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Mesothelioma Patient Vows To Finish Atlanta 10k Run

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For the past few months ( circa 1997 ) I have been corresponding with a very special lady. She has been called a "miracle" by her doctor. She had surgery for her mesothelioma a few months ago, and is now running regularly -- despite the fact that before her cancer diagnosis she had never exercised vigorously. She has spirit and she has discipline. Life gave Cori a big ugly mesothelioma lemon, and she is making lemonade. She is now participating in a study at Emory University on the impact of exercise among cancer patients. This is Cori's heartwarming story. If you would like to correspond with Cori, please let us know. She has graciously volunteered to help other patients and their families.

* * * * * * * *

As I reflect today on a day back in early 1995 when I first noticed a nasty pain I experienced as I attempted a serve in a tennis match, the phrase "ignorance is bliss" comes to mind. Little did I know then that it would take over two years before physicians were able to make a diagnosis. After countless CT scans, MRI's, mammograms, EKG's, TB tests, etc. etc., my doctors still were bewildered as to what was causing my pleural effusions.

Finally, in May of this year (1997), my doctors decided that I needed exploratory surgery. The night before my surgery, I spoke to Dr. Frank Ferrier, who is a wonderful surgeon. I remember him telling me so sincerely and convincingly: "I don't know what we're going to find, Cori, but I'll tell you this, I guarantee you that you don't have cancer". My heart really went out to him when I awoke after surgery, and he was standing by my bed telling me that they had found something I had never heard of before: "diffused malignant mesothelioma - a rare type of incurable cancer". The pathology reports from Mayo and Emory indicated that the tumor was epithileal type and the staging was unclear, but probably Stage II, without lymph node involvement.

At the time, these words were, of course, foreign to me. All I knew was that I had THE BIG C. I do remember being very aware of the fact that Dr. Ferrier was terribly upset. In fact, I remember clearly saying to him how tough it must be to be a surgeon at moments like this. I also remember feeling quite uncomfortable after the pleurecotomy and decortication that had been performed that night.

In the days that followed, as supportive friends and family rallied round, I was given so much material to read, (mostly from the Internet), that it was overwhelming - the one Website though that offered the most information was Roger Worthington's.

I initially saw two oncologists who my insurance company sent me to. One of them told me that in reality my only option was "to go home and wait to die". The other suggested chemo/radiation - CAP - Cisplatin/Adryamicin/Platinum. For a variety of reasons, I considered neither option viable for me. Instead, through a friend in California, I learned of the clinical trials being conducted with Onconase (manufactured by Alphacell) on mesothelioma patients, by Dr. Spence McCathren at the Thompson Cancer Center in Knoxville, TN.

I saw Dr. McCathren in June. With a big smile he turned me down for the clinical trials due to the fact that, in his opinion, after surgery the disease was really not measurable, thereby making me ineligible. He urged me to see Dr. Harvey Pass at Harper Hospital/Wayne State University in Detroit, who apparently had been one of the pioneers in the field of PDT - photo dynamic therapy.

I had an appointment with Dr. Pass, also in June, and was most impressed both by his empathetic manner and his extensive knowledge of mesothelioma. He indicated to me that they had not yet had demonstrable results with the original studies with PDT, but that Drs. Steven Hahn and Joseph Friedberg were investigating a new generation photosensitizer drug at the University of Pennsylvania which I may be a candidate for at a later date. He requested a copy of my blocks and slides for DNA studies to do further research into one theory regarding the virus SV-40. Apparently Loyola University has recently received a grant to study the possible connection between mesothelioma and the first generation injectable polio vaccines - which I received in Argentina.


Dr. Pass' suggestion was that I have a follow up CT- scan and complete blood test every 90 days. This I recently did - they were viewed by four physicians - my surgeon, Dr. Frank Ferrier; Dr. Spence McCathren in Knoxville; Dr. Harvey Pass in Detroit and my original oncologist. Their report: "there has been a further decrease in the amount of pleural thickening since the prior study in June 1997." My doctors were impressed and needless to say I was overjoyed. Dr. Ferrier told me I was " a miracle." Dr. Pass' report was "nothing but good news, keep it up". Dr. McCathren's advised that I "keep doing what you're doing". But the most telling of all comments was from oncologist: "we doctors really don't have all the answers to the mind/body connection, but whatever that is, you sure are on the right track"!!

