Mesothelioma Survivors

Mesothelioma is a life-threatening form of cancer that has a long latency period, which leads to the development of symptoms over an extended period of time, often decades. By the time the victims notice the symptoms and are diagnosed, the cancer is advanced and the patients often do not live long afterward. Fortunately, some patients have survived for a longer time than expected with this cancer, and because of these patients, researchers, scientists and physicians have been able to learn a great deal more about defeating this form of cancer.

Paul Kraus

One person who has lived a considerably long time with mesothelioma is an Australian man, Paul Kraus.  Kraus suffered exposure in 1962 while working during the summer. His cancer was not diagnosed until 1997. He has lived with  the illness for over a decade, and he has developed his own unique way of treating this rare cancer. Instead of traditional treatments, Kraus has undergone alternative therapies for mesothelioma, altered his diet, and taken up meditation in order to prevent the disease from progressing.

Kraus also claims that oxygen prevents cancer cells from surviving, and he regularly participates in ozone therapy. He also eats foods that are rich in nutrients in order to eliminate toxins from his body and help keep it from accumulating new toxins. It also seems that his upbeat approach to life is having a beneficial effect on his cancer.  He shares his experiences in his book Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers.

Stephen Jay Gould

American scientist and popular author Stephen Jay Gould was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1982.  While Paul Kraus espouses a more spiritual approach to dealing with his disease, Gould instead took a scientific approach to finding hope, carefully examining the statistics of mesothelioma life expectancy in his famous essay “The Median is Not the Message.”  He went on to live for an additional 20 years after his diagnosis, passing away in 2002 from an unrelated lung cancer.

Other Survivors

Though Gould and Kraus are perhaps the best-known survivors of this cancer, others have beaten the odds and lived long past their projected life expectancy.

  • Heather Von St. James (5 years) – Von St. James received an extrapleural pneumonectomy in 2006 while pregnant with her daughter, and credits her faith in God and the support of other cancer patients with helping her through the experience.
  • Karen Grant (7 years) – Diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2004, Grant is now cancer-free and is dedicated to maintaining a positive attitude.
  • Mike Dews (10 years) – After undergoing multiple mesothelioma surgeries, the first of which took place in 2001, Dews attributes his good condition in part to the support of loved ones.
  • Darlene Coker (12 years) – Coker, a massage therapist from Texas, underwent surgery for her mesothelioma in 1997, and lived another dozen years before passing away in 2009.
  • Sissy Hoffman (15 years) – Originally given six months to live, Hoffman underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, and has now returned to her job as a schoolteacher.

Treating the Disease

Unfortunately, mesothelioma is extremely resistant to traditional forms of treatment, making these survivors’ stories all the more remarkable.  If the cancer is caught while it is still localized in a single area, a surgical procedure called an extrapleural pneumonectomy that removes a lung and some of the surrounding tissue may prevent recurrence, but rarely is mesothelioma diagnosed that early.  More commonly, a combination of radiation and chemotherapy is used to attempt to slow the spread of the cancer.  However, even with treatment, life expectancy remains low.

Emerging Treatments

As with any type of cancer, survival depends on early diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Mesothelioma is no different. There has been a development of a blood test that shows elevated levels of certain protein markers. These high levels may indicate that mesothelioma may have developed. This test offers promise that the illness may be detected at an earlier stage in the future.

Mesothelin, an antigenic protein present in normal mesothelium cells but overproduced by malignant cells, may offer an opportunity for more focused mesothelioma treatment than typical chemotherapy.  The antigen may be able to serve as a target for certain drugs, allowing the cancerous cells to be killed while health cells are unharmed.

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