Karin and Marvin Anderson
Marvin and Karin Anderson live in Gig Harbor, Washington where they enjoy
the peaceful outdoors. Marvin's an avid trout fisherman, and he likes
nothing better than to toss a line into a nearby stream during a slow
rain. He says it's "the most relaxing time of his day."
Like many of his hearty northwestern neighbors, Marvin is refreshingly
candid about himself and it only takes a few minutes to feel like you've
known him your entire life. As he puts it, "I'm not an artificial
man. I don't color my hair. I have a few busted teeth up front, and
I don't wear glasses, but still try to see." Marvin lives by
putting faith and family first. He has been married to Karin for over
30 years, and the two are deeply devoted to each other.
In early 2006, Marvin decided to get into better shape, so he went on the
"Cardiac Diet," trying to lower his cholesterol. His weight
began to drop during that spring and summer which at first he chalked
up to his new diet. Soon, he began experiencing shortness of breath, fatigue,
and a dry cough. When the shortness of breath became too much to ignore,
especially when simply walking his dog or collecting the mail from his
mailbox, Marvin knew something was wrong.
A Grim Prognosis
On July 13, 2006, he met with his primary care physician at the Gig Harbor
MultiCare Clinic who decided to order several chest films. When the films
revealed a large pleural effusion on the left side of his chest, Marvin's
physician sent him to nearby Allenmore Hospital MultiCare branch in Tacoma
to undergo an ultrasound-guided thoracentesis to remove the fluid. Over
three liters of blood-tinged serous fluid was removed and sent out for
testing. However, the cytology results from the tests were inconsistent
and showed that Marvin had both adenocarcinoma and mesothelioma. Also
as a precautionary measure, doctors inserted a chest tube which remained
in place for five more days to prevent future fluid buildup.
After the thoracentesis, on July 14, Marvin returned to Allenmore Hospital
for a follow-up consultation. Concerned, Marivin's primary care physician
wanted to run more tests. New chest x-rays revealed two small nodules in the
right lung, one in the right middle lobe and another along the minor fissure
on the right side. Marvin's right lung was also hyper-expanded. Marvin
quickly learned that there were problems with both lungs and sadly, that
the pleural effusion in the left lung had not improved.
Marvin's doctors needed more conclusive tests in order to better treat
him, so later in July 2006, he underwent a left-sided tissue biopsy at
the Tacoma General Hospital with his surgeon, Dr. Allen Graeve. Pathologist
Dr. George Hodges at Laboratories Northwest examined the biopsy and returned
a diagnosis of epithelial mesothelioma.
Dr. Graeve informed the Andersons that Marvin was suffering from mesothelioma.
He ruled out surgery as a treatment option and discouraged him from seeking
chemotherapy, feeling that Marvin was not strong enough to withstand the
chemicals. He told Marvin he had three months to live and that "nothing
could be done."
A Second Opinion and IMRT
But, Marvin wasn't going to accept this. He sought a second opinion.
On October 24, 2006 Marvin met with Dr. Eric Vallieres at the Swedish
Cancer Institute in Seattle. Dr. Vallieres is a renowned thoracic surgeon
with expertise in treating mesothelioma patients. Dr. Vallieres confirmed
that Marvin was suffering from pleural mesothelioma. He agreed with Dr.
Graeve's analysis that Marvin was too weak to handle chemotherapy
and was not a candidate for surgical intervention. However, Dr. Vallieres
did offer a treatment. He recommended Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy
(IMRT) treatments, although IMRT is not without serious risks.
Marvin is considering IMRT but has not yet made up his mind. While he understands
that his cancer is advanced at Stage IV, he continues to "try to
enjoy life and not let the bastards grind me down." He has never
shied away from hard work or cranky patients, and he approaches his treatment
with the same attitude.
Getting Back to Fishing
Karin continues to dote on Marvin, but they are both concerned about his
health. Marvin is upset about his prognosis, saying, "I took care
of myself, never hurt nobody and tried to leave the world a little better
than how I found it. I always thought I'd live to be 95." In
the meantime, Marvin and Karin continue to enjoy their retirement years
together. He looks forward to the upcoming salmon run when he can get
back to doing what he loves.
Marvin says, "I have trouble accepting there's no cure for mesothelioma,
but I guess I need to accept what two doctors have told me. We're
creatures of knowledge. The unknown can be a terrible thing." He
is still considering his options and "keeps a stiff upper lip"
for himself and his family
*** POSTED FEBRUARY 18, 2007 ***