What is that "right track"? Is there some formula for my success that others can use? I think so. In the past few months, rather than despairing, I have concentrated my efforts on bringing balance into my life - spiritual, mental and physical. I could probably write a book on all the many changes I have made in every area of my life, and would be happy to share the particulars with other patients, but to summarize:

  1. I now exercise regularly at the YMCA;
  2. I eat a VERY healthy diet, all organic, no processed foods, mainly massive quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables, all juiced to derive the fullest benefit from them;
  3. I take lots of herbs and vitamins;
  4. Probably above all, I maintain a very positive attitude and pray a lot - my life is in God's hands, and I have made a commitment to do everything I can to help Him, by getting my body strong and healthy again.

Back in May I set three goals for myself, short, medium and long range, and God willing I will live to see all of them come true. The first, to enjoy my 50th birthday which is coming up soon, in Argentina with all my family. My second goal is to compete in the 10K Atlanta Peachtree Marathon in July 1998, (bear in mind I never excercised in the past, but it's never too late to start). And my third goal is to see my youngest son Scott graduate from high school, five years from now. Last week my lung specialist reminded me to "make sure you include me in Scott's graduation announcement mailing list" -- don't worry I will!!

Experiencing cancer has enriched my life in many ways - with the loving support of family and friends, I am learning to let go of yesterday, to not waste energy worrying about tomorrow, and attempting to live ever mindful of the present, savoring each moment in its every dimension, because, to borrow the the words of John Lennon "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

** POSTED NOVEMBER 18, 1997 **

"Happy to Help" -- January 26, 1998

Hi there - it's me again. It's been a while since we've been in touch. I do appreciate your updates and find the information extremely helpful, albeit that some of it makes for very tough reading.

I just thought you'd like to know that I just had another set of CT scans, and once again, they show a "decrease" from the previous ones in September. Need I add that I was overjoyed? I have just sent a set to my "friend" Dr. Pass, for his eagle eye. He has been monitoring my progress. I believe his opinion weighs much more heavily in my mind than a "plain" radiologist or oncologist here -- neither of whom have experience in mesothelioma. I trust Dr. Pass' judgment and value his opinion considerably. I also sent a set to Dr. McCathren who also continues to monitor my "progress".

As an aside, this past week my story was featured on a local prime time special on "Alternative Medicine." As you may or may not be aware, I've made a concerted effort to help rebuild my immune system by means of nutrition, (which includes dietary supplements including herbs, vitamins and homeopathic remedies), as well as massive quantities of raw fruits and vegetables, and exercise.

Anyway, if you're interested in the update you can access the show's website at http://www.accessatlanta.com/wsbtv/ anpt/herbs/html. Apparently the show generated more response and feedback, (fortunately positive) than any other show they'd presented. I was swamped with emails on the strength of it, and have spent all week responding to same.

If what I shared helped just one person to not give up hope, or to enhance the quality of their life as they deal with cancer, it makes me happy. I hope this was the case. Two mesothelioma patients contacted me, one from Arizona, and one from Tennessee - I gave them both your website as well as Drs. Pass and McCathren's names.

Thanks again for keeping in touch. Regards. Cori.

** POSTED JANUARY 26, 1998 **

I asked Cori to send an email to a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. Within 24 hours of my request, Cori wrote the following note, which I strongly recommend that you read. Cori is such an incredibly strong, smart and compassionate human being - it's just a pleasure to know her. Her advice is CONSTRUCTIVE!

RGW

* * * * * * * *

Dear Susan:

I am so sorry to hear about your cancer diagnosis, a fact a friend of yours, Roger Worthington has shared with me. I, too, received a very grim prognosis when I was diagnosed and awful statistics. I chose to file those away in the deepest recesses of my mind and get on with the business of living. Cancer is undoubtedly a tough opponent and the cancer journey is a challenging one, which will forever change your life. But you are tough too !! Tougher. Or need to be.

My first suggestion would be to get someone to RUN, as opposed to walk, over to your nearest bookstore and purchase a wonderfully inspirational book by Dr. Bernie Siegel entitled 'Love, Medicine and Miracles'. I will forever credit this book with being, for me personally, a springboard to not accepting what the doctors had to say and taking charge of regaining a path to health. I have read hundreds of books since, but I regularly re-read Dr. Siegel's book - it is quite dog-eared by now I assure you. In it he talks of what he calls "Exceptional Cancer Patients"...a small minority of patients, who defy the odds - and how. The majority of patients stoically or fearfully just accept what the diagnosis is - and almost mark off the days on a calendar. Another percentage get really angry and decide to fight their cancer like a terrible enemy. Neither of these groups fare well. He describes the relatively small percentage of patients who survive way beyond any explanation.

