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The Susie Goodman Story

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In the summer of 1998, 40 year old Susie Goodman decided to give up a 15-year career as a legal assistant specializing in large, complex litigation cases for some of the top law firms in Los Angeles, to remarry and move to Orange County. Susie and her two children, ages 8 and 11, moved to be closer to Susie's fiancé, Mark, and his two children (also ages 8 and 11). The children were getting along great and everyone was busily preparing for their October '99 wedding and a long beautiful life together. Those dreams were all but shattered when Susie was diagnosed in August of 1999 with Stage IV colon cancer.

After overcoming the shock, Susie set out to learn everything she could about the cancer and choose the best treatment plan. Her course was complicated by the presence of over 10 metastatic tumors in her liver. She decided to surgically remove the tumor from her colon and then attack the liver mets later. Susie's colon resection was successful, and the surgeon was confident that he could remove the remaining mets from her liver in a second operation.

Unfortunately, during the liver surgery, the doctor saw that the disease was more extensive than had shown on the MRI, had spread to both lobes of the liver, and was therefore inoperable. When she came out of surgery, the doctor delivered the devastating news -- Susie had only a 5% chance of surviving over 12 months. She was given the option of receiving no treatment, and letting the disease take it's course, or take chemotherapy which may or may not extend her life.

Susie and Mark read everything they could on colon cancer. They researched drug trials on the Internet, and found a promising Phase II trial at UCLA. Susie was turned down twice -- she was told that the study was no longer accepting patients. Susie tried one more time before giving up. Her persistence paid off -- the hospital staff soon after gave her the good news that the study had reopened and she would be accepted as the last patient.

Susie responded very well to the chemotherapy, which was an experimental drug called SU5416 (an antiangiogenesis inhibitor), along with the gold standard for colon cancer, 5FU. As a footnote, the University of Chicago is now offering a phase II trial for mesothelioma patients using the very same drug that Susie used -- SU5416!

Every two months Susie would get CT scanned and the tumors continued to shrink or disappear entirely. In June 2000, only two small mets were visible in the liver, and those were successfully removed by Radio Frequency Ablation. As of October 2000, she has no visible sign of disease. Although there is no visible sign of disease, Susie does has elevated tumor markers, which is why she has decided to continue aggressive chemotherapy. She is now on another study at UCLA, which involves receiving Oxaliplatin and 5FU once a week. Susie does not rest on her success. She is constantly surveying the literature for new and promising treatment options, as she understands that over time tumor cells can acquire a resistance to effective drugs.

Susie maintains a positive although realistic approach to living with incurable cancer. Although she has bad days, where she has the dreaded "Why Me?" questions going through her head, she doesn't stay down long. She says her best weapon against cancer is maintaining a sense of humor even when nothing seems funny. She receives tremendous love and support from her family and friends. She also receives great enjoyment in working with other cancer patients, and helping them get through the rough times too.

"We're all in the trenches together, trying to fight our way out against impossible odds. I feel like we're all brothers in arms against cancer. But I don't think that winning the fight against cancer is just living longer or being cured -- the real victory is if, in spite of having cancer, we can rejoice in every day moments, be grateful for today, and try to help and inspire others we meet during our journey -- whether it's 20 more years, or just a few more months."

*** NOVEMBER 6, 2000 ***