Merle was 52 when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer February 2006. She was 52. A singular force, full of life, especially for her Ukrainian adopted son, Sam. Merle was everyone’s big sister and with us 5 girls, she was our #1
Merle was being treated at the Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston. She went on to a new angiogensis drug trial called Avastin – the drug that cuts off blood supply to tumors.
The medical community seemed very excited about Avistan. We were so excited! We did a lot of research. This drug had a lot of believers. But there were risks: .1% of Avistan users suffer bowel perforations. These risks considered rare but there was no doubt what course to take.
Six months later we became the statistic. Merle was one of the .01 percenters. After several rounds of chemo, over July 4th weekend 2006, her bowel perforated and she was rushed to ICU,
with severe sepsis.
We all flew in from Los Angeles, San Francisco, D.C. Boston. Eight of us crowded into the family waiting room listening to Merle’s top gynecological surgeon at Dana Farber say the unthinkable. Merle would not make it. But Merle was young
and a fighter like they had never seen. Those hours were interminable. 72 hours later Merle was on a ventilator but stable. Pumped full of antibiotics and unrecognizable, she was holding on. 10 days later, we had her back.
She spent the next 3 1/2 years, with ups and downs and ups and downs. Chemo, bowel obstructions, multiple surgeries, alternative nutritional treatments, taking care of her
beloved son, family surrounding her.It was tough going. Her profound strength and courage was truly mind blowing.
And in retrospect incredibly hard to believe, knowing what she went through physically and emotionally. In spite of the weakness and pain, she continued working from home.
Planning activities for her son, throwing birthday parties, organizing business trip. It was her way of coping and we refused to give up.
We investigated new trials met with alternative healers. That heinous 5 year life span statistic was hovering. By January, 2010, the cancer metastasized to her intestines and liver. The pain from the obstructions and the cancer had her in and out of the hospital every month.
On Valentineâs Day 2010 we got a call from her doctor at Dana. She gave Merle a week to live. What?! We all flew back. Refusing to believe. In denial! The next four days all of us were by her hospital bedside. She was weak, thin but taking her daily walks, watching TV, working off her laptop, making business calls. Still making jokes, still dancing to my crazy
cell phone ring. Watching The Bachelor. Maybe we could take her home! But we saw the ultrasound. The liver was consumed with cancer. The liver cleanses the body and the body was not releasing its toxins. The toxins go to the brain. Within 4 days, the day after my birthday, Merle fell into a coma. I was with her that night. On February 23, 2010, after two days in a coma, Merle passed away. 4 years to the week of her diagnosis. She was 56.