatment Plan
Kendra had a unique experience with chemotherapy that led to her survival and highlights the importance of seeing a doctor experienced with the treatment of mesothelioma.
Dr. Taub is a respected medical oncologist at the Columbia University Medical Center specializing in peritoneal mesothelioma. It was Dr. Taub who developed Kendra’s successful treatment plan.
When Kendra was diagnosed, there weren’t any standard treatments for mesothelioma yet. With Dr. Taub’s blessing, Kendra decided to participate in a clinical trial that used an experimental chemotherapy drug.
Her treatment plan was a complex regimen of chemotherapy, radiation and novel antitumor medicine. She underwent:
- Exploratory surgery (to determine extent of cancer)
- Eight weeks of chemotherapy
- Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)
- Four weeks of interferon-gamma
- A second exploratory surgery and HIPEC
- Five weeks of radiation
Kendra’s treatment was extensive. “It was a lot,” she admits. “And the radiation was the absolute worst part.”
Staying Healthy and Positive
Kendra is an advocate for a healthy diet with plenty of exercise as well as keeping the right kind of mindset. Her food choices were also an important part of her recovery because peritoneal mesothelioma can cause issues with digestion.
She also credits her mindset to her survivorship. Kendra made the decision to fight and to believe she could beat her diagnosis.
Regarding her survivorship she said, “I think that a positive attitude was the most important thing. Keeping the faith, keeping a positive attitude that you’ll be okay.”
Support and Motivation
The support of Kendra’s family was integral to her positivity throughout her diagnosis. Her children inspired her to fight her disease with all she had. At the time, her boys were moving on to SATs and college. “I can’t go anywhere,” she said. “I have to be here for these kids.”
Kendra also received a lot of support from the art community she is a part of and was keen to credit the medical staff that took care of her. “The hospital staff, the chemo nurses, the doctors, were really compassionate people.”
Her desire to be around for her children inspired her to do everything she could to survive, but little things like continuing her art and letting people help her also contributed to her will to live.
Kendra is a loving mother and wife who overcame the odds of mesothelioma. Her story is one of humility, and like every other patient, one of bravery. She has expressed a new appreciation for life and does her best to take in the little things.
Most recently, she took a trip with her family to Italy, proof that she’s living life to the fullest.
Kendra said finding out that the treatments worked gave her a new perspective on life: