Facing Mesothelioma One Journal Entry at a Time: Part One

The DeAugustinis

Tara DeAugustinis was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in early 2016 at the age of 45. After a few weeks of tests, doctors determined that her cancer was stage 2 and present on her chest wall and right lung.

Following Tara’s diagnosis, her husband, Richard, set up a private website for friends and family to follow along with Tara’s journey through treatment and offer help to the family in any way needed. “Tara’s prognosis is positive since the cancer is stage 2, but it’s going to be a difficult and challenging treatment journey in the months ahead to get the upper hand,” Rich wrote in his website introduction.

Tara’s doctors in Atlanta formulated an aggressive multimodal treatment plan consisting of chemotherapy followed by surgery and then radiation. She began a chemotherapy regimen of once every three weeks for six cycles. After recovering from chemo, Tara went through a major surgery to remove her right lung called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). Despite early staging, Tara’s disease was identified as stage 3B when the EPP was performed. There were more cancer cells present than detected on the scans, and it had metastasized to other areas, including her lymph nodes. Doctors proceeded with the surgery, but were unable to remove all of the caner. Once recovered, radiation treatment was performed to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Tara and Rich knew the road after diagnosis would be challenging, yet they decided to face mesothelioma head-on. “We accept the diagnosis as God’s providence in our lives, and will face and get through this trial with His love and support. It’s hard to understand, but we are not going to question it – we are going to get on with the battle,” wrote Rich.

The DeAugustinis have been blessed with an amazing network of support and a very close-knit family. Tara and Rich have a daughter, Aubrey, who is soon to be 15 years old and is the spitting image of her mother. Aubrey, Rich notes, has been a net source of strength for all of them throughout their battle with this disease. She shares her mother’s traits of being headstrong and driven.

A year after diagnosis, Tara is enrolled in a clinical trial, and her website is full of journal entries documenting her treatment and battle with mesothelioma. Rich and Tara have decided to share their story with us and the rest of the mesothelioma community. Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing the journal entries from Tara’s website onto our blog.

Here are the first entries:

Tara Starts Chemotherapy on Tuesday
Journal entry by Rich DeAugustinis — 4/11/2016

Just a quick note to let everyone know that Tara will be starting chemotherapy on Tuesday at the Winship Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s. She will be doing 6 “cycles” of cisplatin and alimta (the chemo drugs), one every 3 weeks. This is the start of her “journey of hope” back to health. Could I ask you all to pray for Tara on Tuesday and keep her in your thoughts?  Please pray for:

  • Comfort for Tara during the chemo treatment
  • Tara’s father Aubrey who will be taking her to the treatment
  • The chemo to have immediate impact on the cancer – to halt any spread and to immediately start reducing the size of the tumors
  • The chemo to have little to no side effects on Tara
  • The chemo to help abate the pain she is enduring now
  • The doctors, nurses and others that will be administering the chemo treatment
  • Those of us that will care for her in the coming days after this first treatment

Thank you all for your love and support! I will update you on Tara’s progress later this week or this weekend. God bless you all.

-Rich

Update on Response to Chemo – So Far, So Good
Journal entry by Rich DeAugustinis — 4/13/2016

Update: Good start. She was virtually pain-free for the first time in a long while when she came home yesterday afternoon. She was also in very good spirits. So far today, she has a touch of nausea, but hasn’t gotten sick. Mostly just very, very tired, which we expected and is par for the course for chemo. So far, so good…we pray for the side effects to continue to be mild for Tara. Thanks for all of the love, prayers and support! God bless!

Update on Tara & Prayer Request for Nerve Block Procedure
Journal entry by Rich DeAugustinis — 4/26/2016

Good morning, everybody. I wanted to give you a quick update on Tara. She started chemo two weeks ago today. The first week was a bit rough, but frankly we are thankful that she didn’t experience the worst side effects. She was very tired and had occasional nausea, but didn’t get sick. The last week has been considerably better. With her energy level back up, she has tried to get out and walk some days and get back to doing some yoga, too (it’s important for her to continue to stay active to help fight the cancer and help her lung heal). Our sincere hope and prayer going forward is for each chemo treatment to have minimal effect on her for a few days, followed by 2+ weeks of normalcy. The challenge to that has been the pain from the mesothelioma – both the cancer itself and the consequential nerve pain, too. That’s been the toughest part of this from the beginning. She is seeing a pain management doctor at Emory as part of her treatment plan (Dr. Vinita Singh). We have been really impressed with her, and the medications and other recommendations have helped a lot, but Tara is still dealing with pain – which can be significant at times.

Which brings me to the prayer request – this morning at 9:30am Dr. Singh is going to administer “nerve block” injections to several key nerves in the chest area, in the hopes of blunting most of the nerve pain in the region. If it works properly, it should provide her considerable relief. Please pray that it does, and for the doctors hands to be steady and precise during the procedure. The hardest part of this journey is seeing a loved one in pain and knowing you can do little to nothing about it except offer words of comfort. This nerve block can hopefully “change the game” on her pain. Lord, please be with Tara and her doctor this morning and use this to help ease the burden of pain for her as she goes through this. Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support – they are deeply appreciated. Another update after her next chemo next Thursday, May 5th. God bless!

Continue reading Tara’s story here: Facing Mesothelioma One Journal Entry at a Time: Part Two

1 Comment on "Facing Mesothelioma One Journal Entry at a Time: Part One"

  1. jackie tormohlen | March 13, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Reply

    My husband is 38. Stage 3 Plueral Mesothelioma tumor coming from pluera wrapped around the descending aorta from the posterior. This is the first person who I have seen close to his age. They want him to do surgery but he is not at this point for fear of this surgery. My email is jackietormo72@gmail.com. If anyone his age that has experience in having mesothelioma personally I am waiting to hear from you. Hearing from a person besides doctors or nurses would be everything to me. He was diagnosed October 2016.

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