Maynard Lewis, August 2003
Maynard Lewis is a 65-year old retired truck driver and foundry worker
who lives in Eutawville, South Carolina with his wife Florence. Maynard
and Florence have been married for 38 years. They have three adult children,
seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Needless to say, around
the holidays, the Lewis house is jumping with the sounds of giggles, laughter
and small feet running through the rooms, especially during Christmas
when Maynard plays Santa, as he does every year.
Since he was a young boy growing up in South Carolina, Maynard has always
loved the water. He spent as much of his free time as he could on a boat,
fishing, hunting or swimming. Today, he remains an accomplished water
skier, preferring to ski barefoot. It was a rite of passage in the Lewis
house that as soon as the children were old enough, they were to ride
on Maynard's shoulders while he water- skied. This tradition was passed
on to Maynard's grandchildren. The Lewis family does not hesitate
to climb aboard each others shoulders and form a pyramid. On a summer
day out on the lake, you would think the entire family is a part of a
professional water show as they race by, stacked three persons high.
When not skiing, Maynard can usually be found aboard his 28-foot pontoon
boat barbecuing hotdogs and hamburgers for his family and friends. In
between bites, he makes sure to check his always present bobber where
a fresh worm is tied to a hook. There is nothing like fresh fish for an
As Maynard grew up, he discovered another love, tinkering with engines.
While a young man, he built his own race cars and raced them on local
dirt tracks. He has always been a fan of racing. He and Florence mark
their calendar every year and take their camper to several races including
Daytona, Darlington, Rockingham and Atlanta.
His expertise under the hood carried over to all engines, including those
that powered his boat and motorcycle. He states that he has "always
been mechanically inclined." He has ridden motorcycles for over 20
years and in September of 2003, he purchased a mint-condition used Honda
Goldwing, his long-time dream bike. Because of his illness, he has only
been able to ride the bike once.
Maynard during his racing years
In June of 2003, Maynard noted a nagging pain on his right side that never
seemed to go away. He also felt bloated and uncomfortable . He assumed
that he had pulled a muscle. His primary care physician agreed but advised
that if he did not see significant improvement he should consider contacting
his urologist. He was told to take it easy for a few days, stay off the
skis and sent home. Unfortunately, over the next few weeks the pain worsened.
Maynard had been treated years earlier for prostate cancer and had a full
recovery. But when the pain did not subside Maynard followed his doctor's
order and scheduled an appointment with his urologist. The urologist immediately
ordered a CT scan to determine if the cancer had returned. The CT scan
showed no recurrence of cancer but revealed evidence of fluid in his abdominal
cavity. He was prescribed a cycle of antibiotics but the pain continued.
Maynard continued to suffer.
His doctors were unable to determine the cause of the fluid and referred
Maynard to a gastrologist. An appointment was made where Maynard would
meet with the gastrologist in two weeks. However, on September 27, Maynard
was rushed to the emergency room in Charleston, South Carolina complaining
of dizziness and extreme nausea. He was admitted and underwent several
gastrological and urological tests, including upper and lower gastrointestinal
series. He was given antacids, a prescription for pain and sent home.
Maynard's condition worsened, and on October 9 he returned to his primary
care physician. His examination was suspicious for a hernia. Maynard made
an appointment to consult with a surgeon in Charleston but before he would
make that appointment he was again rushed to the emergency room. Tests
revealed fluid had accumulated in his abdomen. On October 11, he underwent
a paracentesis in which fluid was removed from his stomach. Cytological
tests upon the removed fluid were negative for a malignant process. Several
pathologists examined the fluid and were unable to determine its cause.,
Fishing, swimming, hunting, boating and sunsets are Maynard's favorite hobbies
On October 14, Maynard underwent an exploratory laparoscopy. During the
procedure, the doctors removed fluid for a second time. Upon entering
the abdominal cavity, the surgeon noted the internal organs were inflamed,
hardened and stuck together. He told the Lewis family that the organs
looked like a "big red concrete block." After separating them
as best he could, he removed several tissue specimens. The specimens were
examined by more than one pathology laboratory outside of the hospital,
including the Mayo Clinic. On October 21, the Mayo Clinic reported its
diagnosis of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma.