I was diagnosed with a rare, always terminal, cancer - at the time I was told I would not make it to my 50th. birthday - I am headed for 53 now!! I celebrated my 50th. birthday with all my family in Argentina in grand style - a goal I had set for myself at the onstart - have seen another son graduate, which I was told I would not be around for, and plan on being there for my youngest son's graduation in 3 years. In fact I just finished taping a second prime time special last week on Alternative Med - the first having been taped 2 years ago - on The Truth about Herbal Medicines.

I am not a medical doctor, so I would not presume to give you any medical advice - but I would certainly advise that you or close family members, research, study, think "out of the box" when it comes to methods of treatments - get second opinions, and third if necessary - consider both traditional as well as alternative treatments - or a complement of both. I personally know several colon cancer survivors - in fact I can think of one particular friend, Leslie, who lives in Calif and I am sure she'd be happy to talk to you. She was faced with a similar diagnosis as yours - 6or 7 years ago I believe. She is happily enjoying a great quality of life - in fact we were together in the Bahamas just a month ago and I can't remember a time we have laughed as much. It was so healthy and invigorating.

Having travelled this journey for over 2-1/2 years now there's so much I'd like to share with you - maybe over the phone - it'd be impossible via email. Regaining health and a certain qualify of life - including "living with cancer" is not an easy task - in fact it is a daunting one. I obviously do not know what the one magic ingredient is, but I feel that a combination of a real desire to live, faith, positive attitude, excellent diet and juicing, supplements, exercise, rest, conviction, educated decisions, taking charge, etc etc all blend together in a successful outcome. It is HARD work, trust me...it DOES NOT just happen - I'm sure you can talk to 100 survivors, and get 100 different recipes for their success, but I'm equally sure that all of them will share common characteristics - including faith, tenacity, determination, positive mind set, knowledge of their cancer amongst probably many other traits. Susie, I wish I could say to you that surviving the cancer diagnosis is an easy process - it is NOT by any means. But it is by no means impossible either.

There are wonderful books out there - The Cancer Conqueror by Greg Anderson; Getting Well Again by Carl Simonton; A Cancer Battle Plan by Anne Frahme, Cancer as a Turning Point - LeShaun - all of which will give you different ideas about how to "fight" cancer...sometimes it can be overwhelming, but I feel it is important you do a lot of reading and then decide what path is right FOR YOU. I cannot emphasize enough how important I feel it is that you take charge of your cancer journey, set aside the fear and/or conventional approach to "go home and do what the doctor says verbatim with no questions asked " which has been so ingrained in all of us.

Become informed - research - and then decide for yourself - bearing in mind that you will no doubt encounter (well-meaning) resistance to your decisions which may not conform to others' way of viewing your cancer. Take off any cloak you may be wearing of despair, victimhood, anger, fear, denial - and slowly replace them with optimism, courage, can-do-it attitude, and knowledge and above all faith. I myself juice a lot - great start Jay Kordich's book A Juiceman's Power of Juicing - and I credit this with helping me get healthy cells working in my favor. John Robbins Pulitzer prize winner "Diet for a New America" was very enlightening, and steered me clear of pesticides, hormones, sulphides, processed foods etc etc in our diet and got me on a much needed healthy diet - also Dr D'Amato's Eat Right 4 your type" . I set about de-toxing my body with nutrients, healthy cell building and cleansing foods...and supplementing it with desperately needed vitamins and minerals I was deficient in. I concentrated heavily on rebuilding an immune system in crisis - cancer, after all, is the ultimate breakdown of the immune system. In addition, I have taken a myriad of other supplements which have been credited with helping with cancer - MGN-3, IP-6, Immutol-425, Essiac, echinacea, Noni Juice, Cactus Nectar, Pau D'Arco, colostrum, just to name a few.

It boils down to positive attitude, positive attitude, positive attitude and study, study, study......I ask questions constantly - have become a VERY familiar face at my neighborhood health food store - joined cancer forums on line which can be a valuable source of information sharing with other patients - subscribed to on-line services such as PDQ, Harvard PaperChase, and certainly gained much knowledge about my particular type of cancer through Roger's own vast resources on his website.

