September 3, 2003 - The Star of Grand Coulee: Mali RPCV Mae G. Monsanto dies in Seattle

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Mali RPCV Mae G. Monsanto dies in Seattle

Read and comment on this obituary from the Star of Grand Coulee of Mali RPCV Mae G. Monsanto who passed away peacefully surrounded by her family and friends on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Our condolences to her family and friends from the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community. Read the obituary at:

Mae G. Monsanto, a long time cancer survivor, passed away peacefully surrounded by her family and friends on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Mae G. Monsanto, a long time cancer survivor, passed away peacefully surrounded by her family and friends on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

She was born on September 4, 1975 in Hayward, California to Roger and Resty Monsanto. She graduated from the Lake Roosevelt High School in 1994 and received a BA in Communications from the University of Washington in 1998. She worked for one year at the San Mateo County Times in California as an editorial assistant. She later joined the Peace Corps in January of 2000 and provided service in Mali, West Africa.

She is survived by her parents, her brother Philip, and a large circle of beloved friends.

A memorial mass will be held on Saturday, Sept. 13, at 2 p.m., at St Henry's Catholic Church in Grand Coulee.

July 16, 2003 - Mali RPCV Mae Monsanto winning the fight with cancer

Read and comment on this story from the Star of Grand Coulee on July 16, 2003 about Mali RPCV Mae Monsanto who was diagnosed with ovarian leiomyosarcoma more than two years ago and the art show was organized to honor her and other cancer survivors. For the last three years, she has gone through a series of surgeries, chemotherapy, and experimental drug therapies and is now at the University of Washington Medical Center receiving treatment. The press release states that Monsanto is "winning the fight" through the help of a network of local and national cancer organizations. Read the story at:

Art show to benefit former resident*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Art show to benefit former resident

By: Stephen Mercer

July 16, 2003
Mae Monsanto

An art show in the name of a former Lake Roosevelt High School student suffering from cancer recently opened in Seattle.

Mae Monsanto was diagnosed with ovarian leiomyosarcoma more than two years ago and the art show was organized to honor her and other cancer survivors.

The "Celebrate Mae in July" art show runs from July 7 to July 30 at East Seattle's Louisa's Bakery and Café on 2379 Eastlake Ave.

Each original piece of art - from black-and-white photographs to mixed media paintings - is for sale.

The show features work by Beth and Bryan Lenning, Jaline Quinto, and Monsanto. All proceeds will benefit cancer programs.

Donors can choose which organizations their contribution supports.

A press release states that Monsanto was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 following a Peace Corps trip to Africa.

For the last three years, she has gone through a series of surgeries, chemotherapy, and experimental drug therapies and is now at the University of Washington Medical Center receiving treatment.

The press release states that Monsanto is "winning the fight" through the help of a network of local and national cancer organizations.

Those organizations include the Sarcoma Alliance, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, American Cancer Society, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Mae's LMS Medical Fund.

"Mae's LMS Medical Fund" will aid the Monsantos in bearing the expense of cancer, from high-cost prescriptions to cross-country travel to doctor appointments.

For more information about her fight with cancer and the art show, go to Mae.

More about Mae Monsanto

Read more about Mae Monsanto at:

Mae's Story

My story

When I was only 24 years old, I thought the greatest adventure of my entire life would be as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa. As it turned out, God had entirely different plans for me, and it would be the sort of adventure I never imagined Iíd ever have to endure.

My name is Mae Monsanto and it was in January 2000 when I finally left my editorial assistant job in San Francisco and accepted a position as one of 15 Natural Resources Management volunteers to leave for Mali. Fifteen Agricultural volunteers joined our group as well.

I thought, at that point, that things had gone stagnant in my life. My relationships, my career and my focus felt unsteady and out-of-control. I was an angry and selfish woman and had been for many years. I felt as if I didn'tít know what path in life to take. Career-wise, I wasnít sure if Iíd chosen correctly. On top of that, I wanted to travel, like any young person yearns to do after accomplishing something as huge as graduating from university. I was trying so hard to force decisions out of myself that I wasnít allowing Godís plan to work within me. In fact, I had chosen to keep God in the backseat of my life. Of course, none of this would become clear to me until much later.

