Leona and Russell Denton
Mr. Russell Denton is a 73 year old retired warehouse man, Navy boiler
operator and shipyard worker who was diagnosed in May of 1998 with malignant
mesothelioma. He and his wife Leona reside near Oakland, California. In
January of 1998, Mr. Denton first began to experience night time sweats.
He went to his local hospital where doctors gave him a prescription and
sent him home.
The sweats persisted through February. In March, Mr. Denton returned to
the hospital complaining of a persistent cough with productive whitish
mucous. He was treated with an antibiotic and sent home.
In April, Mr. Denton could no longer stand the constant pain in his left
lateral chest. A subsequent chest film showed a large left pleural effusion.
On April 20th, a thoracentesis was performed. After removing nearly 1200
cc's of fluid, Mr. Denton complained of severe pain across the back
of shoulders. The procedure was immediately halted. Mr. Denton began sweating
profusely. He was put on oxygen and transported to the emergency room
to rule out pneumothorax. The fluid was sent for testing and returned negative.
On April 23rd, Mr. Denton underwent a video-assisted bronchoscopy. Selective
washings, brushings and a few small bronchial biopsies were taken from
the basilar segment of the lower left lobe. The specimens were submitted
for cytopathological examination, AFB and fungal cultures. The bronchial
brushings returned negative for malignancy. At this point, the doctors
suspected but could not confirm a malignancy.
On April 29, Mr. Denton underwent a decortication and pleurectomy of the
left chest wall. Dense adhesions were found in the pleural cavity. In
order to achieve a proper decortification and pleurectomy it was necessary
to convert to open thoracotomy. The entire parietal pleural membrane adjacent
to the left chest wall was removed. The left lung was then inflated with
multiple small air leaks. Two (2) chest tubes were then inserted. The
pleural peel biopsies were sent to pathology for analysis. Mr. Denton
then received a talc pleurodesis to resolve the air leaks and retard the
recurrence of pleural effusions.
Russell Denton, post-surgery
On May 12, 1998, Mr. Denton was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Mr. Denton
was discharged and sent home. He was physically and emotionally crushed.
On May 15th, Mr. Denton returned to the hospital. In addition to mesothelioma,
he was now afflicted with possible pneumonia, anorexia and severe reflex
esophagitis. Mr. Denton continued to have intermittent low grade fevers
throughout his hospital stay. Mr. Denton was losing weight because he
had lost the ability to taste food.
The Denton family began searching for medical experts to treat Russell.
On June 16, they visited with Dr. David Jablons at the University of California
at San Francisco/Mt. Zion Hospital. Dr. Jablons is a surgical oncologist
who specializes in multi-modal therapies for mesothelioma patients. See
Dr. Jablons determined that Mr. Denton's mesothelioma was in stage
III with no signs of metastases. He advised Mr. Denton to take appetite
inducers (such as Megace) to help him build up his weight and strength.
He presented the Dentons with three treatment plans:
- Irradiation of the incision site (virtually mandatory). Of note, it was
apparent that the doctors at Kaiser started but did not finish the job,
so to speak.
- In addition to option 1, a custom irradiation of other obvious sites of
tumor growth, as revealed from CT scans.
- In addition to option 1 or option 2, add systemic chemotherapy. Dr. Jablons'
view on chemotherapy was guarded. In his view, chemotherapy would have
only a 20% probability of reducing the tumor growth and it would certainly
reduce Mr. Denton's quality of life.
Generally, Dr. Jablons was optimistic that a solid follow up treatment
plan would help extend Mr. Denton's life. This was very good news
to the Dentons, as their doctors at Kaiser offered little hope. Dr. Jablons
also noted that UCSF/Mt. Zion was on the verge of opening several new
protocols for mesothelioma, including CPT-11 and Onconase. Because of
the earlier surgery, a follow up procedure, such as the pleurectomy, was
not advisable. Following the radiation treatments, the doctors will assess
the pros and cons of adjuvant extensive 3-D conformal radiotherapy of
The Dentons were pleased with Dr. Jablon's attention, expertise and
bedside manner. According to son Dwight, who has been instrumental in
helping his mother and father find the best medical treatment available:
"Overall, this young man is very sharp. He is aggressive and has
a `what are we waiting for' attitude! His analysis was immediate and
objective, based on the data presented physically or in the form of the
CT scans. He gave us his analysis interactively with four family members
in the room."
