My name is Kathleen Rae Eldrid. I am a 49 year old Registered Nurse, licensed in CA and ME. My speciality is chemical dependency/eating disorders/life-style addictions. Although, since my correct diagnosis of Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor, 4/1/93, I have become very educated in the fields of cancer immunotherapy/vaccines/Environmental Medicine. My journey began November 30, 1992 when I elected to have an OPTIONAL new hire employee chest x-ray at the now Mercy Westbrook Hospital, Westbrook, ME, U.S.A. At first, I was not going to bother with this because I had dealt with several of my own addiction issues 10 years earlier, including sugar, cigarettes, and caffeine! At age 41, I felt and appeared the epitome of glowing health. Within the first hour of my orientation, on this, my first day of a brand new job, the results of my chest x-ray would forever alter my little corner of the world, along with my two daughters, then, ages 15 and 18. At the time, I had no health insurance and was a part time student at the University of Southern Maine. The only doctor I knew was a chiropractor. I was mis-diagnosed by no less than three doctors between December 1992 and end March 1993, as having small cell lung carcinoma. This despite much “scientific evidence” to the contrary, along with my innate intuition. Listening to and following through on this gift has been my life saver.
Many people thought I was in denial of my diagnosis. But, I simply “knew”. I found a fourth doctor and referred myself to his office in Portland, ME. Chris A. Lutes, M.D. has since retired but I will never forget this doctor “listened” to me and took a chance. I signed my surgical consent form which read: Upper left lobe thoracotomy, scheduled April 1, 1993.
The day following this massive left chest wall surgery, Dr. Lutes came to visit me with the news. He told me I had been right. I did not have small cell lung carcinoma. However, he did not know the exact diagnosis of this 7 c.m. tumor which had attached itself to my back fourth and fifth ribs. He also told me he did a rib resection and accidentally fractured my sixth rib. He was very happy I gave him my camera prior to this surgery. He took several photos of this event.
I received the diagnosis of P.N.E.T. after I was discharged from Maine Medical Center. I still did not believe this even after the tumor was examined by two chiefs of pathology, Michael Jones, M.D., and Andrew Rosenberg, M.D. I requested it be examined by the chief of pathology at the National Cancer Institute. P.N.E.T. is extraordinarily rare and generally occurs in young, tall, male patients. I was the exact opposite to all of the above! It was indeed confirmed by the N.C.I.
I was informed I needed to do follow up treatment with an oncologist. I was referred to one by Dr. Lutes. By this time, my reputation as being a “difficult patient”, and an R.N., well preceded me.
Prior to the oncologist’s office visit, May 7th, I investigated any and all material I could locate about this sarcoma. My primary source was the N.C.I. I was unable to find any survivors. I quietly sat and listened to the proposal of Thomas Ervin, M.D., which I already knew was the “standard, routine treatment”, six months to one year of intensive chemotherapy and radiation.
When I asked him if he knew of any survivors, he replied he was aware of two patients who had been treated at Dana Farber in Boston, MA with this “standard, routine treatment”. But, they had died.
In that moment, I “knew” my path would be different and not the “norm”. I have not seen the “scientific evidence” the above “standard, routine treatment” modalities are successful for this sarcoma. I may be the longest known adult survivor, globally. I am still searching.
It is eight years later. We continue to work on second recurrence, May 1995, at the exact site of where my sixth back left rib was accidentally fractured, 4/1/93. What has worked for me and showed great promise and hope was/is the principles and practices of Environmental Medicine. For further information about E.M., contact: American Academy of Environmental Medicine in Wichita, KS and American College of Advancement in Medicine, in Laguna Hills, CA, U.S.A. I also became involved in cancer immunotherapy and tumor specific, as well as non-tumor specific vaccines, in May 1996 by the late James McCoy, Ph.D., a former cancer immunologist with the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD. Dr. McCoy, the inventor of my immunotherapy/vaccine suddenly died, May of 2000, and his lab, ImmunoComp Lab in Stockbridge, GA, closed July 2000. This treatment modality also showed great promise. The “scientific evidence” is contained in my 200 page, four year medical history from James McCoy, Ph.D.
I have spent the past eight months, since the death of this brilliant researcher, trying to find anyone, world-wide, doing similar work. My cancer has spread to my lymph nodes. On January 26, 2001, I not only found an M.D. doing similar treatment, but who also once worked with Dr. McCoy. And in Stockbridge, GA. His name is Rhett Bergeron, M.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org). His web address is www.immunolife.com.
