Burnett, Kimberley – Surviving Mesothelioma

Burnett, Kimberley

“Never Say Never”

The following essay was based off of a true story. My father has neuro-endocrine pancreatic cancer. This essay is based off of his diagnosis and the treatments he has been using. He is still alive today despite all odds, and this essay is dedicated to him and his stubborn perseverance in fighting his diagnosis.

Kimberley tentatively stepped into the doctor’s office. Her hand shot to her side as a new symptom of a new ailment reared its ugly head by stabbing her with an almost intolerable pain. It seemed that for the past ten years every year her body came up with a new way to torture her, each ailment getting progressively worse than the last. The “healing” medications she had been taking with each new ailment must have been replaced with placebos. Nothing seemed to be working. She had originally been diagnosed with asthma ten years ago, and then diagnosed with diabetes, and then with each new symptom came a new ailment. She sat in the cold sterile office lost in thought as the fluorescent light beamed blindingly down on her.  What could it possibly be this time? Her doctor came in an ominous look sketched across her kind face. Mrs. Burnett I am glad you’re sitting down. 

“What is it this time?” Kimberley said with a smile “a new strain of bubonic, a rare purple people eater syndrome, maybe I‘m turning into a werewolf I was scratched by my dog.” She stated humorously trying to hide the fear brought on by the look of sorrow on the doctor’s face.

“Mrs. Burnett, I am so sorry. I am not really sure how we missed this, but it explains everything. You have Glucagonoma, a very rare form of neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer. The survival rate of this cancer after it has been in your system for four to five years is reported to be about 4-5%.The tumor on your pancreas, as shown by the ultrasound is 17cm in diameter. The other tests show that the cancer has already spread to the liver making it inoperable. To be entirely honest considering the progress of the cancer it is surprising you are even sitting here today. We are not exactly sure how long you have to live, there are a few treatment options but they will never cure it only prolong your lifespan. I will give you a list of specialists for pancreatic cancer but this form is so rare that very few doctors have actually studied it.”

Silence overwhelmed the room. The poison words of the diagnosis tickling her spine with icy fingers. Nothingness overwhelmed her as she sat there in the cold sterile room trying desperately to absorb what she was told. She had been given an expiration date, actually technically according to what her doctor had just said she was already passed her “sell-by” date. Suddenly warmth crept into her frozen figure as she asked herself; if I am already defying the odds whose to say I cannot continue to do so. These thoughts bringing a glimmer of hope to her she looked up at her doctor with a strange glint of determination lightly twinkling from behind her chestnut brown eyes. “Never say never.” Besides he said the survival rate was 4-5% that means there have been survivors. 

While Kimberley was driving home her fiery determination began to ebb away as the nothingness slowly crept back into her soul. She contemplated the metaphor of the stoplight her car was cruising up to as it flickered from green to yellow, then lingering on yellow, and suddenly resting on red. Her car came to a sudden halt and so did her resilience. She let out an ear splintering wail fueled by the crack in her soul. She bent limply over the cold leather steering wheel; tears rushing down her cheeks, her eyes becoming blood red, as despair overwhelmed her. A car’s horn startled her into forcing her right foot down on the gas, causing the car to lurch forward as its driver forcibly attempted to finish her journey.

Upon reaching home she numbly worked through her routine, her kids were away at school and her husband would be home soon. She made dinner, something simple as her mind was lost in woe and misery. Her quiet sobbing blinding her as she tried to continue her chores. What was the point of it all? She asked herself. I am only fifty, she hated growing old as much as the next person but she also loved it secretly. She loved the concept of future, so open and unpredictable. Now she had none. Was she ever going to see her daughter graduate, or her son get married? Would she ever see her children get their first full time job, and then promotion? Everything she had based her past twenty something years on seeing and experiencing was ripped away from her. Her knees buckled beneath her no longer able to stand on their own. 

Out of blackness through hazy eyes she saw the distant figure of her husband, deafly heard the soothing tones of his voice. “What is wrong?” he kept asking from a distance as he held her close. She saw her hand reach up and grip his shirt as she was reduced to the weeping of a child. As the words of explanation tumbled out of her mouth silence enveloped both of them. His face rested on the back of her head as he suddenly held her tighter, as if somehow his grip on her could change her fate. Oh how she wished it could. 

After a few days of moping she shot up out of her lonesome coma with a new resolve. Kimberley could not accept this to be the end. She came in this world as a fighter she was certainly not going to leave it a coward. A new energy now pulsed through her veins as she took out the list of names the doctor gave her and called every one of them setting up appointments. She was particularly interested in the cancer research center, and they were extremely interested in her. In fact they were just going through the bureaucratic process of trying to get the FDA to approve a new treatment they had created to fight her form of cancer and cancers similar to hers. The treatment they were offering was through a drug called Sutent combined with select Chemotherapy drug treatments, the only treatment for cancers as progressed as hers.  Though this is not a cure its been shown to regress tumors of this type and make surgery a potential option.  This treatment was also known to increase the severity of the Glucagonoma symptoms so to counteract them she was prescribed Sandostatin. 

Her family and friends were also desperately researching and suggesting other treatments. She was willing to try anything, well anything reasonable. A family friend recommended for her to try Essiac tea which was said to have “cured thousands of cancer patients”.  The formula for this tea included burdock root, powdered sheep sorrel herb,  powdered slippery elm bark, and powdered Turkish rhubarb root. All of these ingredients had to be bottled in a dark glass jar or in a glass jar set in a very dark place. She was told it was best for this tea to be homemade so she set to work gathering the ingredients at various organic or old world stores. The one problem is she was also told the recipe for the tea had to be followed exactly, and she had never been incredibly talented when it came to the kitchen. Her chef experience was limited to the basics. She gave it a monumental effort but eventually settled for a tea conjured up by the professionals. Grimacing at the smell she sighed and reminded herself that she had been through worse and drank. ‘This better work’ she mumbled begrudgingly to herself ‘at least it did not have anything like testicles of a newt or eyes of a crocodile, but this is pretty desperate’. 

Kimberly fearing the worst but fiercely hopeful for the best followed in the footsteps of Queen Latifa in the movie last holiday. She and her family started going on special trips everywhere trying to savor what time they had left together. She began planning trips to places she kept telling herself she would go, starting up dance lessons, singing lessons, event art lessons all the things she kept saying she would do someday, because as far as she was concerned it was someday. There were times when she faltered in her resolve but with encouragement and prayers of friends, family, strangers and acquaintances she kept moving forward.

Her efforts were not in vain. The cancer stabilized, giving her more time with her loved ones and to master her newly founded tango skills. Weeks left to survive stretched into months, months into seasons, and seasons into a year maybe two years. The cancer that should have killed her within a few months was weakening in its ravenous fury and being set straight. She may still succumb to its clutches but not yet. She had too much to do, too many people to love and watch grow up, too many dreams to have them crushed before she was ready.

Bibliography
•    Burnett, Wayne A. “Treatise on Glucoganoma.” Letter to Kimberley Burnett. 16 Feb. 2010. MS. 305 Capstan Dr, Placida, FL. 
•    Essiac Inc. “What is Essiac Tea.” Essiac Tea Essiac Products Essiac Formulas. Essiac Inc., 2010. Web. 25 Feb. 2010.
•    Health Freedom. “The Authentic, Original Essiac Tea Formula & Recipe.” Health Freedom Essiac Tea Info. Web. 26 Feb. 2010.

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