So naturally, because of the place I was in life, Peace Corps appealed to me. I kept the possibility of that path at the back of my mind all the way through college and even when my own brother joined and left for the Dominican Republic. I always played with the romantic notion of heading somewhere exotic and humid and living and working among the people of some mysterious country.

When "things got too hot in the kitchen," as the expression goes, I decided to change my life. I believe the lackluster focus of my life left me stressed and I wanted out. But even then, I wavered on the idea of joining Peace Corps for 2 to 3 months. I attended Peace Corpsí informative meeting and filled out the application, but still didnít know if I was making the right decision. I eventually bit the bullet and handed it in after weeks of hedging back and forth.

While the entire application process had been lengthy, the interview went smoother than I imagined it would. During the interview my Peace Corps Recruiter asked me where Iíd like to volunteer. Without even thinking I said "Africa." I swear I saw a glint of "Ah ha!" in the womenís eyes and knew I had sealed my fate. Apparently, finding healthy volunteers to serve in Africa was difficult. The health-screening process was intense and involved many tests. Because health facilities in certain areas of Africa were definitely not as advanced as others in other countries, it was imperative to find healthy volunteers.

Ironically, I passed all my health tests with flying colors and was deemed ready to serve in any country they decided to place me in. This I learned, one day, when checking my mail. I had been accepted and was to be placed in Mali, a large, landlocked country shaped somewhat like that of Texas. I had 10 days to respond, and believe me you, I spent that entire 10 days fluctuating back and forth between going and not! After much discussion with family and friends, I eventually decided to go. However, instead of serving the full two years plus I was expected to, I came home after only 8 months.

People often ask me how my Peace Corps experience treated me. I have difficulties answering that question. It was definitely a tough job that exhausted me physically, emotionally and culturally. It wasnít the kind of job that you could leave at the end of the day. As a PCV, I was immersed in the culture and language 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If I wasnít biking to nearby villages to work with tree groups, I was at home in my own village of about 100 to 200 Malians, trying to incorporate myself into their lives. I needed them to trust me, in order to work with them. And so that meant attending weddings, funerals, feasts, market days, religious events, etc. I danced, played soccer and worked in the fields with Malians. I colored in coloring books with their children and spent countless hours improving my language with them. I visited my host family every morning and spent time with the chief, learning as much about the history of his village as I could. I did enjoy my time there, but it definitely wasnít an easy life.

I was also very sick while I lived in Mali. Like every volunteer there, I suffered from the occasional bout of giardia, a gastrointestinal illness derived from unsanitary water. I also had one bout with malaria, but made it through all right. Health-wise, it was not uncommon for volunteers to be sick, usually with giardia. However, I discovered I was unwell all the time. I was often so exhausted, that I would sleep away the whole afternoon. The children who came around daily to play and converse with me noticed the difference too. I no longer had the energy to spend time with them. My volunteer friends noticed a difference in me as well. I lost over 20 lbs. living in Mali. A friend who hadnít seen me in weeks even commented that I might be really sick, (not just giardia sick) because I looked so thin. I thought that the fatigue, weight loss and diarrhea I was experiencing was just a combination of hot season, unappetizing foods and giardia.

Eventually I decided to ET I was never a quitter before, but this time my decision to early terminate felt valid. I was ill so much I felt I couldnít fully commit to my volunteer work. I also missed my family and friends incredibly. It just seemed like it was the appropriate time for me to leave. So I spent a week in the capital city of Bamako, typing up all my reports for the next volunteer who would replace me. I even went through a series of health tests to check for infectious diseases. Amazingly, they found nothing wrong with me. However, it would be 3 to 4 months before the Peace Corps Health Office sent me a letter explaining that I had some "abnormal blood counts." But by that point, I already knew what was wrong with me...

