What and how do patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and their medical teams consider success? Currently there is no cure for malignant mesothelioma. One of the definitions of success is a favorable or desired outcome. Is it possible for someone diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma to see success in their journey with this serious cancer?
Today I visited a woman who was unsure what success looks like. Up until this point in her life she had been reaching her goals: a satisfying marriage, mother, and a good career. Now, she was in forign territory. She explained her journey has been a whirlwind which made her emotional as she spoke.
Her story begins with low grade fevers, coughs, and night sweats. As a mother of two young children, she pushed forward. She continued with her exercise regime, continued with caring for her children. She reached out to urgent care, primary care, and the battery of tests initiated. From the start of testing to diagnosis was about three weeks. This new diagnosis, malignant pleural mesothelioma, shattered their world, and forced them to pack up their lives and move closer to family and a Mesothelioma Center of Excellence. She and her family moved swiftly and headed to near one of the best centers in the United States.
Quickly seen by a mesothelioma specialist, she was put on the schedule and they operated on her lung and she underwent a pleurectomy. Life continued to move forward with little time to take a deep breath and absorb all this information.
When I met this patient after surgery we talked about where she is, physically and emotionally. She brought up the topic of success. Is she considered a success on her journey with malignant mesothelioma? She is strong, gaining weight, feeling well. Emotionally she remains frail. She asks many questions about what to expect in her life ahead so she can attempt to prepare for the next steps.
Her willingness to learn more information is a tribute to her approach to her disease. As the visit went on, I was surprised by how well she looked. Strong, confident, and a belief that was pouring from her soul that she was a survivor and she believes her cancer is gone. She was grateful to her mesothelioma team, her family, and her confidence that makes her get up everyday and push forward. Her journey will be ongoing as she continues with treatment.
For the mesothelioma team there are several successes already in this patient’s journey. It was a few years ago when the average time from first symptoms to diagnosis and treatment at a Mesothelioma Center of Excellence was 6 months, now 3 weeks for this patient. There was also a longer delay from the patient seeking out the expert at the Mesothelioma Center, to the beginning of treatment. Today, newly diagnosed patients with malignant mesothelioma are treated as quickly as possible.
We measure success in this journey with how it impacts our world. At this point our patient looks well and is ready to reclaim her life. She will take this as success for now!