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76 Year-Old Plumber, A Very Grateful Mesothelioma Survivor

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In 1962, John left Germany seeking a new life in the USA. He worked for several plumbing companies until he started to own business in 1976. He said that this is one of the few countries where you can come to without a dime in your pocket and can build a good life for yourself and your family. In 1963 he met his future wife Mary, and they will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in 2017. They have two boys, the eldest is a plumbing contractor like his father and the youngest is an English college professor.

John lost his father at a young age, so he knew the pain of not having a father figure in his life.

He and Mary are very close to their boys and spend many holidays and vacations together. When the boys were little, John would take them camping where they developed a real love and appreciation for the outdoors. He also introduced the boys to off road motorcycle riding, something they have enjoyed for many years.

In the winter of 2014, John started having breathing problems. At first it seemed unimportant and he chalked it up to old age, but then the problem started getting worse and more aggressive. His doctors thought that it was high blood pressure. They put him on medication and sent him home.

In 2015 the problem became progressively worse. He would have to have several pillows under his head to help him breathe at night. Then he and Mary started making emergency trips to the hospitals in the middle of the night because he just couldn't breathe! X-rays were taken that revealed fluid in John’s lungs. One of the doctors scolded him for not regularly taking his blood pressure medication, thinking that was the cause of the fluid. He was again sent home, with no relief.

When the next attack occurred the doctor told them that it was necessary to remove the fluid form his lungs by way of a procedure called a thoracentesis. Using a large gauge needle, the doctor removed the fluid and almost instantly John could breathe!

Unfortunately, John underwent the thoracentesis two more times in 2015. Finally, in the early autumn of that year, the doctors did a CT scan and found something suspicious in the right lung. He was then scheduled for an exploratory surgery.

On September 17, John underwent a lung tissue biopsy as well as a talc pleurodesis at the Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, California.

After surgery, the doctor told Mary and the boys that John had mesothelioma, and that it was all over his right lung. They were referred to an oncologist, and the news they received was pretty grim. The doctor wanted to start him on chemotherapy immediately, and gave a prognosis of six months to a year. Needless to say they left that doctor's office crushed.

John's boys were not going to take this prognosis lying down! They both started to research this disease and the physicians who treat it. That's how they found Dr. Robert Cameron, a surgical oncologist as well as the Director of the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program at the UCLA Medical Center.

The boys quickly made an appointment and had John's medical records sent over to Dr. Cameron's office.

On September 30, John, Mary, and their sons traveled to UCLA and met with Dr. Cameron. Mary recalls sitting in the doctor’s office with John and the boys and it all seemed pretty grim. Then the door to the office opened and this woman came in with her husband and just as we were called in to see Dr. Cameron she heard the woman say, "Five years and he's still alive, five years." Mary took it as a sign from God that it would be rough, but everything would be alright! The whole family took it as a sign and their spirits were lifted after visiting with the doctor.

Before the meeting, John was concerned, depressed and worried about the prognosis given to him a few days before by the oncologist. When they left Dr. Cameron’s office, John was smiling and optimistic. According to Johns’ oldest son, "He put a lot of relief in my family."

After several tests at UCLA John underwent the pleurectomy/decortication surgery. It was a long operation (nearly eight hours) and he was in the hospital for 10 days. John then underwent six weeks of radiation treatments at UCLA in March of this year.

John went in for another CT scan in May to see if the radiation treatments had done the job. They found no signs of malignancy in the lung. Mary says that, “We will have to be vigilant, but every day John is feeling so much better and doing the things he loves to do in his garden and puttering around his home, well, it's worth it. Where there is life, there is hope!”