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Sheetmetal Worker Seeks Help From Dr. Eric Vallières

Leroy McGillivray's medical problems began on June 5, 1998, when he experienced severe pain on the right side of his chest. He also noticed he was short of breath. Leroy saw his primary care physician on June 12, 1998 and was given antibiotics. Leroy's condition initially improved, but three days later the chest pain and shortness of breath returned with greater severity.

Leroy returned to the doctor on June 30, 1998, and chest films were taken. The films revealed a right pleural effusion. Leroy was then referred to a pulmonary specialist who performed a right-sided thoracentesis. The cytology report showed atypical cells consistent with a neoplastic process (abnormal tissue formation) favoring adenocarcinoma over mesothelioma. The doctors determined that further diagnostic tests were needed.

On July 1, 1998, a CT scan of the chest revealed bilateral atelectasis (collapsed lung) and small bilateral pleural effusions. Upon learning of Leroy's history of asbestos exposure, the doctors could not rule out malignant mesothelioma.

On July 3, 1998, Leroy consulted with a thoracic surgeon, who subsequently performed a video-assisted thoracoscopy (examination of the pleural cavity). Several small pleural-based masses were identified. Numerous biopsies were taken and sent to the pathology department at Providence General Medical Center in Everett, Washington. The pathologist in turn sent the specimens to Dr. Samuel Hammar for an expert opinion.

Dr. Hammar is a pulmonary pathologist with the Diagnostic Specialties Laboratory, in Bremerton, Washington, and a member of the United States/Canadian Mesothelioma Panel. Using several specialized tests, Dr. Hammar confirmed that the tumor was consistent with and characteristic of malignant pleural mesothelioma of the epithelial subtype.

Leroy was referred to the University of Washington in Seattle for consultation with Dr. Eric Vallières, a surgical oncologist. The University of Washington is currently offering experimental treatment using multi-modal therapy in the treatment of mesothelioma. The director of the program is Dr. Eric Vallières . Leroy was approved to participate in the phase III trial.

For Leroy, the phase III multi-modal treatment will begin with five to six cycles of chemotherapy, followed by surgery, and then neutron radiation therapy. Depending on Leroy's condition after chemotherapy, the surgeons will likely perform a pneumonectomy, removing his entire right lung. After recovering from the surgery, radiation therapy will be administered as a follow-up to the chemotherapy and surgery.

Leroy began his first cycle of chemotherapy on October 12, 1998. He was hospitalized for twenty-four hours so the doctors could administer the drugs. Since that time, he has felt extremely ill. He has not been able to get out of the bed or keep food down. He has lost six pounds. Because of these negative side-effects, the doctors had him skip the chemotherapy for the week of October 19th, and resume the week of October 26th. Mr. McGillivray is schedueld for srugery on November 30, 1998.

This terrible disease has turned Leroy's life upside down. His wife and three children cannot believe what is happening. Leroy quit working in the Seattle-area shipyards where he had worked as a sheetmetal worker since 1965. He can no longer play with his seven grandchildren and give them piggyback rides. He cannot enjoy his personal hobbies: camping, golfing and restoring vintage automobiles.

Like other couples who are fighting mesothelioma, Leroy and his wife Phyllis are using their retirement savings to pay the medical bills. The McGillivrays feel fortunate, however, that they have the continued love and support of their family, friends and neighbors.

** POSTED DECEMBER 2, 1998 **