The following is a very poignant account of Russell's medical history
by his daughter- in- law, Linda, who also writes about the impact that
mesothelioma has had on the family.
"Dad was the picture of health up until the latter part of 1997. He
walked 3 miles everyday with his brother Herschel and kept busy daily
helping his family and friends. He has lived his life serving God and
his family. Everyone in his neighborhood knows Dad because he's always
there to lend a helping hand. Whether it's picking up someone at the
airport, or making repairs around the house, Dad is always there. That
is, until he became so exhausted that he was unable to continue his daily routine.
On April 19, 1998, Dad was admitted to Kaiser Hospital in Hayward, California.
He had gone to his doctor earlier in the day to have fluid extracted from
his lung. He had been having problems with a persistent cough and the
drugs his doctor prescribed were not working.
Finally, at the insistence of his wife Leona and myself, we pressured him
to obtain a chest film from his doctor. Fluid was discovered and then
extracted on April 19, 1998. During the procedure Dad developed unbearable
pain and was admitted to the hospital. While he was in the hospital he
underwent a battery of tests. Everyday we waited anxiously for each test
result to come back.
On April 21, Dad celebrated his 73rd birthday in the hospital with the
family but was so sick he was unable to eat his birthday cake. A few days
later, Dr. Franco, a lung specialist, advised us that he suspected Dad
had a lung tumor even though he has never smoked. Dr. Franco performed
exploratory surgery looking for a tumor that wasn't there. Next, Dr.
Saw, a thoracic surgeon at Kaiser, came in and told Dad and Mom that he
On April 29, 1998 Dad had a pleurectomy, which involved inserting two chest
tubes. He was in alot of pain and slept most of the time. Dr. Saw then
came in and told Leona that the biospy came back positive for mesothelioma
and there was nothing else he could do for him. He advised us what we
had to "take Russ home to die." We were devastated! How was
it that an exceptionally healthy man -- who never drank or smoked in his
life -- is now so sick? In four short months Dad's weight dropped
from 205 pounds to 164 pounds.
Russell Denton and his family
Dad has always been the one to take care of his family. When his son Greg
had cancer 2 years ago, he was the one to drive him the 30 miles each
way for radiation treatments. When I had 13 surgeries for my debilating
arthritis, he was the one who made sure that I had everything I needed.
In December of 1997, his grandaughter Angella had a beautiful baby boy
who was born premature with serious heart problems. Not to worry, Dad
was there to see to it that his great grandson Devin and his sister Alexandria
had everything that they needed. The families are the light of his life
and he is commited to them.
In late 1997, Dad was exhausted but he insisted on seeing his grandaughter
Ashley's soccer games. He was always there to cheer her on and to
bring her a treat of her favorite french fries after the game. While Dad
was in the hospital he continued to tell us how much he missed seeing
his grandson Josh's baseball games. Josh would call the hospital after
every game and give his "Boppa" the details. Dad hopes to gain
some weight and stamina so that he might be able to see some of Josh's
summer league games even if he has to go in a wheelchair.
Dad has worked hard all of his life. He was in the Navy and he also worked
in a shipyard in Oakland. He worked for Western Electric for 38 years.
He was a warehouseman. He worked 12+ hours on many days and weekends.
After his long hours at work, he would go home and take his wife Leona
out for dinner and run errands (never to complain), as she has never driven a car.
Dad is currently undergoing radiation and his family hopes and prays that
it will slow down the progression of this awful disease. It's almost
unbearable to see such a loving and wonderful man in such pain and sadness.
This is a man who others aspire to be like. His family continues to pray
for more time with him."
POSTED AUGUST 25, 1998
Mr. Russell Denton passed away on October 12, 1998