Saturday, April 30, 2011

Brown County Update: Tina Meranda Gets New Chance

Regulars at WMD know that my county clerk of courts, Tina Meranda, and I have never been the best of friends. However, Mrs. Meranda has been fighting a valiant battle against a very aggressive cancer and our fine friends at the Brown County Press have the story of her miraculous new lease on life and the love of her family:
Tina Meranda has been fighting lung cancer since February of 2008.

Two years later, in February of 2010, it seemed like the cancer was winning.

"I didn't think she would make it to our anniversary on March 11", said her husband Seth.

But help was coming.

Seth had been fighting to get Tina an experimental drug, one that was showing remarkable progress and bringing cancer patients back from the brink.

The only worked for only about four percent of the people afflicted with the type of lung cancer Tina has.The drug is called Crizotinib, and it attacks lung cancer cells at a genetic level...and patients have to be carriers of the ALK gene for it to work.

Seth found out about it after spending desperate hours searching for alternatives as Tina kept slowly slipping away.

"Our Oncologist told us there was nothing more that could be done", Tina said.

Seth found out about Crizotinib online and grabbed onto the sliver of hope with both hands.

Tina was tested for the ALK gene in November...and the test was positive.

"It was like winning the lottery', said Seth.

Armed with her test results, Seth began to look for a drug trial for Crizotinib. He finally found one in Boston.

Tina got her first treatment in late February...and by late March was back at many of her tasks as Brown County Clerk of Courts.

"It's a miracle", she said.

It sure seems to be. Gone is the tired, frail woman with a raspy voice and no energy. She's been replaced by someone who is thrilled to have a second chance at life.

"I kept on saying (during my treatment) that I had my babies and I wanted to raise them", Tina said.

The "babies" are eleven year old Preston and eight year old Austin.

The boys helped their mom as much as they could while she was very sick.

"Sometimes when she was really feeling bad we'd sit and watch TV with her and every once in a while she'd ask us to get a glass of water for her", said Preston.

When asked how they felt during that time, Austin simply said "We need to find some medicine for her real quick."

Both boys said they prayed for their mother every night.

The boys were not the only ones praying for Tina.

Her friends, family and churches all over Brown County all went to work asking God for help.

"It's impossible to really put into words how much it means to me", said Tina.

The cancer first appeared as pain in Tina's chest in late 2007.

When she went to the doctor, Tina got the news that a stage four cancerous tumor was in one her lungs, and that she had approximately six months to live.

Three years later, she was still fighting.

"You don't have an expiration date stamped on you", said Tina.

"When you get a diagnosis like that, you have to keep fighting. The worst thing you can do is give up."

Tina's type of lung cancer is called Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma (NSCLC).

That type of lung cancer is believed to be triggered in some cases by the ALK gene, which means that the same gene that may have caused Tina's cancer is allowing her to fight it.

According to Crizotinib research, about 220 thousand American's are diagnosed each year with lung cancer.

About ten thousand of them are believed to carry the ALK gene and could possibly benefit from the drug.

Crizotinib was first discovered in 2007, and was wildly successful in earlier trials.

In results from a 2010 trial, ninety percent of lung cancer patients had tumors shrink or stabilize after taking the drug.

Seth said medical knowledge can be a powerful weapon when you are fighting for the life of a loved one.

"There's always something new coming down the pike. From the day Tina was diagnosed I was writing things down and looking them up later. Learn the treatments, learn the jargon and never give up."

When asked how she's feeling these days, Tina simply answered "I'm doing super. I'm getting my strength back and I'm getting better every day."

Watching Seth smile as she said that showed that he was finally getting over the ordeal as well.

As for the boys, eight year old Austin summed up the last few months.

"At first I thought she wasn't going to last the rest of the year, but the Lord helped us."

He did indeed.

God bless Tina Meranda and her family. Truly an amazing story. I am glad to see that the drugs and the prayers are working and that she is doing better.