Learn more about Ana's battle with cancer and her experience handling her illness.
Life Was Good
Ana and her husband enjoy what would become their last outing without thinking about cancer every second of every day. She loved going out for an evening of dancing, laughing, drinking wine, having fun. Life was good.
Ana realized that her left eye felt differently, a bit tired. She decided to get her vision checked and was immediately referred to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute for further evaluation. Ana began to lose her vision while driving to the hospital from the opthalmologist’s office. Upon arrival, she was examined by a team of specialists who concluded that she had posterior choroidal melanoma with near total retinal detachment.
After a month of constant prayer and a lot of crying, Ana decided to have her left eye enucleated. She trusted God’s plan and felt blessed that she could save her life by losing her eye. Ana underwent the procedure with hope and plans for her new normal. Unfortunately, it was determined that she had a Class 2B tumor, the most aggressive type. Ana was instructed to have her abdomen scanned every three months to monitor any spreading.
The First Treatment
After a long recovery, Ana began a clinical trial with Crizotinib, a medication that acts as chemotherapy in pill form. This systemic approach was designed to prevent spreading of tumors throughout her body. There is no proven standard of care for this disease and there were no promises that chemotherapy would prevent metastasis.
First Liver Directed Procedure
Biopsy confirmed Metastatic Melanoma. Ana’s tumors were growing so quickly that laparoscopic surgery was not viable. Ana underwent liver surgery and 45% of her liver was removed to establish a clear margin. She would have to continue to monitor her liver.
More Metastasis & Immunotherapy Treatment
During a routine scan, liver metastasis was again found. Ana begins taking two immunotherapy drugs daily.
Ana’s liver begins to show signs of autoimmune hepatitis and immunotherapy treatment is suspended. Her doctor prescribes high doses of steroids and CellCept as a remedy.
Second Liver Directed Procedure
Ana has no option but to have yet another liver procedure. The two-part procedure, Y90, injects radiation into each lobe of the liver.
Review Of Scans: Visit To Dr. Sato In Philadelphia
Ana travels to Philadelphia, PA to meet with Dr. Sato, Director of the Uveal Melanoma Program at Jefferson University in Philadelphia. After the consultation, Dr. Sato recommends continued follow up due to the existence of some active tumors.
New Scan Reveals Tumor In Spine
During a routine scan, it is discovered that Ana has a tumor on her spine. She undergoes Cyberknife radiation treatment to target the tumor on her L3 vertebrae which left untreated could lead to difficulties in walking.
New Scan Reveals More Tumors
Ana shows new tumors in her liver, lungs, neck, brain and skull. A biopsy of her neck is conducted which confirms metastatic melanoma. Ana begins another round of Cyberknife radiation treatment to address tumors in her skull and brain.
Hope For Systemic Treatment
Ana learns of a new treatment that shows promise for her tumor type. She visits the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center in Nashville, TN for initial screening. Ana’s doctors believe that she will be accepted into the study. She is excited is return home and wait for the call. In the meantime, treatment for her scalp tumors continues.
Radiation To Scalp
Ana begins a grueling two weeks of Cyberknife treatments to her scalp which result in hair loss, declining energy, and diminishing hope. She begins to show signs of fatigue.
While waiting on information from Sarah Cannon, Ana plans to conduct a Chemoembolization of her liver. We receive a call the night before that the machine was down and the treatment was pushed to the next day. The night before, we get the call and
Ana was accepted to the clinical trial at Sarah Cannon. We were going directly to Nashville to begin the trial.
Before we leave, Ana takes a turn for the worse. Her abdomen is filled with fluid and four litres of fluid has to be drained from her abdomen. She is showing signs of ascites and her bilirubin levels was now over the maximum number for the trial.
Arrive In Nashville
After arriving in Nashville, Ana’s condition worsens. Her ascites have returned and another four liters of fluid are removed from her abdomen. A few days later, Ana has difficulty getting out of bed and walking on her own. Her bilirubin levels continue to rise and four more liters of fluid are removed from her abdomen. The doctors decide that starting the trial will “do more harm than good”.
Ana is in a lot of pain and discomfort as we leave our car in Nashville and fly home to see what can be done to help her liver. A new Radiation Oncologist is consulted, and she is willing to try a small dose of Keytruda to see if we can get her liver enzymes and bilirubin levels down. Unfortunately, Ana has more ascites and more fluid buildup. Hopeful and with lots of faith, she continues to pray, as she has done every day since her initial diagnosis. Her condition worsens and her sons come home to see their Mom.
My Eldest Son's Birthday
Ana is able to celebrate JC’s 29th Birthday at home with both her sons. We celebrate his birthday by cutting him a cake while we all lay down in bed together talking. Both our sons fly back home that weekend.
3 A.M. Drive To The Hospital
Ana is rushed to the hospital at 3:00 a.m. Although her high tolerance for pain has always been evident, something is not right. Ana learns that her kidneys are failing due to the condition of her liver and her ascites level are escalated. Her sons fly home immediately to be by her side.
Day Of Clarity
Ana is awake and tells her family and friends not to worry, that things will be just fine. Most of the day is spent talking and praying that God will heal her. Lab results continue to worsen. Her kidneys and liver have all but failed. Pain medicine is introduced to keep her comfortable.
We Say Goodbye
Ana takes her last breath at 11:00 p.m. on October 11th, exactly one month before her 55th birthday. At her side are the three men in her life, her husband and two sons. Five minutes later, her beloved poodle, Buddy, is brought into her hospital room to say his final goodbye with the entire family.