On July 13, 2014, my dear husband, Marco, lost his five year battle with retroperitoneal sarcoma, a soft tissue sarcoma that originated in the muscle of his abdomen. Always a healthy and vibrant individual, he had the brightest smile and was loved by everyone who knew him. He was known for his bright smile!! He enjoyed people and music was his passion. Living in New Orleans was the perfect place. In October 2009, he started to notice that he was losing weight and just contributed it to working too hard and stress on the job. As a few months went by it continued and he made his annual check up appointment with his physician. The blood work showed something was not right, so the doctor ordered another blood test. When that came back a few days later, the doctor’s office called and recommended he go immediately to the E.R. His blood count was critically low. Around the same time, we had noticed that his tummy was somewhat extended. At the hospital they could feel the large mass in his abdomen. A CT scan showed a very large mass. Next day biopsy confirmed it was a sarcoma. The doctors believed it was a slow growing sarcoma and may have been growing for a few years undetected, even with annual routine check ups. So his journey began battling this rare disease.
Several months before the diagnosis, his only daughter, Stephanie, had found out she was pregnant with fraternal boy/girl twins. Our first grandchildren!!! Her mother-in-law lost her battle with lung cancer soon after she confirmed her pregnancy. The weekend Marco was diagnosed was so stressful for the family, that she went into premature labor at 33 weeks. The doctors held off her labor for a few days but the babies were born, the girl weighing 4 lbs and the boy only 2 lbs. Marco was so depressed being in one hospital and his daughter in another with his new grandchildren fighting for their lives. I remember running back and forth between the two hospitals. But the babies thrived and, by the grace of God, went home in one month. Marco’s condition deteriorated though.
He was accepted to M.D. Anderson and their sarcoma department. His doctor stated that surgery was his only option. By the time surgery was set on 12/23/2009, he weighed only 125 lbs. He was given only a 50/50 chance at best to survive surgery. He did and they were able to remove the entire 12 lb tumor, but he lost his left kidney in the process. Over the next couple of years, he underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and a lung procedure to remove a small lesion. He went cancer free for close to two years, but a follow-up scan showed it had returned in 2012. A second surgery was successful in 2012, but in six months another tumor was detected, and a third surgery was unable to remove all the tumor as it had now settled in next to his abdominal aorta. M.D. Anderson would no longer recommend surgery and he agreed to clinical trials over the next six months, but with no success and the tumor continued to grow. His health started to show the ill effects.
Another local highly regarded surgeon offered another hope earlier this year and he had surgery again (12 hours) to remove several masses all weighing several pounds. Again, the part next to his aorta could not be removed. He thrived and came home from the hospital and follow up scans showed the cancer was contained for a couple of months. His attitude was always so positive because he said he kept winning the battles, but still needed to win the war! He enjoyed five years with his beautiful grandchildren as they did with him. He could have died when they were born and they would never have known his beautiful smile. More research is needed to find drugs that can fight this terrible cancer. Marco was just approved for a drug therapy that was determined to have positive effects on his type of cancer, but was never able to start the treatment. He died suddenly at home from a hemorrhage (probably from the tumor weakening the aorta). We were married for 35 years and, at 57 years of age, looked forward to growing old together, traveling, etc. But his spirit and smile will live with me and my family forever.
If you or a loved one has been impacted by sarcoma cancer, we encourage you to share your story. Sharing your story can be such an inspiration to others who are dealing with sarcoma in their own life and remind us all of the urgency to find better treatments in order to make an impact on the devastation that sarcoma cancer brings. Let your experiences help others become involved with raising awareness!