When I arrived home on August 28, 2000 I was thin as a rail and excited to eat. I craved the oddest foods such as pudding, Vienna sausages and processed foods of every kind. Despite all the food I devoured I still managed to stay the same weight. It didnít concern me at first, because I thought that the giardia was still affecting my gastrointestinal tract, hence the inability to gain weight. But it was during the entire month of September that I felt my health continued to decline. The diarrhea, as well as intense headaches, fatigue, persistent cough, irritability, abdominal pain and appetite loss continued. At that point, I thought that I had malaria again. It wasnít uncommon for volunteers, and any traveler for that matter, to be exposed to malaria or any other infectious disease and bring it home. It was mostly because they decided to quit taking their preventative malarial medications as soon as they came home. Our PC nurse said it was important to finish off the mefloquine, in order to prevent the onset of malaria. I finished the full two-week regiment of mefloquine when I came home, but thought perhaps the meds didnít work.

By the time October rolled around I went to see my family physician. Despite having a low-grade temperature and gaining only 3 lbs. Since I came home, my doctor didnít think I had malaria or any other infectious disease. Rather, he was convinced that I had a regular North American virus. My results from the X-rays, blood, urine and stool samples were negative for anything unusual, so he prescribed painkillers for my headaches and cough suppressant for my cough. He told me to monitor my fevers as well. My temperature continued to hover in the 99-100 F. range and all of my symptoms persisted. I returned to him a few days later and he prescribed a stronger painkiller for the pain in my abdomen, as well as antibiotics for any infection I might have.

Despite all the pain I was feeling, I managed to visit my best friends in Seattle in late October. Although it was wonderful to see them, I felt awful. The medication that I was taking wasnít working. I slept a lot, ate little, suffered from headaches and abdominal pains, as well as persistent coughs and low-grade fevers. My abdominal pain worsened so much, that my friends eventually took me to the University of Washington Medical Center emergency room. Although I experienced all these horrible symptoms, I was glad to be in Seattle. I would rather be treated in a large city versus the rural town I grew up in.

I met an infectious disease doctor who put me through a battery of tests from blood, urine and stool samples to X-rays and CT scans. While waiting for the results to come in, I started having chills for the first time, despite having a fever. Much later, my doctor finally came back with the results. He told me that I was anemic and dehydrated and had both an elevated pulse and white-blood-count. He wasnít sure what was causing the fevers and chills, but he did note that there was what he believed to be a benign tumor on my right ovary called a teratoma. This type of tumor was common in young woman and could either be removed through surgery, or left in the abdomen, depending on whether it caused discomfort or not.

I was admitted into the hospital for the first time on October 21 and stayed for about a week. During that time, hordes of infectious disease as well as gastrointestinal doctors crowded into my room every morning to poke, prod and ask the same questions over and over again. I began to feel a bit like a celebrity! The ID doctors thought I was suffering from typhoid fever, not malaria or giardia. The GI doctors thought I was suffering from Crohnís Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. In any case, I was prescribed medication for the typhoid fever. I also underwent a procedure called esophagogastorduodenoscopy, which would check for Crohnís Disease, IBS or the IBD. However, the results from the biopsies were negative.

I returned home and finished my round of medication for the possible typhoid fever, but my symptoms worsened. The fevers ranged from 100 to 105 F. and the chills continued like clockwork. I lost another 10 plus lbs. and the abdominal pains were horrible. Looking back though, I think the worst part of experiencing all those symptoms was the chills. Iíve never felt anything as awful as that. The cyclical pattern of chills followed by fevers was almost more than I could bear. I was terrified that my teeth were going to shatter when I experienced those chills. And I could never get warm enough either. My poor parents would frantically cover me with so many blankets that I couldnít turn over in bed. Then I would get so hot after 15 to 30 minutes of chills that I would have to kick off the sheets my mom and dad worked so hard to pile on me. Then the process would begin again. They continued 24/7.

I returned to the UWMC to see another GI doctor in early November. I underwent an abdominal CT to investigate my bowel tract and stomach. After seeing the results, my doctor wasnít convinced that I had Crohnís Disease, IBS or IBD. Nevertheless, I was prescribed medication to treat the symptoms for the diseases. While there, I also saw another ID doctor who didnít think I had typhoid fever, but was still suffering from malaria! I was so confused and frustrated by all the uncertainties! The medication I was prescribed didnít seem to affect my symptoms either. In fact, the abdominal pain increased tenfold! I refused to take the rest of the medication and in the meantime continued to suffer from diarrhea, headaches, persistent coughs, fatigue, abdominal pain, appetite loss, fevers and chills.