None of my past and present four health insurance companies have covered any of this innovative “cutting edge” cancer treatment. I filed personal medical bankruptcy in September 1998. My fellow supporters and myself currently are contacting the “Montel Williams” show for his help. I have been unable to work since June 2000.
I have appeared in, “Cancer Combat”, published January 1998, pages 16 and 95. My story has been written in numerous newspapers, including the Contra Costa Times, 1/30/97, Concord, CA. Diane Atwood, medical reporter for WCSH-TV in Portland, ME, has covered my cancer odyssey since 1993. It is a Miracle I am still alive. I keep waking up, daily, one day at a time. I know there is a Purpose to all of this. My favorite saying is: More to be revealed. It is no accident I stumbled upon sarcomaalliance.com web site, two weeks ago, while looking for something else. To be continued………..
Kathleen R. Eldrid, R.N.
The following is taken from Kathleen’s story as told by Aimee T. Pelletier at www.stsp.org
Surviving Sarcoma: Kathy’s Story
Maine nurse celebrates 9 years of battling back against cancer
Kathleen Rae Eldrid, RN, considers the future treatment of cancer her mission. At age 50, Kathy has survived cancer for 9 years. She spends a lot of her time researching the disease and fundraising for her immunotherapy treatments, which are not conventional and, therefore, not covered by Medicare.
Kathy’s journey began on Nov. 30, 1992. It was her first day of a new job as a nurse in the chemical dependency unit at what is now Mercy Hospital in Westbrook, ME. When she was offered a complimentary chest X-ray, Kathy accepted. Little did she know that it would change her life. The X-ray revealed a fist-sized blob that turned out to be cancer.
Kathy has always trusted her intuition, and her nursing background helped get her through diagnosis and aided her in pursuing alternative and experimental treatments. “Thank God I was a nurse because I sort of knew the system. …That allowed me to have knowledge of the inner workings of hospitals and the medical system,” she said.
Though Kathy was originally diagnosed with small cell lung sarcoma, she insisted that this was a misdiagnosis. She was persistent and was able to convince her fourth doctor to operate. On April 1, 1993, Kathy underwent an upper left lobe thoracotomy to have the tumor removed and analyzed.
After the surgery, the doctor told her that her instincts were indeed correct. Kathy did not have small cell lung carcinoma. But the doctor was still not sure what she did have. The tumor was sent to Maine Medical Center in Portland, ME, for examination. The diagnosis came back as primitive neuroectodermal tumor, a rare sarcoma that usually attacks young, tall men.
At a follow up visit in May 1993, an oncologist recommended chemotherapy and radiation. Kathy wanted to talk with a patient who had undergone these treatments, but the oncologist informed her that the two survivors he had known about had passed away. Not liking those odds, Kathy decided to pursue an alternative path. Already of a holistic mindset, she eliminated certain foods from her diet nd began researching environmental medicine. A healthy, immune system-boosting diet, environmental medicine and immunotherapy would become Kathy’s weapons against cancer. In fact, their efficacy would convince her that such alternatives are the future treatment of ancer. But before Kathy would discover these treatments, the sarcoma would return.
In May 1995, chest X-rays revealed yet another tumor. A biopsy was recommended. In January 1996, Kathy had the biopsy and a section of the tumor was sent to the labs of James McCoy, PhD. Dr. McCoy, who directed the experimental protocol for immunization of cancer patients, became Kathy’s cancer immunologist. She began using cancer immunotherapy and vaccine therapy. Kathy’s alternative treatments included administration of IL-2 (Interleukin 2), GM-CSF (granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor), and both a tumor specific and non-tumor specific vaccine.
In June 1999, the tumor’s growth had slowed dramatically. Unfortunately, Dr. McCoy passed away in May 2000 and his lab was closed shortly thereafter. Kathy’s tumor is again growing. She’s found a physician who worked with Dr. McCoy and hopes to begin treatment with the new doctor shortly.
Kathy says her incredible determination comes from her involvement in 12-step recovery programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and her experience as a nurse. In addition to being a nurse specializing in the treatment of chemical dependency and eating disorders, Kathy also has 9 1/2 years of recovery in a 12-step program under her belt.
It is also clear that being an RN has given her direction and perspective. She explains, “I am grateful for my 29 years as an RN. I do not believe I would still be alive today, with this rare sarcoma diagnosis, if not for my medical background/training/hospital experience.”
Kathy’s nursing experience helped her to sift through “the inner workings of the U.S. medical health care system” and find an alternative path, she said.
On April 1, 2002, Kathy marked the ninth anniversary of her life with cancer. From her research, she has not found anyone who has survived longer with this rare sarcoma.
Aimee T. Pelletier is a free-lance writer based in Boston, MA.