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Florist Bravely Makes Peritoneal Mesothelioma Her "Project"


Jacqueline "Jackie" George, a 53-year-old florist, wife, mother of two fine sons, and grandmother, was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma on or about May 3, 2000. Jackie and her husband, Dan, currently live in Berlin, New Jersey. Jackie was exposed to asbestos through the contaminated work clothing of her father, who worked as a pipefitter at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

The Diagnostic Testing

In mid-April of this year, Jackie awoke in the night with severe shortness of breath and back spasms. After a sleepless night, her husband took her to see her personal physician, Dr. Herbert Fichman, in Turnersville, New Jersey. Dr. Fichman had chest films and CT scans taken the same day, which revealed the presence of tumors in Jackie's chest. Dr. Fichman referred Jackie to a pulmonologist, Dr. Carlos Obregon. Dr. Obregon conducted a pulmonary function test and performed a needle biopsy through the left back at Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Washington Township, New Jersey. There was not enough tissue for diagnosis. Dr. Obregon referred Jackie to a thoracic surgeon, Dr. Joseph Shraeger, at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.

Jackie met with Dr. Shraeger on April 24, 2000. On April 27, Dr. Shraeger performed a thoracotomy, video-assisted thoracoscopy (VAT) and tissue biopsy. After surgery, Dr. Shraeger advised that he had found some kind of cancer, and that they would have to wait for the pathology laboratory to finish its work for the precise diagnosis. The Georges were advised of the diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma approximately one week later.

Tumor Invades Heart Lining

There is tumor activity around both lungs. There is a golf ball-sized tumor around the heart, which rendered her cancer inoperable. Jackie is under the care of Dr. Algazy, Dr. Freidberg, and Dr. Hahn at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Algazy has administered Jackie's chemotherapy with Cisplatin and Gemczar, which Jackie began on May 22, 2000 and continued for the next six weeks. Jackie has experienced severe nausea and vomiting as a result of her chemotherapy. The next step in the process will be an evaluation for intraoperative photodynamic light therapy, which will be administered after surgical reduction of her tumor. Drs. Freidberg and Hahn will helm this part of Jackie's treatment.

On July 13, Dan wrote:

About 2 weeks ago a chest x-ray showed that there is an additional tumor in Jackie's lung - for a total of 6. However, there was some confusion that the tumor may (or may not) have been there before the chemotherapy started. There is no way of knowing at this point - I guess that there should have been an x-ray taken on day 1 of the chemotherapy as a base line.

Today will be a six hour chemotherapy treatment for Jackie. This will be the end of cycle #3. In my opinion, Jackie is not improving as her shortness of breath seems to be getting worse. This is not a dramatic change and could just be my imagination.

Last week we spent 4 hours with 3 surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania hospital. This was regarding the photo dynamic surgery. The doctors require that a series of tests be completed before agreeing that Jackie can have the surgery. The tests will take place over the next week or so. They said that the operation can last from 6 to 12 hours; they said that it is "brutal surgery"; 10 day minimum hospital stay. The actual measures (lung removal, etc.) that they would take during the operation would be determined during the operation depending upon what they find. The doctors say that people who have had the surgery have a much better chance than those who do not. Evidently, 30 people have had it; 2 did not live through the surgery. They said that they will discuss more of the

Jackie and Dan George

Jackie and Dan George

details at a later date. I suspect that the surgery will take place mid August.

The chemotherapy of today will be the last for some period of time as there must be a 30 day period after the treatment and before the surgery. I have no idea how soon after the surgery the chemotherapy would resume.

In general, I think that Jackie's outlook and attitude are extremely positive. She is now calling this entire ordeal a "Project". She has had very few down days.

Over the years, Jackie had experienced relatively minor ailments, but she is very healthy appearing, even now. She and her husband put up a brave face, but they are devastated at the long odds she faces in her fight with mesothelioma.

Zest for Life

The Georges are the same age, and beginning with the third grade, attended the same Catholic elementary and high schools in the Philadelphia area. They were married on June 1, 1968.

The Georges are family-oriented people who love to throw parties. The Georges have two sons, Daniel George, Jr., age 28, and Lt. Jeffrey George, age 26. The Georges are very close to their sons. They molded their careers around them. They are very proud of the fact that they attended all of their sporting events, except when one got into hockey and karate, which was too violent for Jackie to watch. Their son Danny works as an assistant manager at a local BMW dealership. Jeffrey is a medical services officer and a medivac pilot in the U.S. Army. Jeffrey's son John Daniel was born on May 26, 2000 -- and the Georges now wonder if John Daniel will remember his Grandma Jackie.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Georges as they struggle with this terrible tumor.

** POSTED JULY 27, 2000 **

An Update from Dan -- 12/12/00

I wanted to let you know

On 4 Dec Jackie and I visited Dr Algazy at Penn. At this time he told us the results of the cat scan that Jackie had the prior week. Dr Algazy told us that the chemo was not shrinking the tumors, and therefore they would stop that particular type of chemo. Naturally, this was particularly upsetting news.

They have now begun trying a fourth type of chemo treatment. This is an experimental (ZD9331) chemo being used along with cisplatin. They gave Jackie her first treatment yesterday. The second treatment is next Monday.

I will try to keep you advised.

Daniel C. George

An Update -- 8/8/01

Jackie is currently on a two-week hiatus from chemotherapy while she recovers from her latest bout with pneumonia. She has been having CAT scans every other month and is scheduled to learn the results of her latest CAT scan later on this week before resuming her chemotherapy of navelbine sometime next week.

When we spoke with her recently, she indicated that her pain had escalated to such a degree that her doctors prescribed the pain reliever OxyContin, and when that did not work, she was given a prescription for double the initial dosage. It does give some temporary relief of the pain, although it does leave her quite tired.

She is continuing with arts and crafts, right now occupied by a cross-stitch project she has undertaken - a ring-bearer's pallet for her son's wedding next May, which she is looking forward to attending.

Jackie George passed away on December 27, 2001