Susie Goodman and her fiance, Mark
In the summer of 1998, 40 year old Susie Goodman decided to give up a 15-year
career as a legal assistant specializing in large, complex litigation
cases for some of the top law firms in Los Angeles, to remarry and move
to Orange County. Susie and her two children, ages 8 and 11, moved to
be closer to Susie's fiancé, Mark, and his two children (also
ages 8 and 11). The children were getting along great and everyone was
busily preparing for their October '99 wedding and a long beautiful
life together. Those dreams were all but shattered when Susie was diagnosed
in August of 1999 with Stage IV colon cancer.
After overcoming the shock, Susie set out to learn everything she could
about the cancer and choose the best treatment plan. Her course was complicated
by the presence of over 10 metastatic tumors in her liver. She decided
to surgically remove the tumor from her colon and then attack the liver
mets later. Susie's colon resection was successful, and the surgeon
was confident that he could remove the remaining mets from her liver in
a second operation.
Unfortunately, during the liver surgery, the doctor saw that the disease
was more extensive than had shown on the MRI, had spread to both lobes
of the liver, and was therefore inoperable. When she came out of surgery,
the doctor delivered the devastating news -- Susie had only a 5% chance
of surviving over 12 months. She was given the option of receiving no
treatment, and letting the disease take it's course, or take chemotherapy
which may or may not extend her life.
Susie and Mark read everything they could on colon cancer. They researched
drug trials on the Internet, and found a promising Phase II trial at UCLA.
Susie was turned down twice -- she was told that the study was no longer
accepting patients. Susie tried one more time before giving up. Her persistence
paid off -- the hospital staff soon after gave her the good news that
the study had reopened and she would be accepted as the last patient.
Susie responded very well to the chemotherapy, which was an experimental
drug called SU5416 (an antiangiogenesis inhibitor), along with the gold
standard for colon cancer, 5FU. As a footnote, the University of Chicago
is now offering a phase II trial for mesothelioma patients using the very
same drug that Susie used -- SU5416!
Every two months Susie would get CT scanned and the tumors continued to
shrink or disappear entirely. In June 2000, only two small mets were visible
in the liver, and those were successfully removed by Radio Frequency Ablation.
As of October 2000, she has no visible sign of disease. Although there
is no visible sign of disease, Susie does has elevated tumor markers,
which is why she has decided to continue aggressive chemotherapy. She
is now on another study at UCLA, which involves receiving Oxaliplatin
and 5FU once a week. Susie does not rest on her success. She is constantly
surveying the literature for new and promising treatment options, as she
understands that over time tumor cells can acquire a resistance to effective drugs.
Susie maintains a positive although realistic approach to living with incurable
cancer. Although she has bad days, where she has the dreaded "Why
Me?" questions going through her head, she doesn't stay down
long. She says her best weapon against cancer is maintaining a sense of
humor even when nothing seems funny. She receives tremendous love and
support from her family and friends. She also receives great enjoyment
in working with other cancer patients, and helping them get through the
rough times too.
"We're all in the trenches together, trying to fight our way out
against impossible odds. I feel like we're all brothers in arms against
cancer. But I don't think that winning the fight against cancer is
just living longer or being cured -- the real victory is if, in spite
of having cancer, we can rejoice in every day moments, be grateful for
today, and try to help and inspire others we meet during our journey --
whether it's 20 more years, or just a few more months."
*** NOVEMBER 6, 2000 ***