Martha Munoz is a 71 year-old retired social worker who lives with her
husband Art in Orange County, California. Martha and Art have five children
and eight grandchildren.
Martha and Art have been married since 1965. They had been enjoying an
active and fulfilling retirement. They enjoyed taking walks together,
going dancing and playing cards with their many friends and family who
live near their home in Santa Margarita, California.
Martha had enjoyed good health throughout her life. A lifetime non-smoker,
she began experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath in late February
of 2009. She initially presented to her internal medicine physician who
ordered chest x-rays, which turned out to be suspicious for lung cancer.
The films also revealed a right-sided pleural effusion.
Early Tests Suspicious
Her doctor then referred Martha to a pulmonologist located in San Juan
Capistrano, California. Over the next several weeks, Martha underwent
multiple thoracenteses where the fluid was removed from the chest cavity.
Tests performed on the removed fluid at the time did not show any indication
of a malignancy.
Unfortunately, her doctors could not determine the cause of the fluid buildup
but, to be safe, recommended she undergo a tissue biopsy. On March 27,
Martha underwent a VATS thoracoscopy, talc pleurodesis, and pleural biopsy.
During the procedures, the doctors found severe adhesions located throughout
the lung and chest wall.
Once the tissue was removed, it was examined by pathologists who diagnosed
Martha with malignant pleural mesothelioma. After discussing the diagnosis
with her, Martha was referred to an oncologist who, before starting her
on chemotherapy, recommended that she go to the UCLA Medical School for
a second opinion. He recommended that she consult with Dr. Robert Cameron.
After reviewing her medical records, Dr. Cameron ordered additional radiologic
tests for staging purposes and to better determine a proper treatment plan.
Good News: Tumor localized
One of the tests was an MRI, which showed that the tumor was limited to
the right pleural space. This meant the mesothelioma was “localized”.
It had not spread throughout the chest cavity. Dr. Cameron discussed the
available treatment options (granted, not very many) with Martha and informed
her that she was a good candidate for lung-sparing
On May 28, 2009, Martha had the surgery. Eight days after the surgery she
was discharged from the hospital. When she fully recovered from the trauma
of her surgery, she began radiation therapy on July 30. She completed
a total of 25 radiation treatments on September 3, 2009.
On October 23, 2009 Martha returned to see Dr. Cameron. After examining
her, Dr. Cameron was pleased with her progress. Her performance status
had improved –her shortness of breath at rest had improved, she
had not lost considerable weight, her appetite was improving, and her
chest pain was at least manageable.
Martha and Arturo are spending the entire 2011 holiday season, from Thanksgiving
until New Years, with their family in the Great Lakes region of Michigan.
Three out of their five children live in Michigan. According to Martha,
“When you have an illness like this, you need to take every opportunity
you have to spend time with your kids.”
The Kitchen Sink: Surgery, Radiation, Interferon, Cryoablation
Like most mesothelioma patients, Martha has experienced many ups and downs
over the years. Since being diagnosed in 2009, she has undergone surgery
with Dr. Cameron, completed post-surgical radiation therapy followed by
interferon injections which was followed by three
cryoablation treatments. Martha feels very fortunate to have found Dr. Cameron, who
is perhaps the only mesothelioma doctor in the world to offer lung sparing
surgery followed by cryoablation and interferon.
Most recently over the summer, she completed had six rounds of Alimta Cisplatin
chemotherapy to cope with a slight recurrence. She continues to feel discomfort
at the surgical incision site due to excess scar tissue but she’s
thankful for her healthy appetite and the good affect her vitamins have
on her sense of well-being.
Although she misses her family in Michigan, she does not miss the winters,
She loves California, especially since it means she is just a short drive
away from UCLA Medical Center.
“I love my family, which brings me joy and happiness, but right now
I also need to be close to Dr. Cameron, who seems to know what I need
and delivers it with just the right touch, “ she said.
Success Makes its own Luck
Martha is a very vocal and vigilant patient and stays on top of all her
appointments and new treatment options. “So much research is being
done in California on life-extending treatments and I need to be around
for that. I know I’ve personally benefitted from Dr. Cameron’s
‘experimental” work and I want to help others get the same
She’ll be having all her scans done before she sees Dr. Cameron in
January of 2012. She’s currently not on any treatments and is anxious
to learn about the next step in her mesothelioma management.
Posted on January 5, 2012