Sherry's Story

14th January; 2000
Thank you so much for caring enough to reach out.
At 50 years old, I was diagnosed in October
1998 with malignant pleural mesothelioma.
I've been on both a spiritual journey
and a traditional one to find help for myself.
Until your site though I didn't find
anything written from the heart;
rather, everything has been clinical.
I didn't cry for over a year but your
site helped me let it out.
I'm scared but not terrified and try to
live each moment to the fullest.
Your husband was a lucky man
to have someone so filled with love.
My husband is wonderful but it's harder
for him than me sometimes.
Currently I am in the pain and
suffering part of my disease.
It seems that I can't even spend
a few hours without focusing on my
health and panicking.
Thank you for helping me get back in touch with my heart.
If you are ever in upstate New York,
I would love to meet you.
Bless you, you're a saint. Sherry.

18th January; 2000
Thank you for your kind letter.
I don't know when I was first exposed to asbestos,
but I think that I was in my early twenties.
My main symptom was difficulty breathing.
My doctor wasted no time in telling me
that he recognized what I had.
He was draining the fluid and as soon
as he saw the colour he told me
to go home and put my affairs in order.
He said that he usually didn't give such advice
but that there was only one possible diagnosis.
My heart dropped.
All of the doctors that I saw
(and they were the best that I could find)
unaminously told me that there was no hope.
I had chemotherapy.
They opened me up to remove my lung
but said that I was too far gone
and sent me home to die.
Well, that was 14 months ago and somehow
I'm doing all right.
I've been receiving alternative medicine
(homeopathy, etc.) and something seems to be working
because many of my tumors have shrunk.

I'm sorry that you don't expect to travel
outside of New Zealand and I don't know if
there's any compensation available to you,
but here in the States the asbestos industry
has to pay everyone who
comes down with mesothelioma.
Not that it comes close to compensating
for your husband's life but perhaps
there's something like that there.
If you need help finding out about this,
I can ask a lawyer here.
He's a specialist in mesothelioma cases
only and he might know if there's
someone like him over there.
Lots of luck to you and please feel
free to ask me anything that you want. Sherry

22nd January; 2000.
Deidre,thanks for your offer to write
a story about my experience.
It is something that I've been thinking about.
The trouble is, I get too wordy
and it would become too long,
but I am interested in doing something like that.
Thanks for your site address again.
How funny to hear about hot weather.
We have snow and ice and the TV and radio
advise people to stay indoors and
for those who must go out,
to be sure to carry extra blankets
and jackets in case of car failure.
Talk to you soon. Love, Sherry

13th February; 2000,
Dearest, kindest new friend,
Thank you so much for the letter about Cancell.
I haven't heard of it but I promise
to be an expert by Monday.
That's the most exciting thing
I've heard since being diagnosed.
I work with a man, Jim(------).
He's not a doctor, but rather,
he runs one blood test on you to check
the balance of your immune system.
After determining the ratio of
your T cells and others,
he provides a nutritionally
balanced set of supplements
and custom diet.
He sends test strips with which
to check your progress.
There are no drugs involved!
Rather he keeps your immune system
boosted so that your own body
can do the fighting.
It is not easy.
Some of his requirements
are very strict,
but though I live 250 miles away from him,
he has helped many people I know.

My friend Debbie had lymphoma in 1984
and was told that nothing could be done.
She's been fine for over 15 years,
and credits Jim with a lot of it.
I went to our local health food store
and met a woman who had breast cancer.
She said that she had been treated by him
for more than ten years
and has been cancer free
for most of this time.
He's not discovered a cure;
rather, he has developed a way for people
to co-exist and fight the disease.
He has declined to have TV specials
done about his work because he's
uncomfortable with the attention,
but he's quite well known anyway.
Please feel free to send this
(and any other email)
I send to anyone who might be helped.
Yours is certainly the best site
that I have found and I would be proud
to be included in any small way.
Thank you and God bless you, Sherry.

17th February; 2000, Hi there,
Sorry it took so long to get back to you
but I was waiting to hear from Jim.
He said that he would rather not
have his number posted on the internet
because he does everything by referrals
and the people who send them to him,
know who he can help and who he can't.
You can certainly post the rest of
the letter if it's not too late.
Hope you are well.
Your letters cheer me up enormously. Sherry.

4th March; 2000.Hi, Deidre,
I'm sorry that I haven't gotten back to you but
I've mostly been in New York City.
Just got back this past weekend
and have been catching up on all that I've missed.
The last report that I got from my meso oncologist
is that the tumors have grown a bit
but Jim (the immunologist) thinks that it's
scar tissue, which I do seem to manufacture in large quantities.
In any event, all is well.
Jim has me taking eight different supplements
as well as an immune system tea
and something is working because I
feel much better than I had.
I even bought ice skates while I was in
New York and I hope to use them a lot.
I've been speaking with Dalinda.
She seems quite frightened
and I wish that I could help her.
Doctors in the States seem committed to scaring us
with death proclamations when
they don't know anything at all.
I would have been dead at least three times
if they were right about everything!
How are you doing?
I haven't gotten on to your site
recently because every time I get on the net,
I get kicked off.
Seems I live in a somewhat rural area
with insufficient phone service.
We're getting a high speed line this month,
so that should remedy it.
But it takes four or five
calls just to get my mail!
I'm going to run.
Take care and keep doing your good work.
You can't imagine how much you have done
for my spirits. Sherry

4th March; 2000
Hi, Deidre, it's Sherry again.
I've just finished reading a book called
"Co-Existing with Cancer or You Thought
Living with Your In-Laws Was Difficult"
by Jack D. Ruda.
The back cover of his book
reads partially as follows:
"I was told by a number of doctors
that I would never live long enough
to see any grandchildren.
Because of a rare form of cancer,
I was given a short life expectancy."


