Energetic Mother Fought Mesothelioma
Michael and Shelley Ketchum - 1985
Shelley Ketchum was a kind and compassionate woman who always put others
before herself. She was a loving daughter, wife, and mother throughout
her life. In 1999, Shelley reduced her work hours to care for her mother
Oma who was suffering from dementia and the beginning stages of Alzheimer's.
Any caretaker can tell you about the stress and grief that accompany caring
for someone else through an illness. That's why, in the final year
of Oma's illness in 2005, Shelley disregarded her fatigue and shortness
of breath, attributing it to six years of tending to her mother and working.
When her symptoms persisted after her mother's passing, Shelley decided
to see a doctor.
More than Grief Shelley consulted her primary care physician, who thought
she might have bronchitis. He prescribed antibiotics, but she did not
get better. The next month, she returned to the medical center where doctors
performed a thoracentesis and drained almost two liters of fluid from
around her lung. Cytology testing on the fluid was negative for cancer.
Shelley still did not get better. She decided to undergo a thoracotomy
and talc pleurodesis to prevent further fluid accumulation. This time,
the pathology report using immunohistochemical staining and later confirmed
by pathologist Dr. Henry Tazelaar of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona,
returned a diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma, epithelial type.
Shelley did some research and soon afterwards she consulted with a leading
mesothelioma expert, Dr. Robert Cameron, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at
UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine. Dr. Cameron informed her about
current medical options for mesothelioma patients and recommended a trimodal
approach to her treatment. The first phase would be a surgical reduction
of the tumor, a procedure called a pleurectomy with decortication to remove
the bulk of the tumor that was encapsulating her lung. She underwent this
surgery and soon started to make her recovery.
Miles and Shelley Ketchum - 2007
Shelley followed the surgery with the next phase of treatment, including
30 rounds of radiation. The radiation took a very hard toll on Shelley,
but she finally felt well enough to return to work, which is what she
wanted most. But her time back in the office and living a full life only
lasted three months, as Shelley soon found that she no longer had the
strength to carry on her work day. Shelley was hopeful that the next course
of action, chemotherapy using a combination of Alimta and Cisplatin, would
help her once again return to work and enjoy life. This combination has
proven very effective for others with the disease; unfortunately Shelley's
body did not take to it.
For the first time in her life, Shelley was no longer the caregiver. She
became the one who needed care. Her husband, Michael, had passed away
in 1991. The only one who could look after her was her only son Miles.
Fortunately, Miles lived nearby and worked from home, so he was able to
care for her during Shelley's surgery and radiation treatments. He
was a constant companion to his mother. Through it all, Miles and Shelley
kept a positive and upbeat outlook. Miles left work to help during the
Chemotherapy phase, which proved to be a blessing in disguise. The bond
between mother and son became even richer, if such a thing is possible.
Paradoxically, through a tragic illness, strength, understanding, love,
and courage grow stronger. Shelley passed away on February 27, 2007
*** POSTED APRIL 18, 2007 ***