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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Is it a Miracle? You Decide!

This is a true account of my wife's aunt, who resides in Sunnyvale, Ca.  If you are not a religious person, you might want to reconsider!  Dan
Originally published 3/19/2012
She passed away on March 20, 2014
Update follows from 4/6/2014

Thanks to;
El Camino Hospital
Shane Dormady, MD
Robert Sinha, MD

Josephine – A Stage 4 Melanoma Survivor
When Josephine was in her mid-80s, she had a suspicious-looking mole on her left arm removed. Lab tests confirmed that Josephine had melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. Her doctor removed the mole and the surrounding skin. Because the cancer had not spread to other parts of her body, Josephine didn’t require any additional treatment, so she went back to living her normal life.
A few years later, Josephine went in for a routine mammogram. The doctors found a lump in her breast, which, unfortunately, turned out to be stage IV melanoma, meaning the cancer had spread from her arm to her breast and other areas of her body as well. Stage IV melanoma is notoriously difficult to treat; patients like Josephine typically have only a 15-20% chance of surviving five years or more after diagnosis.
But Josephine did not give up hope. “I was never worried,” says Josephine, who immediately set up an appointment with medical oncologist Shane Dormady, MD, of the El Camino Hospital Cancer Center, to see what her treatment options were.
In March 2011, Josephine began taking temozolomide (Temodar®) pills, a chemotherapy treatment for metastatic melanoma. Although temozolomide has shown some success in temporarily shrinking melanoma, according to the American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/SkinCancer-Melanoma/DetailedGuide/melanoma-skin-cancer-treating-by-stage, the results are short-term, at best.
But Josephine has done amazingly well in the past year; since she started taking temozolomide, her results have been astonishing. A PET scan in the fall of 2011 showed that the only cancer remaining in Josephine’s body was a small spot on her lung, which radiation oncologist Robert Sinha, MD, treated with CyberKnife®, a non-invasive type of targeted radiation. A follow-up PET scan after the CyberKnife treatment showed that the cancer in her lung had completely disappeared as well.
So, today, much to everyone’s surprise, Josephine is entirely cancer-free. Although she cannot predict what the future may hold, she has gone back to living her life, spending time with family and taking water-exercise classes at the YMCA to stay active.
And, in March 2012, Josephine will celebrate her 90th birthday! She has invited Dr. Dormady to join her at the party. “Dr. Dormady has been so good to me,” says Josephine. “He is a great doctor.”
Here’s to hoping Josephine has a wonderful birthday celebration, and many, many more birthdays to come!


Update: 3/28/2014
Below is the message that was sent to all medical staff at El Camino Hospital, on 21 March 2014.
Colleagues, With permission from the family of Josephine Hutchings McCall, we share this story that all of us at ECH should be proud of: “I hope that she will be a chapter in your book of experiences," said Mrs. McCall’s daughter, of her mother who had a tiara lovingly placed on her head. Shortly after meeting Josephine’s family we learned we were in the presence of something rarer than any stone on a tiara; we were serving a WWII female Marine Corps Veteran who was among the first eighteen Women Marines sent to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point North Carolina. With great honor, Jennipher, the palliative care nurse, pinned an American flag on her blanket and thanked her for her service. Josephine was a composer, a music director, accompanist, music teacher, and volunteer. She also had a daily radio program playing the organ, "Hammondaires with Josephine", in Idaho, during the 1940s. Her son asked if we could arrange for their mother, Josephine, to hear her grandson play one last concert for her. Through conversations with her MD, hospital supervisor, security, and the help of dedicated 3C nurses, Josephine was able to hear her grandson play that concert. The following morning she died very peacefully surrounded by family. Josephine's daughter related she could see a spread of calm wash over her mother as her grandson played for her. She expressed her gratitude for what went into making this happen for her. Sometimes, the best medicine for our patients is not medicine at all, but the compassionate care we provide with our hearts. A special thanks to the following that helped make this happen: The Family of Mrs. Josephine Hutchings McCall, Dr. Dormady, Reverend John Harrison, Jason Alexander, John Foged, Stephanie Artea, Stacy Annuli, RN, Gabby Macebo, RN, Mary Swiner, RN, Sharon Shin, CNA, Jennipher Manganaro, and the Palliative Care Team. This was a rare and lovely opportunity for the care team at ECH to surround the family and patient at end of life with such humanity, kindness, dignity and respect. Thank you. Josephine McCall and family members.

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