Before his October 23, 2003 hospital discharge, Maynard and Florence consulted
with an oncologist who explained to them that malignant mesothelioma is
known as an incurable cancer but that there were experimental drugs available
should he decide to seek treatment. The oncologist suggested he be treated
with Alimta coupled with Cisplatin. He would undergo several treatments
administered every 21 days. Maynard affirmed that he would "try anything
to live" and decided to begin chemotherapy as soon as possible. Taking
into consideration the necessary post-surgical recovery, Mr. Lewis was
scheduled to begin chemotherapy treatments on November 19.
During the October 30 postoperative visit with the surgeon, a single-port
catheter was inserted to assist in future blood work, chemotherapy treatments
and feeding purposes. Between November 4 and November 30, 2003, Mr. Lewis
underwent five ultra-sound guided paracenteses during which time approximately
four gallons of fluid were removed from his abdomen.
Maynard was now nutritionally starved. His oncologist, concerned that he
would not be able to begin his scheduled chemotherapy, put him on total
parenteral nutrition (TPN). TPN, or hyperalimentaion infuses all needed
nutrients into the body through a catheter inserted in a vein. Staff from
the home health care agency trained Florence on the administration of
home TPN usage. Slowly, Maynard's strength returned.
On November 19, Maynard had his first cycle of Alimta coupled with Cisplatin.
Administration of the chemotherapy lasted approximately six hours. He
returned to the cancer center the following day for blood work as well
as to have his kidneys cleansed via intravenous fluids and then treated.
Florence and Maynard Lewis, 1997
Maynard's treatments were interrupted on November 30, when he was admitted
to the hospital after suffering from hallucinations accompanied with fever.
He was diagnosed with a viral infection and pneumonia. Maynard's health
rapidly declined. He was placed in isolation, pumped with antibiotics
and units of blood, and was again placed on TPN. On December 4, Mr. Lewis
was found to be in extreme pain, most probably as a result of constipation.
An ultrasound noted several plugs in his bowels and on December 5, his
bowels were flushed. He was discharged on December 7. On December 10 he
received his second chemotherapy treatment. Since his treatments began,
the fluid has not returned to his abdominal cavity. The last paracentesis
was on December 23, 2003. Since the diagnosis, Maynard has received over
10 pints of blood.
Maynard plans to continue chemotherapy treatments as long as he can. However,
the side effects of chemotherapy have been debilitating for Maynard. He
requires constant medication to combat the nausea. Neurological damage
to a nerve in his lower right leg has caused his right front foot to droop.
He now wears a foot brace to keep from tripping. The fatigue, depression
and constant anxiety of knowing that he has an incurable disease has become
a living nightmare for him. But he states affirmatively that he will continue
to fight his cancer.
On March 24, Maynard met with an audiologist, he was losing his hearing.
The doctors discovered nerve damage and Maynard now wears hearing aides.
He says he is ready to "whip it!" using any and all possible
treatments available, as these are "the only chance I have."
Maynard says he's not afraid to die, he is "just not
ready to die. I got too many things I'd like to do in my life."
It is hard to reconcile the past and present of Maynard Lewis: a man who
just a short while ago was the picture of health, forming the base of
a ski pyramid, bearing the weight of his family on his shoulders, now
struggles to walk with a foot brace and hearing loss. He desperately clings
to the hope that if he sticks to his grueling treatment, he will buy some
time, and in that time new and better treatments will come. He believes
that if he just keeps getting back up, eventually he'll be back in
the sun, on skis, on the water. We are pulling for you, Maynard.
*** POSTED MARCH 29, 2004 ***