Today’s stage took the riders over a number of “killer”
climbs in the Sierra Mountains, including four separate battles for King
of the Mountain points. No doubt, this stage was a proverbial "lung
Every athlete knows what it’s like to push yourself so hard that
you "run out of gas" and "can't breathe." Can
you imagine what it would be like if performing life’s menial tasks,
such as getting out of bed in the morning or walking up a single flight
of stairs, produced the same effect? This is what it’s like for
thousands of victims of the asbestos cancer who have had one of their
lungs surgically removed.
For many years, this was the only choice for mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma
is an asbestos-related tumor that surrounds and squeezes the lung. It
is thought to be incurable. Treatment options are few, as too much time
and money has been wasted on fighting over blame, and precious little
has been invested in medical research.
Mesothelioma patients were told that the only aggressive option they had
was a radical surgery known as extra-pleural pneumonectomy or “EPP",
a big operation in which the surgeon amputates the tumor along with the
lung, lung linings, diaphragm and portions of the heart sack. The average
survival time following EPP, radiation and chemotherapy is anywhere from
16 to 18 months.
The problem is that in many cases, especially where the disease is in its
early stages, the tumor has not invaded the lung. As a result, the lung,
absent the tumor rind compressing against it, would continue to ventilate,
transfer oxygen to blood and do all the wonderful things a lung is supposed
to do. Moreover, mesothelioma is an insidious tumor which can rapidly
recur. For patients who undergo EPP, it can and often does return to the
empty lung chamber (even the best surgeon can’t remove 100% of the
cancer cells) or to the healthy lung on the opposite side of the chest.
So, for example, if a patient has his left lung removed, but the tumor
returns in his right lung linings, his fate would be sealed.
This raises the question: Can't the doctor simply remove the tumor
from the linings of the affected lung and spare the otherwise healthy
lung? The answer from a growing number of thoracic surgeons today is: Yes!
Through a procedure known as pleurectomy/decortication or “PD”,
the surgeon meticulously cuts, burns and strips the tumor off of the lung
while leaving the otherwise healthy lung intact. It takes longer, but
the hard work pays off. The median survival time for patients undergoing
PD is slightly longer than patients undergoing EPP (19-21 months). Furthermore,
the recovery is much faster and the surgical mortality is dramatically less.
Fortunately, one of the world’s top thoracic surgeons, Dr. Robert
Cameron, is located here in California. Dr. Cameron has been performing
the PD with painstaking attention to detail for decades, long before it
became recognized as more rational and humane than the EPP. How do I know
he's meticulous? I've actually watched him in action in the O.R.
on four occasions. While the radical EPP takes about 3 to 4 hours to perform,
the lung sparing PD takes twice as long.
Dr. Cameron is the director of the mesothelioma program at UCLA Medical
Center and chief of thoracic surgery at the Wadsworth VA Hospital in Los
Angeles. Dr. Cameron is also the executive medical director of the Punch
Worthington Research Laboratory as a part of the Pacific Heart, Lung &
Blood Institute. Yes, I am so impressed with Dr. Cameron's skills
that I recommended him to my own father, Punch Worthington, who himself
was diagnosed with an asbestos-related lung tumor.
Dr. Robert Cameron (c) performing a PD at the UCLA Medical School. Roger
Worthington, Esq. (r) observing.
I'll never forget the first time I witnessed Dr. Cameron in action.
He had spent 10 hours with his hands in my client's chest. He stripped
the tumor off the chest wall, then burned it from the diaphragm, then
separated it from the heart, and then burned it off the lung. Not once
did he take a bathroom break or grab a bite to eat. He never left his
patient. At the very end of the operation, when all visible tumor had
been removed, he ventilated the tumor-liberated lung, and it sprung to
life. Like a humble sculptor who had just created a masterpiece, Dr. Cameron
invited me to gaze at his work. "Why," he asked, shaking his
head, "would anyone want to throw away a perfectly healthy lung?"
So, today, we honor the doctors who sacrifice comfort, time and money in
order to give cancer patients more lungs, and more life.
Race hard, take deep, cleansing breaths, break some legs, and bust some lungs!
Roger Worthington, PC is proud to be a co-sponsor of Team OUCH who believes
in "going for the gold and giving something back!" Roger Worthington,
PC has donated over $2.5 million to the Mesothelioma Applied Research
Foundation, the Punch Worthington Research Lab, the International Mesothelioma
Interest Group (and presented at the 2008 conference), and the Asbestos
Disease Awareness Organization.