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Lung Sparing Surgery Is The Way To Go

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Claudine Sangre is a 79 year-old retired school teacher who was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in August of 2011. Her long path leading to her diagnosis began in the summer of 2010.

Prior to her diagnosis, Claudine was enjoying her retirement from the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she had spent over 24 years as an elementary school teacher.

In the summer of 2010, Claudine began to experience a shortness of breath while performing simple household chores. She was the sole care giver of her 14 year-old great grandson who was 100% financially dependent on her. In fact, Claudine had home-schooled him from kindergarten through the seventh grade.

Asbestos Scarring

After meeting with her family physician, Claudine underwent a pulmonary function test and chest CT scans. The records revealed advanced pulmonary fibrosis and large calcified pleural plaques. Claudine was a lifetime non-smoker. The radiologist attributed the fibrosis and plaques to asbestos poisoning. At the time, the radiologist also found the absence of any tumor.

Claudine was very frustrated about her breathing difficulties. Her doctors gave her breathing exercises to do and prescribed a CPAP machine (usually prescribed for sleep apnea patients) to strengthen her lungs.

Over the next few months her symptoms did not improve. In fact, they worsened. She had been on supplemental oxygen since May of this year. Eventually, Claudine took matters into her own hands and began to research what could be causing her symptoms. The word “mesothelioma” kept popping up. She learned that Dr. Robert Cameronat the UCLA Medical Center was on the forefront of mesothelioma treatments. She also learned UCLA had an excellent staff of pathologists who could correctly diagnose strange lung diseases.

Dr. Cameron Solves the Mystery.

Catching snowflakes, December 2010
Claudine decided to go see Dr. Cameron. On August 8 she met with the doctor she read so much about on the internet. After examining Claudine and reviewing her medical records, Dr. Cameron ordered a tissue biopsy. The biopsy was performed on August 15. Pathology analysis of the tissues resulted in a diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma

On September 8, Dr. Cameron performed a pleurectomy/decortication, a lung-sparing procedure that removes the tumor-involved pleura, all visible tumor and frees the underlying lung so that it can expand and fill the pleural cavity.

Since the operation, Claudine has begun radiation treatments (a total of 30 treatments). The goal of the radiation therapy is to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Learning to Love the Uphill Struggles

Due to her illness, Claudine was unable to continue home-schooling her great grandson. This fall, he began attending public school for the first time. Claudine also had to give up her position as a Deacon at her church.

With her faith and positive outlook, Claudine continues to set small goals for herself. “I’m just busy trying to get better and walk on my own. I want to be as self-reliant and independent as possible.”

“I’m grateful to have a few more years, I hope, thanks to Dr. Cameron. I’m needed around here and although it may surprise some I really do enjoy life and all its blessings, even if life is often hard and sometimes painful.”

Posted on January 13, 2012