After or before or along with chemo there's centers such as Livingston Wheeler in San Diego, Gerson in Mexico, Oasis of Hope in Mexico, IAT Clinic in Bahamas, Immunocomp in Atlanta - which offer a myriad of treatments that can be beneficial and have been, for many. Newer trials with hyperthermia, radiostatic surgery, RITA, vaccines, anti-angiogenesis, etc etc are all worth exploring - I know it takes ENERGY and this is sometimes very much at a premium at a time like this, but if you stay focused on your goal - TO LIVE - ultimately very much worthwhile.

In closing Susie, let me just say one thing - I remember vividly not truly understanding a statement so many patients seemed to make in describing their cancer journey - to the effect that it had been an enriching, positive life altering, turning point in their lives. Today, I truly understand totally what they were saying. My journey so far has definitely enriched my life in ways I could never have anticipated...it is my hope and belief that you too one day can same the same thing.

My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family at this time. Please feel free to contact me thru Roger G. Worthington. I'd be happy to help in any way I can....there's too much for email - even though it appears nonetheless that I've written a chapter for a book already with this one !!! Take care of yourself, and gear up to face the upcoming challenge with faith confidence and courage. You'll need ALL in unlimited supplies but these ingredients will serve you well, trust me.

All the best, Sincerely - Cori Harth.

*** SEPTEMBER 16, 1999 ***

An Update -- May 16, 2001

I have been travelling a lot this year - in fact I just returned from a three week protocol in Arizona. I'm the first mesothelioma patient there to receive the leading edge dendritic cell vaccine - hoping for a positive outcome.(dendritic cell vaccine was in the news last week on ABC/Univ of Michigan trials).

My tumor has progressed quite a bit this year unfortunately, so I'm determined to slow it down somehow. I also spent a month at the Paracelsus Klinik in Switzerland in March, undergoing whole body hyperthermia, Iscador and a variety of complementary therapies. My quality of life continues to be excellent, thank God, and I feel good.

Just that the tumor has continued to grow and grow - inches thick now. All the doctors are mystified though - as each has said in different words "it just seems to be residing there, not robbing you of your life's force or vitality" - no one would know even now that there is a thing wrong with me.

I'm headed back to IAT mid-June for my 2-week tune-up, back to Arizona in July, to Argentina in August with my kids to celebrate my Dad's 80th, to Arizona in September for final dendritic vaccine, and back to the IAT in October for tune-up!!

In between, I'm still "trying" to work fulltime (my Co has been VERY understanding and supportive), and keeping up with 3 active young boys (men I guess I should say, 17, 19 and 22), plus their new pets - all under a year

At the last count, I'm taking about 125 supplements a day - a little hard to swallow - and self-administering 15-20 shots a day, between IAT, dendritic and Iscador - I'm like a walking pin-cushion.!!

Take care

Sincerely, Cori

An e-mail to Dr. Nicholas Vogezang -- February 6, 2002

Below is an e-mail Cori sent on February 6 to Dr. Nicholas Vogelzang of the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center inquiring about a new, non-toxic therapy she heard of in an e-mail of Dr. Vogelzang's.

Dr. Vogelzang is a member of the Board of Directors of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (www.marf.org)

* * * * * * * *

Dear Dr. Vogelzang

I have heard of you and your work with mesothelioma from various sources over the past couple of years, but mainly from Ken Markovich whose mother sadly passed away in November after a brave fight against this insidious form of cancer.

I originally started having problems back in March 1995, and had several thoracentesis in the ensuing couple of years - but no diagnosis. Finally in May 1997 I underwent what started out as exploratory surgery but resulted in a full-fledged pleurectomy/thoracotomy and a very grim diagnosis of "diffused malignant pleural mesothelioma of the right lung, stage III probably".

It would take me forever to list all I have done since the original diagnosis, but suffice to say that after much research on the subject, I made the decision not to pursue any traditional protocols recommended to me, and instead have concentrated on alternative medicine and I embarked on a very concerted effort to rebuild my weakened immune system. This 5-year journey has taken me to Mexico (for Vit C, laetrile and shark cartilage), to Argentina (Hansi), to the IAT in Bahamas (Immuno-Augmentative therapy), Switzerland (Paracelsus Klinik), Atlanta (Mc Coy treatment with GMCSF & IL-2), Arizona (dendritic vaccine at Aidan) and even the Dom Republic (stem cell transplants). I have taken countless, countless vitamins, minerals, immune boosting supplements - way too numerous to list at this time.