In mid-November I again returned to the hospital for yet another CT scan. But before hearing the results, I returned home to Eastern Washington. This time, the teratoma they had seen the first time I visited the ER was now mature. It was much larger, about the size of a cantaloupe, and considered a dermoid. Even though the mass was considered benign, the surgeons wanted me to return immediately to the hospital so that they could remove it. So that night my parents and I returned to Seattle. I was first seen in the ER and then checked into the hospital.

On November 18, surgeons removed my dermoid. They told me that they had cleaned out my organs and my abdomen in case of cancer cells and had been careful not to spill any liquids from inside of the mass. Biopsies were to be performed on the dermoid too. None of that really made sense to me. I was just happy to feel so much better. While waiting for the results, I slowly recuperated in the hospital. The incision was painful and maneuvering was difficult, but the fevers and chills ended instantly. I was so ecstatic about that part alone. I remember one frightening instant a day or so before my surgery in which my best friends, Sarah and Jaline, were by my bed, clutching my hands and screaming for the nurse to help me. My abdominal pain had been incredibly intense and my fever and chills were in such full force, that the entire bed was shaking! I distinctly remember hearing my own moans and not quite believing that they were coming from me. A nurse eventually came and shot me up with morphine. Almost instantaneously, the pain began to subside and I drifted off to sleep.

The day that my surgeon was to come by and inform me of the results, my dad took some time to be alone with me. He looked so serious and exhausted, sitting by the bed, that when he grabbed hold of my hand I became scared. Iíd never seen my dad look like that before. He told me that through all of this he was glad that it was not cancer. And when he used that word, I literally felt like my heart stopped. The word "cancer" wasnít even in my vocabulary until then. Not even when the surgeons had explained how the surgery proceeded. Whether it was a subconscious form of defense or denial, there was never once a time when I thought that I could possibly have cancer. But at that point I felt positive that it wasnít that and that I would be fine.

My surgeon finally came by later that day. I actually was glad to see her when she walked into the room. I liked her incredibly and felt that she had established a real rapport with me. Unfortunately, she didnít look very happy. She sat next to my bed and took hold of my hand and told me that my biopsy tested positive for cancer. She had tears in her eyes when she told me and I was shocked more by that, than the news that had just come from her mouth. I was on the same track with the ID and GI doctors. I assumed that I either picked up something infectious in Africa or that my GI tract was affected by the unsanitary living conditions in Mali. That made the most logical sense to me. But cancer? She told me that she was sorry about the news and that she hadnít expected it herself. She then referred me to my first oncologist, Dr. Pamela Paley of the gynecology oncology department. I met with her a few days later and we planned to meet for an appointment in mid-December.

The next phase of my life began after that doctorís appointment. I was diagnosed with ovarian leiomyosarcoma. Sarcomas are rare cancers, but what made mine even rarer, was the point of origination. Most sarcomas originate on smooth muscle, but my cancer chose to begin in my right ovary, which is not a muscle. I learned that only a handful of women had this disease. Many statistics were thrown out there, from "there are only 10 documented cases" to "there are only 20 documented cases." Talk about a special case! We discussed options and Dr. Paley wanted to be aggressive about treating my cancer. So the day after Christmas I began my first round of chemotherapy as an inpatient at the UWMC. That meant I would have four treatments, staying one full week in the hospital, every four weeks.

In retrospect, I still cannot believe how long it took for the doctors to diagnose me. I started obsessing too, on looking backwards, wondering when I started getting sick and what I did to make myself ill. Did I really have malaria and giardia when I was in Mali? Was it just this disease starting to manifest itself? But staying in that pattern of thought was unhealthy. I needed to look ahead because, as I soon found out, I had much more to battle against. I discovered my cancer was not easy to beat. Over the next two and a half years I endured five surgeries. Surgeons removed my right ovary, part of my colon and small bowel, my entire right liver node and part of my diaphragm. I also struggled my way through three failed chemotherapy treatments. Not only that, I had to deal with hair loss, fluctuating weight, nausea and fatigue.

