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Mesothelioma Patient's Smile Increases

How do you describe Jean Laatsch? Charming? Delightful? Positive? Sunny? She may have been born and raised in the Midwest, but this young lady certainly possesses indomitable Southern charm.

After the sudden passing of her husband in 1994, Jean moved from Illinois to sunny Florida – perfect for her temperament. Her two daughters were now raising families of their own, Kim in Florida and Michele in Georgia.

When not spoiling her grandchildren, Jean was spending time with her friends over lunch, shopping or just traveling the world, including Asia, Central America, Africa and Europe. In the summer of 2012, her trips came to a sudden halt.

In 2012, Jean began experiencing painful swelling in her abdomen and subsequently underwent multiple paracenteses to drain the recurring fluid.

It was the first of what would prove to be chronic peritoneal effusions (or fluid build up) in the peritoneal lining surrounding her organs. Her doctors were highly suspicious that she had a malignancy of some sort, but each time they tested the removed fluid it was negative for any malignancy.

At the same time Jean experienced a dangerous drop in her body’s creatinine levels and needed to be placed on dialysis. Jean had received two kidney transplants in 1998 but her kidney strength had remained high until this time.

Since October of 2012, Jean had undergone a total of 20 procedures to drain the fluid surrounding her abdomen, each time losing about 20 to 30 pounds of fluid.

On March 11, 2013, she presented to the emergency room at the WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia complaining of a painful lump on her side which she suspected was an infected cyst. A CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis revealed areas of soft tissue along the omentum and pelvis suggesting peritoneal carcinomatosis.

Jean at Creighton Medical Center
Jean had her medical records sent to the Creighton team and on May 8 and traveledd with her daughter to meet with Dr. Loggie.

In April of 2013, Jean met with a gynecologist at the Southeastern Gynecology Oncology group in Atlanta, Georgia. After examining her, her doctor ruled out ovarian cancer but ordered a biopsy of the omental mass. On April 3, 2013, Jean underwent a CT guided biopsy at the Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta which returned a diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma, epithelioid type.

Jean was then referred to an oncologist who was very frank with her and admitted that he had never treated mesothelioma. He also indicated that due to her kidney disease and other medical conditions, he did not feel that surgery was advisable. However, he encouraged Jean in seeking a second opinion from peritoneal mesothelioma specialist, Dr. Brian Loggie at the Creighton University Medical Center in Ohama, Nebraska.

Dr. Loggie performed several tests on Jean, and determined that she was an excellent candidate for Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC).

Before HIPEC is administered, Dr. Loggie removed all visible tumors that can be removed throughout the peritoneal cavity. This is known as cytoreductive surgery. Following the cytoreductive surgery, Dr. Loggie began administering HIPEC treatment which a heated sterile solution--containing a chemotherapeutic agent—circulated throughout the peritoneal cavity, for a maximum of two hours. The HIPEC procedure is designed to attempt to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Jean underwent the cytoreductive/HIPEC surgery on May 14. Unfortunately the surgery and subsequent chemotherapy bath shut down her kidneys, as feared. Jean remained hospitalized for another six days, but Dr. Loggie remained optimistic and believed Jean would respond very well to the treatment, which she did!

Jean with her "best" friendsSince the May 14 surgery, Jean’s creatinine levels returned to acceptable levels. As the decline in her creatinine level coincided with the onset of the peritoneal effusions, and the return of her creatinine to acceptable levels coincided with the excision of the tumor, Jean’s doctors believe that her mesothelioma was the cause.

Jean is very grateful to Dr. Loggie and his team for their care, “Dr. Loggie is a doll. I am so glad I found him. He is the nicest, nicest man. I happy that I went to Creighton for my treatment instead of staying at home wondering, where do I go from here?”

After returning home, Jean had to rest and re-gain her strength. Jean has many friends in Georgia and Florida and has returned to having lunch with them twice a week and “shopping, of course.” While in Nebraska, she missed her dogs and they definitely missed her.

Throughout the past several months, the smile and sunny disposition never wavered. She still attends her 12 year-old grandson’s baseball games and her 16 year-old grandson’s rowing competitions on the Chattahoochee River. Watch out for that smile, it remains very powerful!

*** Jean Laatsch passed away on August 15, 2013 ***