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Malignant Mesothelioma Survivor Taking It One Day At A Time


Bonnie Von Dell is a wife, a mother of two, a grandma of three and a mesothelioma survivor. Born in a car as her mother was driving from Minnesota to Washington to find work while Bonnie’s father was serving in WW2, Bonnie has travelled a long hard road.

Bonnie had experienced recurrent bouts of pneumonia and believed she had developed an infection when she began feeling chest pain and shortness of breath in the fall of 2009. X-rays confirmed she had a pleural effusion and a possible mass in her left lung.

Bonnie returned to the doctor the day after Christmas when her symptoms had still not resolved. Subsequent x-rays showed that the effusion had not responded to antibiotics and had actually increased in size. In April of 2010, after still no resolution to her symptoms, Bonnie was referred to a thoracic surgeon where she underwent a biopsy and talc pleurodesis. Pathology analysis of her tissues resulted in a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, epithelial type.

In May of 2010, Bonnie met with thoracic surgeon Dr. Alexander Farivar at the Swedish Cancer Medical Center in Seattle, Washington to discuss her surgical options. “When I met Dr. Farivar, he made my day. He put me at ease and I felt good putting my life in his hands. He told me, ‘don’t you worry about it, let me worry about it.’”

They decided on Swedish Cancer’s multimodality treatment plan which consisted of three cycles of chemotherapy utilizing Cisplatin and Alimta (Pemetrexed Injection), followed by extra-pleural pneumonectomy resection, and subsequent radiation. According to Bonnie, “Dr. Farivar told me he was going to have to hurt me a little, to help me a lot.”

Bonnie’s EPP consisted of removing the sixth rib from her back, her left lung, about a third of the lining from her heart, and some of the lining of her abdominal wall. The lining which was removed was replaced with a gortex mesh.

She found great comfort in talking to Marilyn Stratton, a fellow mesothelioma patient treated by Dr. Farivar at Swedish Medical. Bonnie had so many questions and fears, “unless you’re speaking with someone who has gone through it, you just don’t know what to expect.”

It has been a long road and not without complications, as a result of the Cisplatin, Bonnie developed kidney failure and has a tumor on her kidney that is being monitored; she was also advised that she will likely develop heart problems down the road as a result of the radiation.

“Dr. Farivar has been very happy with my progress. He told me to go out and do things that make me happy and I try and do just that.” Since being diagnosed with mesothelioma, “I just take things one day at a time and hope things work themselves out. My lifestyle has slowed down in a big way, and now I try to appreciate the little things in life, like seeing eagles flying over the lake, or baby ducks in the spring.”

Bonnie’s husband John has been an ever-present pillar of support and compassionate care-giver. She and John make the best of each day and covet the time they get to spend together. In June, they are planning to travel to Minnesota for a wedding and family reunion. “I am really looking forward to seeing family and spending a few days at the cabin on the lake and to just do some fishing and relaxing.”

*** Posted on April 4, 2012 ***

*** Bonnie Von Dell passed away on September 10, 2014 ***