Needless to say, my image of beauty was skewed for a long time. In fact I still struggle with it. There are so many heinous scars on my abdomen and pelvis from surgery and bulges that wonít go away, no matter how much I exercise. Thereís a port-a-catheter sticking out of the right side of my chest that looks like a space station. It allows chemo to enter my body safely, without messing up my veins, and also allows easy access for checking my blood counts. But never mind that- itís ugly and draws too much attention when I wear a tank top! And my arms, which I always thought were the prettiest part of my body, are now marred with scars from numerous IV placements, blood draws and failed PICC line placements.

Despite warnings by my oncologist to not do research on my own, I did anyway, immersing myself in medical texts at the UW Health Sciences Library. Unfortunately, the majority of women who had my disease didnít survive past 5 to 6 years from diagnosis. Many of the women who were post-menopausal had a better chance at survival then young girls or woman who were diagnosed pre-menopausal. In addition to that, I discovered that any form of treatment I went through would be considered palliative, rather than curative. Meaning, my cancer could not be cured. Instead, any form of treatment I underwent would lengthen my life for as long as it could until the cancer came back. The cancer would always recur. I felt disheartened immediately.

The only thing that was working was surgery. Surgery gave me a 1 to 2 month leeway between the recurrences of the disease. But I knew that surgeries couldn't continue my whole life. In desperation, I flew out to Columbia Presbyterian in New York in order to join an experimental clinical trial involving Thalidomide and Temador. That failed too. I flew to the Houston Medical Center in Texas to meet with a sarcoma specialist, but was told that there was nothing they could do for me until a tumor was present. So the entire situation was ridiculous! While I had this 2 months or so "cancer-free" to do research and meet specialists, there was nothing they could do for me. They couldnít suggest any preventative measures. I just had to wait--and that was the worst part. There were experimental drugs and trials opening up all over the country at different institutions, however, none of that could be tapped into until there was a tumor present in my body. Not only that, there were specific qualifications I had to meet before I could be placed on a trial.

In the meantime, I had gone through two doctors at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and was now seeing a third, a sarcoma specialist named Dr. Scott Schuetze. My two previous doctors were in the gynecological oncology field, so I had some hope that this new specialist could help me with his expertise in sarcomas.

My 4th surgery in November 2002 to remove my right liver had gone well, but by the time January of this year rolled around, the cancer was back. This time it was in my diaphragm. I met with my new surgeon, Dr. Gary Mann, who admitted that he was hesitant to continue with surgery because Iíd had so many. He told me that the more surgeries a person endures, the higher the risk of loss-of-life while on the table. He also stated quite clearly that anything he did was palliative and not curative. (I swear, if I had a $1 for every time I heard that phrase, I could personally support the UWMC!) I told him that I already knew that but that I needed this surgery in order to buy time. After previously consulting with Dr. Schuetze, I discovered that a new clinical trial was possibly scheduled to open in April at the SCCA. The experimental drug was called ET-743 and was derived from a Spanish sea sponge. The drug could do wonders if it was successful, however it was a 50/50 drug and could go either way. But I was so desperate at that point to try anything new, that I didnít look at the failure rate. Dr. Mann felt more inclined to follow through with surgery after hearing that I would be treated immediately afterwards.

The 5th surgery in February went well too. Part of my diaphragm was removed and then partially covered with Gortex. Dr. Mann and his team explored my abdomen, often with great difficulty, because of all the scar tissue. He later told me that they couldnít explore certain areas to search for cancerous growths because it was too dangerous. For my safety, they decided to pull out of surgery early.

Unfortunately, by the time April rolled around, I was feeling symptoms that I knew meant one thing. The cancer was back. This time, as I learned from the CT results, the cancer was rearing its ugly head at its worse. The scan showed that there were four tumors in the vicinity of my right abdominal area, ranging in size from 8x6, 4x3, 3x2, and 3x3 cm. There was also a suspicious spot on my lung that was about 8 mm. I have never had that many tumors in my body at one time and I was terrified! I really started to think that this was the end for me. This is such a self-defeating thing to think, but with every New Year that rolled around since my diagnosis I often thought, "Is this it? Is this my last year?" But I tried so hard to balance those negative thoughts with a lot of prayer. I was blessed to have some many people supporting me and praying for me. I often received a card in the mail or a phone call from a friend who was "just thinking about me." My spirits were often lifted with weekly visits from friends to pray and discuss God or spirituality, have barbecues or partake of "Game Night."

