Roger Fluegel and his wife June have been married for forty years. Together
they have raised two children and they are blessed with three happy grandchildren.
The Fluegels have a passion for learning and children. Roger and June
both work as special education substitute teachers in Arroyo Grande, California.
They teach at the elementary and junior high school levels. Like the TV
ad says, it's more than a job, it's an adventure. They cannot
imagine retiring. Recently, however, Mr. Fluegel was diagnosed with mesothelioma.
In March of 1998, Roger Fluegel developed a bad cough. The cough worsened
when he would lie down on his right side. A physical fitness buff, Mr.
Fluegel continued to ride his exercise bike and take long walks, thinking
the symptoms would alleviate themselves. As a lifetime non-smoker, he
thought a cough was nothing to worry about.
When the cough did not subside, Roger went to Sansum Medical Clinic in
Santa Barbara, California. The doctors took chest films and found a large
pleural effusion on the right side of his chest. The doctors also noticed
a nodular density in the left lung. On June 30, a CT scan and thoracentesis
were performed. The doctors removed over two quarts of fluid from Mr.
Fluegel's right lung. The fluid was analyzed, and the doctors suspected
mesothelioma. The pathologists at Sansum Medical Clinic recommended a
VATS (video assisted thoracic) biopsy of the pleura to confirm the diagnosis.
Roger traveled to the Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara for the VATS biopsy
on his right lung, a bronchoscopy on his left lung, and a talc pleurodesis.
A battery of immunoperoxidase staining was also done. After reviewing
the results of all these tests and procedures, Mr. Fluegel's doctors
The Fluegels could not believe it. Roger was only 59 years old, and he
had always been healthy. They were determined to search for the best treatment
available. In September, Roger met with Dr. Robert Cameron at the University
of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Cameron is a surgical oncologist. He is
of the country's leading experts in mesothelioma treatment. Dr. Cameron
discussed many potential treatment options with Mr. Fluegel, including
taking no further treatment, extrapleural pneumonectomy, or pleurectomy
and decortication with intrapleural chemotherapy and postoperative radiation
therapy. Dr. Cameron considered Mr. Fluegel a good candidate for surgical
palliation with a pleurectomy and decortication (removal of the outer
membrane of the lung). Roger agreed to the surgery, and Dr. Cameron ordered
another CT Scan to assess any changes in the tumor since July.
On September 17, Roger was admitted to the UCLA Medical Center, where he
underwent a right thoracotomy, parietal pleurectomy decortication, and
partial resection of the diaphragm with intrapleural chemotherapy, including
cisplatin and cytarabine. Dr. Cameron found that Mr. Fluegel had extensive
disease that was difficult to treat due to the unusual adhesions on his
esophagus, pericardium (heart sac) and chest wall. The surgery lasted
more than twelve hours, far longer than the normal six to eight hours.
Three chest tubes were inserted during the procedure. Mr. Fluegel's
6th and 10th ribs, removed during surgery, along with the right pleural
tumor, were delivered to pathology for immunohistochemistry special staining.
The pathologist's intraoperative report again confirmed the diagnosis
When the surgery was complete, Dr. Cameron advised that he had resected
as much tumor as he could see with the naked eye. Roger was discharged
from the hospital on September 22.
On October 9, Roger returned to see Dr. Cameron for a follow-up visit.
Dr. Cameron was pleased with Mr. Fluegel's progress. Although Roger
still felt some pain in his chest as a result of the surgery, it was decreasing.
Roger recalls: "the recovery was a lot tougher and harder than I
expected. I got tired easily, but if I rested too long, I felt light-headed
and dizzy when I tried to get up. I have definitely seen much better days."
Although the recovery from surgery has been difficult, the Fluegels could
not have been more pleased with Dr. Cameron and his staff. According to
Roger, "the whole team was incredible. We just love Dr. Cameron."
Mr. Fluegel is scheduled to see Dr. Cameron again in January of 1999.
One minor setback to his recovery occurred on October 20, when he was
admitted to the hospital for dehydration. He was released shortly thereafter.
Because Mr. Fluegel was having difficulty retaining fluid, his post-operative
physician insisted that he drink 2 liters of Gatorade a day, in addition
to his normal fluid intake.
Mr. Fluegel met with his radiation oncologist to discuss and started radiation
therapy on October 29, 1998. The goal of the radiation therapy is to eradicate
stray malignant cells that are floating in the pleural cavity. The radiation
therapy will consist of five treatments each week for five to six weeks.
POSTED DECEMBER 17, 1998
"When it comes to Mesothelioma, there are so many people in the dark,
including doctors. We need to get the word out that good treatments are
possible. I know of other patients who were offered zero treatment options
because the doctors were simply ignorant. Patients and doctors need to
get informed and be proactive. I would like others out there to do as
well as I'm doing." Roger Fluegel, January 18, 2000
An Update -- 1/26/01
Mr. Fluegel's cancer has spread to his lungs and he is on oxygen all
the time. Dr. Cameron tried more chemotherapy, but unfortunately it never
reached the cancer. Dr. Cameron said there is nothing more they can really
do. Mr. Fluegel is not well enough to enter any trials. We are praying
for Mr. Fluegel and his family
"My name is Stephanie Pirman, and I lost my dad Roger Fluegel to Mesothelioma
last Friday March 9, 2001. We all hope and pray that all the hard work of
MARF and people like Dr. Cameron can someday bring an end to this disease. Dr.
Cameron performed surgery on my dad in August of 1998. Without the surgery
my dad would not have been able to walk me down the aisle at my wedding.
I am so grateful. I only hope that you can further the research so other
families do not have to suffer this tragic loss."