Felix Tarantino, before his diagnosis
Felix Tarantino is a 56 year old former boilermaker with four years of
service in the U.S. Navy. He was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma
on March 26, 2001. He and his wife reside in Red Bank, New Jersey.
Felix had been working in a steel fabricating shop for three and one-half
years before he first noticed fatigue and shortness of breath in January,
2000. Normally, he could manhandle 1600 pound slabs of steel. As you can
see, his physique was chiseled from years of hard work.
As winter turned into spring, Felix noticed that he was sleeping longer
and longer hours. He would come home from work exhausted, go straight
to bed, sleep for fourteen hours, then wake up and start all over again.
By June, he finally realized that he could not handle the steel the way
he used to, and that his weakness at work could be dangerous to himself,
or to others. Felix was forced to quit, and went to plumbing work, which
was less strenuous. He had to quit this work as well in November, 2000,
when his condition spiraled downward.
That month, Felix came down with a terrible cold. He went to see Dr. Irina
Vilenskaya, his primary care physician who had a chest film taken. This
film did not reveal bronchitis as his doctor had previously thought, but
rather cells that looked abnormal with asbestos exposure. Dr. Vilenskaya
then sent Felix to Dr. Robert Kosinski, who drained fluid from the right
side and ordered a CT scan. Dr. Kosinski told him that chest films taken
in November, 2000 showed he had asbestosis in 90 percent of his right lung.
Felix saw Dr. Kosinski three times from December until he had fluid drained
on February 8, 2001. Felix had a bronchoscopy and a biopsy performed on
February 19, 2001, which yielded an inconclusive result.
Felix was referred to Dr. Robert Caccavale of the Thoracic Group in Somerset,
New Jersey who performed a video-assisted thoracoscopy with partial pleurectomy.
The scars in the photograph represent the corner incisions made to remove
a massive sheet of tumor from the rib cage. Shortly thereafter, on March
26, Felix received a telephone call from his doctor's office notifying
him that he had been diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, biphasic type.
Given his rapidly deteriorating condition, Felix turned his attention away
from the exploration of treatment options, and testified in New York City
while on oxygen over the course of the first three days of May. He actually
delayed the start of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to testify. After
taking a two-hour train ride from New Jersey into the City, he was only
able to testify for about three hours the first day, and four the next,
due to lack of stamina and constant pain. One of his chief concerns during
the first day of testimony was that he was running out of oxygen, and
arrangements had to be frantically made to locate another canister.
Three days of testimony left Felix looking much older, with a gray pallor
to his skin. On May 4, one of his treating physicians, Dr. Gollamudi,
recommended that Felix undergo an extra-pleural pneumonectomy after undergoing
therapeutic chemotherapy. Felix was terrified at the prospect of being
surgically filleted, and then bombarded with radiation and chemotherapy.
He scheduled appointments with oncologists in New Jersey and at the University
of Pennsylvania. He was not comfortable with any of the treatment options
with which he had been presented. He found the
ALIMTA(R) (pemetrexed disodium), trial at the San Antonio Cancer Therapy and
Research Center more promising. However, while Felix remains very interested
in future treatment with Alimta, the ordeal and expense of traveling to
San Antonio persuaded him to first try conventional chemotherapy at a
local hospital. Moreover, there was no guarantee that he would be eligible
to participate in the Alimta trial.
In mid-June, Felix became so anemic from the chemotherapy that he had to
be hospitalized for several days. He had two pints of blood transfused.
He is on Megace, and has actually gained a few pounds. But he senses that
the tumor is growing. He can feel it in his back more; he can feel it
on his side, all of these little bumps. And he can feel the tumor restrict
his lung expansion. His doctors are going to have him take an M.R.I. after
his next round of chemotherapy.
Felix Tarantino, April 30, 2001
Currently, he suffers from constant pain, frequent fever and night sweats,
shortness of breath, and occasional episodes where he feels he is suffocating.
Felix is 56 years old. He has always taken pride in his health and appearance.
Felix and Deborah Tarantino were married on August 10, 1983. Debbie works
as a dental technician. Before Felix fell ill, they enjoyed taking long
rides in rural Pennsylvania, to get away from all the congestion in New
Jersey. They felt free, liberated, while they rambled along, stopping
at antique stores to shop. They were just starting to get ahead. Just
before they pushed the boulder to the top of the mountain, the boulder
turned on them. They feel like they are being pushed inexorably down,
despite straining with every sinew not to give an inch. Felix says there's
always hope, as long as he can pray.
Our prayers are with the Tarantinos as they struggle to hold their ground
while the tumor bears down. As I write this, I am thinking of all the
Felix Tarantinos in the world who have been forced into this unwinnable
showdown with mesothelioma. There are thousands of good, strong, healthy
people out there who have the right stuff to win just about anything they do.
But mesothelioma does not respect might, or discipline, or conviction.
The tumor has no compassion. You can't reason with it. It must be
eradicated. Don't just read this and feel sorry for Felix Tarantino.
Do something. Help the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation give patients
like Felix a chance to win. Help cure mesothelioma. See
*** POSTED JUNE 25, 2001 ***
Mr. Tarantino passed away on December 2, 2001