Recently Ken Markovich shared with me an e-mail you had sent him after his mother passed away, in which you refer to (and I quote) "new, non-toxic therapies for meso"... This statement of yours obviously intrigued me, particularly coming from a renowned member of the orthodox medical establishment. I have been sort of involved with MARF since its inception, (I helped edit their original publication, and am quoted in the brochure, as well as being named a 'patient advocate') I have met Mike Bittner, and have to the best of my knowledge, in general kept abreast of the research that is being done to further "our cause" (i.e. helping those patients such as myself who are trying to survive mesothelioma). But in all honesty, despite my efforts to stay current with what treatments are out there for mesothelioma patients, I sure have not found any conventional "non-toxic" therapies for mesothelioma. My own oncologist, Dr. Richard Leff of Georgia Cancer Specialists has been incredibly supportive of my efforts over the past few years, and I know he too is constantly on the lookout for what is available for others such as myself who for a variety of reasons have elected to pursue non-traditional therapies. Based on my results so far, I don't think he would "allow" me to undergo conventional chemo.

I remain firmly convinced that in years to come, the best approach to combating this disease will end up being a balanced one, i.e. combining both non-traditional holistic with conventional medicine. Also, several years ago, a doctor/cancer patient told me something I have never forgotten -he felt strongly that if I could just stay alive for a few years, scientists would come up with something to help me survive with mesothelioma for many more years. If such an option is already out there for me, then I sure have not heard about it, and would certainly like to hear much more.

Cori, who cannot wait to be a grandma, with a friend and little Payton - Christmas, 2001
Today my approach to my cancer is probably more that I have "learned to live with it" and treat it more as a chronic problem, than a terminal one. For the fact that I have been granted several years beyond all predictions, I am truly grateful - I certainly know that I have been an exception rather than the rule. However, too, I cannot ignore the fact that based on CT's the tumor in my chest continues to encroach on my lung and surrounding tissues/organs, so I would definitely welcome the opportunity to shrink it as much as possible. But what is of paramount importance to me is that in so doing, I do nothing to hurt my immune system, which is probably unusually strong and I feel has been so instrumental in keeping me alive this long. I do not want to undergo traditional chemo regimens such as Doxorubicin or Cisplatinum or Gemcar etc etc...I feel the risks (and damage) would far outweigh any potential benefit they may offer me. I originally turned down the "in"famous tri-modal therapy/ EPP offered by Drs. Valerie Rusch and Sugarbaker among others - neither the chemo nor radical surgery appealed to me then, or now even if I were a candidate, which I am probably not.

Ken Markovich has urged me to contact you more than once in the past - I have been reluctant to do so, and maybe the timing was just not right. But I am doing so now, in the hopes that you truly are experimenting with some success with non-toxic, non-invasive therapies for mesothelioma, and that I might be a good candidate for those experimental treatments.

I look forward very much to hearing from you. I thank you in advance for your help and trust that our paths will cross if they are meant to.

Thank you.
Sincerely, Cori Harth.

Cori went on to remind us:

When I was diagnosed I set 3 goals, short, medium and long term. The first was celebrating my 50th birthday in Argentina with all my boys and my family there (8 mos) - I did that in December 1997. My medium range goal was to participate in a 10K - in October 1998 I participated in the Aids Atlanta Walk-a-thon. And my LONG-term goal, 5 years, which at the time they told me was an impossible dream, was to see my youngest, Scott, graduate from High School . We ordered his cap and gown last weekend, and his graduation is May 24 - just a couple of months away. It gives me goose bumps, and I feel ever so blessed. If on my last breath, I intend to be in that auditorium when he graduates.

Of course, no one says I can't up the ante - I already have. Now my goals are to see him graduate from College, and then become a grandma one day. :-)

Sincerely, Cori Harth

March 3, 2004

I am very sad to inform you that Cori Harth passed away earlier today after a nearly seven year battle with mesothelioma. She was in Buenos Aries, Argentina visiting with her family and died in a local hospital where she was being treated for kidney failure, a minor stroke and an infection. In late December, Cori traveled to Buenos Aries, her home country, to visit her father who is in very poor health. Upon her attempted return to the states in late January, Cori fell ill at the Buenos Aires airport due to kidney failure, and spent the next four weeks in the hospital. She was released two weeks ago and re-admitted about five days ago.

Cori was an incredibly strong, loving and passionate human being that served as an inspiration for many others including my mom and our family. She will be sorely missed by those that knew her and were touched by her loving manner and incredible will to live.

Cori, who lived in Marietta, Georgia is survived by her three boys, Stuart, Stephen and Scott.

Please join me in praying for this wonderful woman and her three sons.

God Bless,

John M. Markovich