Rich’s Journey with Mesothelioma

At age 71, Rich DeLisle started working in a warehouse to bring in extra spending cash. Thanks to the physical demands of his job, Rich noticed that he was feeling short of breath while he worked.

He took his concern to his primary care physician, who recommended he see a pulmonologist. One test led to another. Soon it became clear that Rich was facing pleural mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer that has no cure.

“That job did us a favor. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor, and may not have been diagnosed so early,” Rich said.

While there is no cure for mesothelioma, the cancer can be controlled with chemotherapy, immunotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy. People who are diagnosed early like Rich have the best chance of long-term survival.

Most people live around one year with mesothelioma. Trying different anti-cancer treatments is the best step you can take to boost your chance of living longer with mesothelioma.

Traditional and Complementary Therapies

Rich decided to try a combination of traditional anti-cancer treatment and complementary therapies. The approach is often called integrative oncology.

First, Rich underwent a pleurectomy/decortication (P/D), a surgery that removes the lung lining and sections of the lung that appear cancerous. He could have opted for a more aggressive surgery that removes the entire lung, called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP).

Rich decided to have a P/D to keep his lung, even though that meant the surgeon might miss microscopic cancer cells, increasing the risk of recurrence.

He passed on the chemotherapy and radiation therapy that are usually recommended to mesothelioma patients who qualify for surgery. Rich wanted to avoid chemotherapy side effects at all costs, viewing it as a last-ditch option to be used only when all other options fail.

Rich was diagnosed in 2012 and hasn’t had to consider chemotherapy yet. His imaging scans continue to show no signs of tumor growth.

Here’s where a complementary mesothelioma therapy might be playing a role in his long-term survival. Rich’s son recommended a type of tea, called graviola, which is promoted as an anti-cancer tonic. The leaves of the graviola plant are used to brew a tea that supposedly boosts immunity and targets cancer cells.

Family and Spiritual Support

Recommending complementary therapies is one of the numerous supportive roles Rich’s family has played since the diagnosis.

His wife has served as his primary caregiver, in addition to his dance partner. They slow dance now, but a decade ago they were competing in local Jitterbug dance contests.

Rich’s son likes to make new memories, including bringing Rich along on a business trip to Las Vegas, where Rich enjoyed a luxurious stay at the Bellagio. They attend sporting events and make sure to document everything with photos.

In addition to support from his family, Rich also relies on his faith in God. He and his wife pray together every day, counting their blessings and offering thanks for all the good in their lives.

Every six months Rich visits his oncologist for a checkup and gets imaging scans to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. He’s had a clean bill of health since his surgery and continues to live his life, albeit at a slower tempo than before the diagnosis.

“The worst thing you can do is sit around feeling sorry for yourself. We had our pity party. I cried. She cried. We told the kids, and got all the emotions out, but then we moved on,” Rich said.