But in addition to this bad news, I learned that the ET-743 trial was not yet up and running. My doctor guessed that the trial would be open in May. I began to have doubts that it would open by then, but I held out and waited. But May came and went and I still needed to be treated. The pain was again increasing and Dr. Schuetze prescribed my usual Vicodin for pain. He also prescribed a steroid Iíve taken before called Dexamethasone, as well as an appetite-inducer called Megace. My doctor predicted that June would be the month, but even he wasnít sure about that. He and I were so concerned about so much time going by without me getting treated in any way. Again hoping that the trial would open in June, he consulted with Dr. Mann about scheduling me for surgery. I was unhappy about that decision, but knew that it would save me some time. I wasnít surprised to hear that Dr. Mann disliked proceeding with surgery, unless there would be some type of immediate treatment afterwards.

At that point, Dr. Schuetze could offer me nothing else. We both were putting so much hope into this trial that, for some reason, kept getting pushed ahead a month every time. Whether it was bureaucracy or money or otherwise, my life was hanging in the balance because some bigwigs hadnít signed any contracts or exchanged money! I was upset, but discovered some possible options with Dr. Schuetze. I knew that this same trial was being conducted in San Antonio. It was possible for me to travel there and meet with the doctors and hopefully qualify for the trial. Another option was to find a specialist in Seattle or in the US who could perform Radio Frequency Ablation. This procedure basically involved inserting probes through a personís skin and into the tumors. While inside, the probes would emit microwaves that would cook the tumors from the inside out. The procedure wouldnít kill the entire tumor, but it again would give me something very important: time. The dangers of the procedure included burning major organs and renal failure. However, I was willing to take the risk and opted to go with the latter.

At the end of May I met with Dr. Ray Jensen, a RFA specialist at Northwest Hospital in Seattle. After studying my last CT scans from April 30, he surmised that it was possible to proceed with the treatment on June 3. However, he wouldnít know until I underwent another CT. He scheduled for me to come back to the hospital and have it done on May 30. As with every CT I have, I was nervous to find out the results. Especially after having a whole month go by without any kind of treatment. As I lay in the scanner I kept thinking, "I wonder how big my tumors have gotten? Is the spot on my lung a tumor too? Will Dr. Jensen still be able to continue with the procedure?" They finished up the scan promptly and smoothly. I jumped off the table to grab my jacket and bag and with every scan I have, left the cold CT room with a bit of a heavy heart. Every time I left the scanning room, the last glimpse I had was of technicians huddled around a computer monitor, pointing out things to each other. "Let me see too," I often screamed at them in my own head. I never was able to see what they see- and itís my own body! I would just have to wait until Dr. Jensen contacted me.

And contact me he did! That same day Dr. Jensen called me back. The first thing he said was, "What medications are you taking?" I again told him the name of the painkiller, steroid and appetite-inducer I was taking. He then said, "We have to cancel your procedure." I became upset then, thinking that perhaps my tumors were too large for the treatment to proceed. With a bit of a clear head, I grabbed a pen and paper, and was ready to write down the new sizes of my tumors. But instead of hearing larger sizes, Dr. Jensen was repeating back to me smaller sizes! My hand that held the phone to my ear was shaking and I could barely copy down the measurements he was saying. The tumors were now half their sizes! The two smallest tumors were now barely seen on the scan! Despite my shaking and disbelief, his voice was clear and I could focus on every word he was saying. I was hearing him, yes, but not quite believing him. He told me that he didnít have any explanation for the shrinking tumors. He suggested that it could be the medications I was taking. In any case, I thanked him profusely and somehow got off the phone with him. I immediately praised God and after I told my housemate, Cheryl, called everybody I knew to tell them the good news.

