Beyond mesothelioma: Jessica’s story

Meet Jessica. Mother, wife, daughter, mesothelioma warrior.  Jessica was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in June 2015. As to be expected, her reaction was a mix of shock, fear, and confusion. Her story exemplifies how the will to live and fight can conquer doubt, sadness, and the unforeseen.

In early 2015, Jessica began to experience increasing pain in her abdomen. Several doctors gave her the runaround. Some said it was a stomach bug, others indicated ovarian polyps, and some even thought that it was all on her head due to anxiety. After an ER trip, Jessica went to her general doctor who ran tests on her; deep down she knew something was terribly wrong.  After being referred to a gynecologist oncologist, a biopsy was ordered.  The results were not good.

Jessica had cancer and it was everywhere. “I will remember every moment of that 10 second statement.  I will remember how the room smelled and the look on my family’s faces.” It would take another month to get the results of peritoneal mesothelioma.

Soon after receiving her diagnosis she got to work. She researched relentlessly and was on a quest for long-term survivors. Two of her friends, one a doctor of microbiology and the other a cancer researcher, helped her understand the readings of her biopsy along with medical jargon. She also fished through case studies and read up on current clinical trials. All this eventually led her to the Meso Foundation. Of her experience she notes, “I am in debt to this organization, as are so many others.  It is an invaluable resource to those with mesothelioma.”

Jessica has undergone various treatments including cytroeductive surgery with HIPEC chemotherapy which took well over 14 hours.  Her peritoneum, omentum, right ovary, part of her diaphragm colon and intestines, and appendix were removed.  Tumors were also removed from several other areas of her abdomen. Hundreds of tumors in total. As to be expected, treatment was extremely challenging and the pain was difficult to control. At the time, Jessica was a newlywed, but she had to move in with her parents who live three hours away, while her husband worked during the week. On the weekends, he’d come visit her.  “I was extremely grateful for the support, but my life had turned upside down.  I had gone from a newlywed looking forward to starting a family to someone who couldn’t even get out of bed by herself.”

After learning that she could lose part or all of her reproductive system, she begged her doctor to save enough, so that she could have the opportunity to start her family, if everything worked out.  After surgery, she waited over a year before she was cleared to start In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Six months later she was pregnant. At the time of this publication, Jessica’s son is a healthy and happy seven month old. She gushes when speaking of him and credits him for further motivating her through her journey.

When asked what advice she gives to other patients, Jessica encourages them to keep the faith and never lose hope. Be unmovable in what you want because it’s your body and your life. To caregivers, she advises making sure they take time for themselves because it’s so easy to get lost in the disease and forget what you are to your loved one.

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