From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders

February 18, 2022

In January 2020, Danyell Weisinger of Hamilton, Ohio was working as a bank teller when she began to experience intense stomach pain. She took ibuprofen around the clock to muscle through it. Fortunately, her boss convinced her to see a doctor. X-rays revealed a fatty liver and gallstones. During surgery to remove her gallbladder, her surgeon discovered black spots throughout her entire abdomen and took tissue samples to send to Mayo Clinic for testing.

The biopsy indicated Danyell had stage 3 peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare and very aggressive cancer that affects about 600 Americans each year. It develops in the peritoneum, or the tissue lining the abdomen, and most cases are caused by asbestos exposure. “It was a grim diagnosis,” said Danyell. “I thought, ‘Why me? I’m a healthy 43-year-old.’”

Coping with worsening symptoms, Danyell was grateful that her surgeon referred her to OHC medical oncologist and hematologist, Prasad R. Kudalkar, MD. “When I met Dr. Kudalkar I was scared and crying,” said Danyell. “But he was the nicest, sweetest man. He said he would do everything in his power to help me and told me not to worry—to put the worry on him.”

Dr. K., as patients lovingly refer to Dr. Kudalkar, knew that for the best outcome, Danyell would need surgery prior to starting chemotherapy. “It’s imperative to explore all treatment options,” said Dr. K. “Chemotherapy alone had its limitations and only offered Danyell about six months.” He introduced her to Dr. Shyam Allamaneni, a surgical oncologist at Mercy Health. With Danyell’s young age and fighting spirit in mind, Dr. Allamaneni performed the 18-hour surgery, a cytoreduction, to remove all visible tumors of the abdominal lining.

“I had five organs removed,” said Danyell. “Dr. Allamaneni left a little bit of cancer because I would need a feeding tube if he removed all of the tissue.” Dr. Allamaneni removed her appendix, spleen, colon, ovaries, and the lining of her abdomen. After removing the colon, he performed an ileostomy to create an opening in the abdominal wall for the elimination of digestive waste into a pouch on the outside of the body. He also removed the 25-pound tumor in her stomach that was most likely the source of her pain and applied a chemotherapy wash directly to the inside of her abdomen to kill the remaining cancer cells.

After a one-month hospital stay followed by an additional month in a rehabilitation center, Danyell started chemotherapy. Dr. K. prescribed a powerful combination of chemotherapy drugs for five cycles and eventually added a tumor-starving therapy called Avastin, which affected her kidney function and caused peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage). “Chemotherapy was very hard,” said Danyell, “I didn’t know how many treatments I could get through. I had vomiting and a high fever.”

To determine the best next course of treatment in creating a personalized plan of care for Danyell, Dr. K. ordered next-generation sequencing (NGS) and genetic testing to identify genetic mutations (changes) on her tumor and in her blood. Testing revealed a BRCA (BReast CAncer) 2 mutation. Armed with this information, Dr. K. prescribed Lynparza, an oral targeted therapy for patients with this genetic mutation, which Danyell has taken daily since November 2020.

Next month marks two years since Danyell’s diagnosis. To date, all of her scans have been clear. “Danyell is not a typical mesothelioma patient,” noted Dr. K. “She’s in the rare one-to-six percent group as you don’t typically find a somatic and germline BRCA mutation with mesothelioma. Performing the genetic testing opened up the avenue for a novel treatment, and she’s had a complete response.”

“I’ll probably have follow-up visits and scans with Dr. K. for the rest of my life,” said Danyell. “But I don’t mind. He’s the one doctor I actually look forward to seeing. He’s like family. People tell me I’m a walking miracle, and every time I try to give Dr. K. credit, he points up to the sky and says, ‘It’s not me, it’s Him.’”

“It was heartbreaking to see such a young, healthy woman suffering with this rare disease,” said Dr. K. “Our entire team held her hand and kept reminding her that she had a lot to live for.”

Blessed with a loving family, strong church community, and deep faith, Danyell has remained strong throughout her fight. “It’s a tough diagnosis to hear, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have dark days,” said Danyell. “I want others to know there is hope with faith and the right doctors.”

On March 28, Danyell and her husband, David, will celebrate their 25th anniversary. She is scheduled for her ileostomy reversal around the same time. “It’s my present to my husband who woke up so many times in the middle of the night to care for me,” said Danyell.

Thinking about life after cancer, Danyell is grateful to no longer live in fear. “When you hear cancer, you live in fear,” said Danyell. “Now I live in hope. I feel like I’m gonna be around a long time.”

OHC’s cancer specialists are dedicated to surrounding patients with all they need to beat cancer. For more information on the latest cancer therapies or to request a second opinion, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit ohcare.com.

To picture: OHC patient Danyell Weisinger was tremendously grateful for the support of her community, including her local TireDiscounters.

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