I will always remember that moment when Dr. Jensen told me the good news, for the rest of my life, equally as much as the day I learned of my diagnosis for the first time. The way my hand shook when I held the phone, the flushness of my body, the clearness of Dr. Jensenís voice and the smile that attempted to leap off my face will always be imbedded into my memory. At that point, there was no other explanation than a divine one. God interceded and chose to create a miracle in my life. After almost three years of illness, He was finally giving me the break I needed!

Now itís almost July and I canít believe how healthy I feel. Iíve been walking 50 minutes daily and loving every step I take. I no longer have pain in my side and havenít experienced any of the symptoms that normally come with my disease. In fact, I saw my doctor June 26, and he felt that the combination of the two medications Iím taking (Dexamethasone and Megace) is somehow shrinking my four tumors. Of course he had no notion that those meds, whether alone or in combination, would affect my tumors in that way. So heís encouraging me to continue taking the meds for now. Heís scheduled me to have a CT in the next two weeks, and by then, he might have a better idea of what route to go next. I donít know how long Iíll have to take those medications and if they really will suppress the growth of my tumors long-term.

My blood counts were good too. The only count that was elevated was my white-blood- count. That means that my body is still fighting something within my body. So the tumors may still be there, but much smaller. Dr. Schuetze agreed with that because as he was probing my belly, he didn'tít feel the usual tenderness or lumps. So in his opinion, thatís a really good sign!

I also learned that the ET-743 trial is still not up and running at the SCCA. Thatís unfortunate because there are so many patients waiting to get onto that trial. Right now, there are only four institutions in the US that have this type of experimental trial open. It is good to know though, that if my cancer should recur, than I still have the option of entering the ET-743 trial at the SCCA. Iím just grateful that God is allowing my cancer to be suppressed in the meantime. Hopefully, God will be able to work in the lives of two other patients that Dr. Schuetze has. He told me that after finding out my tumors shrunk, he prescribed the same medications for two patients that have similar cases as me. Heís hoping for the same results in them as well.

Life is sparkling and new for me now and I believe wholeheartedly that all of it has to do with prayer and my deeper exploration of my faith in God. Iíve been blessed with this second lease on life and I want to take full advantage of it! Iíve witnessed so much change in my life in these almost three years of being ill. Despite this insidious disease that made itís way into my life, Iíve managed to emerge a much calmer, stronger and patient woman. The anger and selfishness that seemed to drive me in the past, no longer consumes my heart or mind. I feel that this illness has drastically put my priorities into focus. God, family and friends are no longer taken for granted. They are my support systems and essential to my survival. I see that now, more clearly than Iíve ever seen it before. I believe that if enduring this disease was a way for me to finally understand that, than Iím grateful for it, despite all the suffering that it has forced into the lives of my family, friends and myself...

My Story End

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Mali; Obituaries; Cancer; PCVs in the Field - Mali



By on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 8:23 pm: Edit Post

I didn't know her, but Ine Barake la. That was a very powerful and peaceful message. I will pray for her spirit tonight. God bless her, her family and friends.

I watched my dad die of cancer with family and friends around him. Cancer takes people at early ages. It left a void in our family which is felt everyday by my five sisters and one brother. I actually went to his grave today to water his site. I wish her family and friends peace with her passing. I try to draw strength from my dad's spirit everyday. I hope her family knows their daughter's committment to Peace in Mali will not be forgotten. After reading her statement, I wish I had known her.

God rest her soul, Daniel

By cancersurvivor ( - on Friday, October 15, 2004 - 3:12 pm: Edit Post

Mae, I knew you just through a boyfriend at the time back in 98. We met once in Grand Coulee Dam and I always remembered your kindness towards me - a newcomer to your circle of friends. I was surprised by your energy, your passion for the small things in life. I will always remember the day I met you; running, jumping, climbing on rocks...your long hair flowing behind and ready smile.

News of your death touched me deeply.

Mae, you inspired many around you to be kinder spirits, even if we knew you only for a moment.

By seed ( on Friday, February 13, 2009 - 12:45 pm: Edit Post

Wow what a strong woman. may God always show us the way.

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