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Model And Wife Of Professional Ball Player Fights Mesothelioma


Judith and James Koranda were high school sweethearts at Kelley High School in Illinois. While James was scoring touchdowns and sinking jumpers, Judith was on the sidelines leading the cheers . James was all-state in baseball and football. After graduating from high school, James was offered a professional baseball contract. He struggled with the decision, whether to go to college or play baseball. He chose baseball where he persevered for the next thirteen years. He played in the Brooklyn Dodger, New York Yankee and Chicago White Sox organizations as a first baseman, outfielder and catcher.

In June of 1953, James and Judith were married. Ironically, six months later, another ballplayer and beauty were also married, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, but the Koranda marriage was different: it was filled with laughter, love and family. Before marrying James, Judith was a runway model, and posed for several major publications, including Mademoiselle.

The Life of a AAA Baseball Journeyman

It wasn't long before the children started to arrive. Over the next eight years, they begat and blissfully raised 5 healthy kids. As James' career took him on the road, he would travel ahead of his family, get settled and his brood would arrive later. Judith would pack the five children in the largest family station wagon available on the market, and drive to the usually small town where James was playing. The family was well disciplined, like any successful team.

In a fourteen year career, James lived in fifteen (15) different cities and two countries. His family was always with him. A multiple triple-crown winner in AAA, James never made it to "The Show." He was statistically always at the top of the list in batting, home runs, on-base percentage and RBIs. Some of the legends he shared the dugout with included Hall of Famers Sparky Anderson and Boog Powell. His manager in Omaha was the legendary skipper, Danny Ozark.

After retiring from baseball in 1965, the Korandas made their home in Orland Park, Illinois. James was a hero to the local teens, as they were constantly knocking on his door asking advice on how to improve their hitting, fielding and throwing. In 1981, they moved from the frigid Midwest to sunny Florida. In 1990, James passed away nine months after a second abdominal surgery. Several years later, Judith moved to Texas to be near her daughter and several of her eleven grandchildren.

Symptoms begin in 2000

Early in the spring of 2000, Judith began to feel unusually run down and short of breath. She also was experiencing a sharp pain in her left side. She traveled to the Clear Sky Imaging Center in Denton, Texas and underwent a chest film and CT scan. The scan showed a prominent, lobulated, pleural-based mass lesion in the lateral and posterior lower lung. The doctors examined the films and also noted bilateral pleural effusions. His diagnosis was malignant mesothelioma versus pulmonary neoplastic process. The doctors recommended that a biopsy be taken for further evaluation.

Judith KorandaJames KorandaBig League husband James Koranda

Judith Koranda and her Big League husband, James Koranda

Complications during Bronchoscopy

On March 25, Judith underwent a bronchoscopy of the left lower lobe at the Denton Community Hospital. During the procedure, Judith went into respiratory distress and had to be intubated. She suffered an acute pulmonary hemorrhage during the procedure. She was immediately transferred to intensive care and transfused with four units of blood. She was sedated and placed on mechanical ventilation during the night. The next day she had an occlusion of her endotracheal tube with a blood clot and nearly went into cardiac arrest. She was "bagged", with a removal of two large blood clots. She underwent a second bronchoscopy which revealed that she had no further blood clots in the tracheobronchial tree. Judith now recalls with a smile, "The doctors told me that I was near death, but I didnt' see any bright lights."

A chest film was then taken which revealed a small right sided pneumothorax. Judith remained in intensive care until March 29.

Pathology Confirms Mesothelioma

On March 27, Judith underwent a CT-guided fine needle biopsy. Using immunohistochemical staining techniques, the pathologist diagnosed malignant mesothelioma. She was discharged on March 30, 2000.

Consultation with Dr. Valerie Rusch of New York

On April 4, Judith met with her oncologist at the Texas Oncology, P.A. offices in Denton, Texas. They discussed with Judith her options regarding treatments, including surgical resection. Her oncologist consulted with Dr. Valerie Rusch at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Dr. Rusch recommended use of a combination of Gemzar and Cisplatin preoperatively, followed by extra-pleural pneumonectomy and, finally, post- operative hemithoracic radiation therapy. Because of the complications she had with her bronchoscopy, Judith was hesitant with regards to surgery.

Consultation with Dr. Vogelzang of Chicago

When Dr. Rusch offered to perform the surgery, Judith declined. Her family then went on the Internet and discovered Dr. Nicholas Vogelzang. Unfortunately, after reviewing Judith's medical records, Dr. Vogelzang and his associate Dr. Kindler did not feel Judith was a viable candidate for their protocol.

Judith Koranda (c), her daughter Carolyn (l) and two of her 11 grandchildren

Declines Surgery, Chooses Gemzar/Cisplatin

Judith decided to pursue chemotherapy treatments without surgical resection. She also decided she wanted to be treated close to her home. On May 8, she began her treatments consisting of Gemzar and Cisplatin. She understood some of the risks associated with Cisplatin, including permanent nerve, hearing and kidney damage. Her cycles were every 28 days. She underwent two full cycles of Gemzar and Cisplatin. A CAT scan taken after the two cycles showed no improvement in the tumor and the chemotherapy was discontinued. She did lose some hearing in her right ear, which she jokes is "an added benefit."

Judith's family returned to the Internet to research alternative therapies. She found that because of her previous chemotherapy, she was not eligible for some studies. She reiterated her desire to be treated close to home.

Judith is now undergoing radiation treatments that are strictly palliative. She goes in for treatments at least once a week. She is in pain if she does not take her medicine, which includes OxyContin and Ibuprofen. She continues to experience severe shortness of breath and has an oxygen machine she uses when she sleeps.

Judith Koranda is a remarkable woman. She and her husband raised five successful and responsible children. The Korandas are a close family who have weathered storms before. They are united as a team to control the tumor as best they can. We've got our rally caps on, but we wish we could do more.

*** POSTED JANUARY 26, 2001 ***

Mrs. Judith Koranda passed away on February 10, 2001