Type: Pleural Mesothelioma
Survival: 16 years
Marlyn was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2000. She was treated successfully at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York and hasn’t looked back since.
Beating the Odds
Thirteen years 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 6 months adds weight to her advice.
Getting the Diagnosis
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 disconcerted. A CT scan was ordered for her right lung, hoping that it would provide more information. The results showed a tumor in the lung. More tests were then 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, MD.
After waiting patiently, Marlyn was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. The tumor was large and attached to the bone. She was given a prognosis of 6 months.
Marlyn's Treatment Plan
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.
Alimta, 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 others do not. In Marlyn’s case, the gemcitabine and cisplatin combination was effective.
Marlyn had a pneumonectomy to remove her tumor. Part of her right lung, the lining surrounding the lung and five ribs were removed during her surgery. This procedure is uncommon for mesothelioma patients. Most doctors prefer to remove the whole lung, or just the lining surrounding the lung. However, Dr. Rusch’s decision to perform a pneumonectomy seemed to do the trick in Marlyn’s case. Marlyn’s mesothelioma hasn’t needed any treatment since.
Marlyn’s treatment plan was somewhat different than that used for other mesothelioma patients.
Those like Dr. Rusch have the most experience with this rare disease and are able to interpret each diagnosis better than a general oncologist.
Life After Treatment
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.