Skip to Content Top

Steady Pace to Out-Run Mesothelioma


When Sylvia Ramirez was 17 years old, she moved to Southern California from Mexico with her family. After working a few factory jobs, she began her lifelong career working for the Ventura County Department of Public Health where she remained for over 30 years. Sylvia helped develop the County’s “WIC” program, which provides temporary assistance, education and counseling to women who are pregnant and have young children. Over the years, she derived great personal fulfillment and sense of mission from her work with underprivileged pregnant women and infant children at the VCDPH.

Sylvia has always led an active lifestyle and has been a strict vegetarian for many years. She ran five miles a day until February of 2009 when she began experiencing cold like symptoms. She tried over the counter cold medicine, but the symptoms kept returning. As her shortness of breath began to worsen Sylvia visited the family doctor and was told she had cold. After a month had passed and Sylvia was feeling worse not better, her doctor finally took an x-ray of her chest. It was found that Sylvia had fluid surrounding her lung. She underwent three thoracenteses to have the fluid drained before having a CT scan performed which showed she had a tumor. Sylvia was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma and was referred to an oncologist who admitted that he had limited experience treating mesothelioma. He subsequently referred her to Dr. Robert Cameron at UCLA who specializes in the treatment of mesothelioma.

Powerful leg muscles
Sylvia saw Dr. Cameron in June, 2009. He explained that her disease appeared to be confined to the right pleura and that she was therefore a good candidate for the pleurectomy/decortication surgery which was performed later that month. Dr. Cameron found that Sylvia had an extensive tumor and multiple chest wall implants which provided for a challenging surgery.

Sylvia stayed in the hospital for nine days following the surgery. She developed a persistent cough and an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection at her former chest tube placement site which was very painful.

After she recovered, she underwent radiation therapy with Dr. Michael Selch at UCLA five times a week for a total of 25 radiation treatments before beginning self-administered Interferon injections for close to two years.

After a routine CT scan in 2011, it appeared that her mesothelioma had returned. Sylvia went back on chemo for about six months and underwent four cryoablations. She is currently staying at her sister’s home while she recuperates. Her brother-in-law is acting as her occupational therapist and helping her to walk and gain back her strength.

In addition to her family, Sylvia obtains much of her strength from her faith. “I am so thankful to God to be here and for my family that takes such good care of me. I would not wish this for anybody.” Sylvia looks forward to her continued recuperation, getting back to being self-sufficient, going on a long walks or even just going to the market to pick up her own groceries.

She has an appointment scheduled with Dr. Cameron later this month to have x-rays taken. Her treatment depends on whether Dr. Cameron likes what he sees or not. All she can do is play it by ear and place her trust in Dr. Cameron and God. “I love Dr. Cameron to pieces. He has saved my life more than once, with the help of God of course.

*** Posted on June 11, 2012 ***