Jeannie

Here is the short version of my wife Jeannie’s losing battle with cancer. Her primary medical oncologist first diagnosed lymphoma, soon changed it to lung cancer–and then held steadfast to that diagnosis despite the fact that two of his colleagues (a radiation oncologist and a pulmonary oncology specialist) at the Helen Graham Cancer Center here in Delaware believed it was thymic cancer, and two older, very experienced and well-respected physicians (a medical oncologist and a thoracic surgeon/oncology specialist) at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia confirmed that it was indeed “thymic,” not lung cancer. At every point, we were told that it did not *matter,* whether it was one or the other, that the treatment would be the same and the outcome would be the same. She was 61 when diagnosed, and lived only 14 months. The cancer was pretty far advanced (Stage IIIb when diagnosed). It has carved a large hole in my heart, and I felt helpless through those long months. It would have been a little easier, had we had physicians all on the same page. She never did have any cancer in her lungs, though toward the end it metastasized to her side and arm. She was never in deep pain–thanks to Hospice.

But I do miss her terribly.

They did chemotherapy on Jeannie using Taxol and Carboplatin, which had very limited results against the cancer (which was massed directly under Jeannie’s throat), and later they did daily radiation coupled with chemo using the same drugs–but the best all that treatment did was to give her two fairly liveable weeks in the summer, and about two months before Christmas when she was relatively symptom-free. The rest was just a miserable round of treatments which sapped her energy. I wish I could be more help to you. Dr. Walter Scott, the thoracic surgeon at Fox Chase, said he had seen only three thymic cancer patients in his many long decades of experience. He surgically resected one of those successfully, but could not help the other two (including Jeannie) because their cancers were too far advanced when they were first discovered.

Dennis Jackson

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