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Weathering the Storm, 60 Year Old Real Estate Developer

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At 58 years old, John Doe was leading both a personally and professionally fulfilling life. He was at the top of his game having worked almost 30 years as a real estate developer and senior vice president at a major property firm in Orange County and had no plans of slowing down. He and his wife enjoyed a very active lifestyle and loved to travel with their two sons. They often took trips to the mountains for skiing, hiking and camping, and trips to the beach for surfing and snorkeling.

In January of 2013, John began to notice swelling in his abdomen. At the time he did not think too much of it and thought maybe he needed to step up his workouts. He began taking their dog, which they had rescued from a local shelter on more frequent walks. He noticed however, that he was losing his breath much easier than before. He had also developed a cough he couldn’t seem to shake.

One day he bent over to pick up a newspaper and was overcome with an uncontrollable cough. Sharp pains shot through his upper and lower abdomen and he knew it was time to pay a visit to his doctor. His doctor did not order any X-rays at the time, but concluded that John had a hernia, and tentatively scheduled him for surgery contingent upon him getting rid of that persistent cough.

When his cough did not subside, John went back to the doctor and a series of X-rays were taken. The X-rays revealed large pleural and peritoneal effusions and what appeared to be a mass at the base of the right lung lobe. Based on these findings, John’s hernia operation was cancelled.

John was then seen by pulmonologist, Dr. Irfan Khan in San Clemente, California who ordered a CT-scan which revealed suspected tumors in the peritoneum as well as nodes on the thyroid. John was subsequently scheduled for a CT-guided biopsy of the peritoneum at Saddleback Hospital. Pathology analysis of the biopsy samples came back with a diagnosis of mesothelioma, epithelial cell type in March 2013.

Upon learning the diagnosis, he was immediately referred to oncologist, Dr. Minch Fong in Mission Viejo, California. At the time that John saw Dr. Fong just a week later, the fluid had returned to both John’s chest and abdomen. In the course of the next six weeks, John had to undergo a total of three thoracenteses and five paracenteses.

Dr. Fong started John on Alimta/Cisplatin chemotherapy. Unfortunately, he did not tolerate the regimen well, and John was hospitalized multiple times for various side-effects, including severe abdominal pain, breathing problems, infections and even severe tinnitus.

The combination of the symptoms from mesothelioma and the side effects from the chemotherapy were very difficult on John and his family. The Doe family believed that John was close to losing his battle on multiple occasions but he pulled through every time.

Dr. Fong decided that Cisplatin was taking too much of a toll on John’s well-being and removed it from his regimen.

Over the course of the summer, John received three rounds of just Alimta chemotherapy. Everyone was overjoyed when a CT scan revealed that the size of his tumors had decreased. After his initial six rounds of chemotherapy, Dr. Fong had John take six weeks off and then started him back on another cycle of Alimta chemotherapy.

By the fall of 2014, John was regaining his strength, and his pain and discomfort were decreasing. He had gained back some of the weight he had lost, and was even able to return to work. Things were looking very hopeful and there was a possibility that John would become a surgical candidate if the chemotherapy continued to be effective.

Unfortunately by the spring of 2015 John’s mesothelioma had become resistant to the chemotherapy. John recently expressed that he believes “the disease has run its course,” and is focusing on spending time with his wife and sons, and being grateful for the good times and beautiful experiences they’ve been able to share with one another.

Through strength, love and commitment, the Doe family has been weathering the storm with grace and courage over the last few years. We send our hope and prayers to this exceptional family.