A diagnosis of mesothelioma is terrible news, but when Katherine got her diagnosis, she was not prepared to let it defeat her. At the age of 49, thinking she only had the flu, Katherine Keys found out she had a devastating type of cancer and was given a hopeful prognosis of two years to live. Ten years later, she is glad she never gave in to despair and that she fought to survive this disease.
Mesothelioma: An Insidious Cancer
Katherine was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a type of cancer that affects the pleura, the tissue that lines the lungs and chest cavity. It is often mistaken for lung cancer, but is distinct and is most often associated with having been exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma is aggressive and spreads quickly. It is considered incurable, and most people diagnosed receive a life expectancy estimation measured in months, not years.
For Katherine, her story began with symptoms that seemed just like more ordinary respiratory illnesses. She had some shortness of breath, a bad cough, and difficulty breathing. As the symptoms got worse, she ended up in the emergency room where she finally got an accurate diagnosis of cancer. Mesothelioma is so insidious because it mimics other illnesses. Because this kind of cancer is rare, many people will be misdiagnosed several times before getting the right diagnosis, all while the cancer grows and spreads.
Stage I Mesothelioma and Aggressive Treatment
Katherine was luckier than most mesothelioma patients. Ending up in the ER may just have saved her life. Because mesothelioma looks a lot like other diseases, most diagnoses are late, in the third or fourth stage. Katherine got her diagnosis during stage I, which meant she had a fighting chance. The cancer had not yet spread very far and aggressive treatments just might eliminate her tumors entirely.
Even at stage I, the prognosis was not good and her doctors did not expect her to survive more than two years. Katherine decided to be positive and to choose the riskiest and most painful treatment path: radical surgery followed by radiation therapy.
Katherine was referred to experts at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center where she underwent a surgical procedure called an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which involved removing her pleura, some lymph nodes, part of her diaphragm, and an entire lung. Recovery from this surgery was long and slow and she also had to undergo radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells. The surgery itself could have killed her, but it gave Katherine her only real chance of surviving mesothelioma.
Recovery and Remission
As Katherine recovered from surgery and went through radiation, her doctors screened her for cancer every month. If it was coming back, they needed to know so they could administer more treatments. Month after month, they could find no signs of cancer in her body. After six months, there were still no detectable cancer cells. After a year, with no signs of cancer, Katherine’s doctors declared her to be in remission, something so few people with mesothelioma achieve.
As you could expect, all of these treatments come with a cost. Katherine decided to look for financial help on the internet to help her pay for her overbearing medical costs. The she came across MesotheliomaLawyerCenter.org where she learned about trusts that the government has set up for people suffering from asbestos related cancers. These same trusts helped her afford her medical bills. Without them she would have been lost. It has relieved much of the burden on both herself and family members, as you would expect.
Katherine now lives life limited because of her surgery, but happy to be alive and thrilled to have more time with her family and friends. She can’t do everything she once could, but she was also told she would not live more than a couple of years. She is now ten years past her diagnosis and is loving life more than ever. She is also enjoying sharing her story, inspiring others to fight cancer and to hold on to hope.
So what can we learn from Katherine's story, and what were the keys to her success. Why did she beat the average one year survival of just 40%, or 9 to 10 months.
Her first and probably most important step was she knew when something was wrong and refused to stop in the pursuit of what was wrong until she found the cause. As a result she found it in an early stage, and with cancer the earlier it is found the longer the like expectancy.
She became her own best advocate and researched and found the best cource of treatment which although intense gave her the best possibility of an improved life expectancy.
She went to one of the best cancer centers in the world for mesothelioma cancer treatment, MD Anderson.
She was able to go to a top notch hospital because she sought out places for financial help to minimize compromises on treatment due to financial hardship.
If you look at much of what I have written on this site it follows the same basic keys to success. I would argue, these keys will hold true for most orphan cancers, and most all cancers which have metastasized.
Good luck and may God Bless your cancer journey. For more information on multiple myeloma survival rates and treatments CLICK HERE and you can follow me on twitter at: https://twitter.com/grpetersen1