At a recent conference, a distinguished mesothelioma specialist was explaining how mesothelioma is a very complicated, aggressive cancer and that every case is different. He continued, by saying that while progress is ongoing it can already be seen in certain segments of patients with mesothelioma. Intellectually I know he is right, but all my patients have names and stories, and emotionally I pray that they will be the ones that benefit from the progress. Today, I saw firsthand the results of some of that progress.
Three years ago Mr. Z had an extrapleural pneumonectomy for his mesothelioma. His recuperation was complicated. He had a supportive brother and sister. He had not married and relied on his siblings and nieces and nephews for emotional support. Throughout his stay in the hospital and in the numerous rehabs they were with him.
We had visited him in multiple rehabs, talked with his sister multiple times, encouraged him to continue to fight. The last time I saw him was around two years ago, he was being released from the rehab and was headed home. He lived downstairs in a two-family house where his sister and her family lived upstairs.
Today at work, I was assisting another nurse and thought the patient on the stretcher looked vaguely familiar. When he said his name, and I asked him where he was from, it registered. I thought he was his brother: he looked wonderful! He had gained weight, was home and had been home for a couple of years. He was living with some of the challenges that mesothelioma and a long recovery had left him, but he was at home doing what he wanted. He was enrolling in a clinical trial and was going to have a procedure to see if he was a candidate. As expected his sister and brother were with him.
After the procedure, I saw his sister and brother. After a big hug and a few tears, his sister said she remembered our conversations and my encouragement, and she shared how well her brother had been doing. Her reflection after three years that although it had taken a long while to get to this point, they were glad to have stayed the course. Now, they were attempting to enroll him in a clinical trial that was a result of the progress that we had been following over the years.
As they were leaving they were discussing when to order Thai food and the best time of day to avoid the rush. Sometimes progress is slow and research takes time- but it is so worth it!
Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute