Hope and Inspiration
In the Summer of 2011, our father, David, had difficulty breathing, a recurring cough that wouldn’t go away, rapid weight loss, fatigue and other symptoms. He went to the doctor several times and it was believed that he had some type of upper respiratory illness. Eventually, after it wasn’t getting any better, he started to be concerned that his lymphoma had returned after almost fifteen years in remission, so he went to see his doctor to confirm this. After having some fluid drained from his lungs, he received the news that preliminary results indicated that he had mesothelioma. Shortly afterward he had a scope of his lung confirming that he had advanced malignant mesothelioma.
We were shocked and devastated!! How could this have happened!?! Where could he have been exposed!?! What now!?!
As with many mesothelioma patients when they are first diagnosed, David was told he had months to live and was encouraged to get his affairs in order. He sat with his family and close friends in the hospital for days planning how he would be spending his last few months with them. Doctors advised him that there was an invasive surgery available, but they did not believe he would qualify given his history of lymphoma, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. Additionally, they were concerned that the chemo treatments available would damage his kidneys. David never would have believed that there were options available to him that could not only prolong his life but provide him with considerable quality of life as well.
Then, a glimmer of hope was given to him, and everything changed.
One of David’s doctors connected him to the University of Chicago Medicine’s Mesothelioma Program. The mesothelioma specialists in that program provided him with treatment options that he never believed he would have. He went through some tests to confirm he could handle a radical pleurectomy, which is the removal of the tumor and lung lining. All of his doctors cleared him for the surgery, and he had the radical pleurectomy on October 31, 2011. The surgeon was able to remove 90% of the tumor. After a long couple of months of recovery, he began chemotherapy. After completing the chemo, he has had check ups with the surgeon and his mesothelioma oncologist every few months. At each check up David is told the tumor has not changed. He is doing very well and living his life to the fullest more than two years later.
Through David’s experience, we as his family and friends began to learn about the Mesothelioma Program and the mesothelioma specialists at University of Chicago Medicine. We witnessed firsthand the amazing work they are doing fighting this disease and learned about the extensive research they are doing in search of better treatment options and a cure.
It also became apparent to us that, due to the rarity of this disease as well as lack of public awareness, organizations like University of Chicago Medicine struggle to obtain government funding as well as funding from both individual and corporate donors. Even with all of the great work University of Chicago Medicine and other mesothelioma specialists are doing, there are many individuals facing this disease who are unaware of emerging treatment options available to them that could radically increase both their life expectancy and their quality of life.
We firmly believe that facing the reality of this diagnosis does not mean accepting the first opinion you receive. There are experts, and there are options. In fact, David would have never contacted the University of Chicago Medicine and attempted to schedule an appointment if it wasn’t for the suggestion of one of his doctors. David was fortunate enough to find hope when he thought he had none. Inspired by David’s experience, we want to provide that same hope to others.