He was diagnosed in 1991!
I spoke to him today and he is in good health!!!
I have given him your website address
He said that he goes around the country
lecturing and he published his phone number
in the book so I assume that he wants
to hear from and talk to people about this.
I just saw the web site with my name in it
and I must say that I write better than I thought.
Thank you and I hope that someone can feel
a little better after hearing about me.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Your notes mean so much to me. Sherry

5th March; 2000. Hi, Deidre,
I will gladly send you Jack's book,
don't worry about the cost.
I already own it.
I will ask him about putting his story on the web,
but I'm sure he will say yes.
I forget when he's leaving on holiday
but I will check and if he's
still here I'll contact him.
Ice skating is wonderful,
I could do it every day.
I'm sure my ice skating is nothing like
what you see on TV as I'm
still struggling to stay up.
I took my first lesson yesterday from a
woman who was once the Olympic gold medal
world champion from Switzerland.
The nicest thing she said to me was
that I haven't developed any bad habits yet
and that she can help me.
It was such fun!
Next week I plan to go to New York City
and skate with my friend's five year
old daughter. Not bad.
I know this will sound strange,
but a lot of good has come from my
being diagnosed with mesothelioma.
It taught me to stop and enjoy
each moment to the fullest.
I met some wonderful people
and I found your internet site,
which is by far the most useful thing
on the internet about the disease.
Here in America if you search the net
for information about mesothelioma,
you find mostly lawyers and a couple of pages
about different medical studies.
Yours is the only one written by a human
and yours is certainly the
only one offering compassion.
I don't cry often but your site helped me
to let it all out,
and I felt so much better for it.

There's a woman,
I think her name is Margie Levine,
and she's past her ten year mark.
She went for both the traditional
and alternative treatments,
and isn't sure what worked.
She has also written a book,
but I don't have it any more
(I gave it away to someone who needed it).
I'll be glad to get you her email or
phone number if you wish.
That's it for here.
Keep smiling and being a source of hope and love.
You're much needed. Love, Sherry

25th April; 2000
Thank you for the prayer and thought.
I wanted to send it back to you
but the mail program won't let me
forward that message for some reason.
How are you doing, my friend?
I'm well, I think.
I've finished my court case where
I found out that I am one of the only
"living meso plaintiffs"
as the court refers to me.
It was hard meeting the other one,
who is much sicker than I am right now.
I think about you often.
I've tried calling Jack Ruda but
the number has been busy each time.
Please let me know how everyone is doing.
I've looked at your site a few times,
but haven't seen anything new about Jim.
I think he called Jim though.

I hope to hear from you. God bless. Sherry
Have you heard from Jim or June?

Hi, Deidre,
Whenever I get your mail,
it's always dated one day ahead.
Today is the 25th and your mail is
dated the 26th and it starts my imagination going.
Wouldn't it be great if you really
lived in the future and you could
tell me what to expect.
Yesterday is the one year anniversary of
the last time the doctors told me that
I had just a few weeks to live.
They opened me up one year ago
to remove my lung and closed me without
doing the procedure.
I was too far gone, they said.
It's important for us all to realize
that when a doctor gives a prognosis
like that, he is just being a fortune teller,
and not even a good fortune teller.
They cannot predict our outcomes
any more than they can predict
the stock market.
When they say "three months,"
(or whatever number),
they are basing it on past probabilities,
not on fact.
There's no such thing as medical certainty,
at least not in this disease.
The last time I saw my oncologist
(four months ago),
he told me that it would be a matter of
weeks before I couldn't breathe independently.
I went to my regular doctor
two weeks ago and he told me that
my oxygenation level was better than expected
even for a healthy person my age.

I've been studying the mind/body connection
and am convinced that one of the reasons
that I'm doing as well as I am is because
I can imagine and contain my disease.
When I began this, I thought it was rather silly,
but the more I read,
the more I become convinced that
attitude is an important part of
the wellness/disease process.
I've read several books that have helped me
and I learned to meditate
and visualize the cancer.
I really believe that these are helpful
and I'd be glad to give you the names
of the books if you think that
would help anyone.
There are also books by cancer survivors
that generally give coping strategies that help.
The thing that helps me most,
I think, is having loving friends and
family to share my fears with.
I would love for you to publish this
on your website but if you don't,
please do stress to everyone that sharing
your pain and fear eases your burden.
It works for me.
I also read that there's a study
about the effects of talc pleurodesis
(which I had).
That's the surgery where they "cement"
your lung to stop it from repeatedly
filling with fluid.
It seems that a lot of people
who undergo this procedure do
better than expected.
It seems to be able to arrest
the disease in some of us.
I don't remember where I read it,
but I know that I found it through a web search
by typing mesothelioma AND pleurodesis.
I check my web mail every few days
in the hope of hearing from you
and I'm so glad when I do.
Try not to be too discouraged and
if there is anything I can do or
offer any hope to anyone,
please let me know.

30th April; 2000,
Deidre, When I was in my 40s,
I noticed that I had a little trouble
getting that last breath.
Only it was more when I was relaxed
than at any other time.
I asked the doctor about it and at the time
it was nothing to worry about.
"Kitchen Table Wisdom" by Remen
is a book of short stories,
mostly about cancer patients
learning how to accept their illness.
She wrote a follow-up book
"Tuesdays with Morrie"
It is very popular here.
Mitch Albom (I think that's how you spell it)
writes of his teacher's last days
and it's very moving.
It helped me to accept my own mortality
and not be so scared.
Of course there's Jack Ruda's book
which deals with our disease.

I don't know if I mentioned this but if
I did, please don't repost it,
although you can if I didn't tell you.
They're looking into a surgical procedure called
talc pleurodesis as a way to put
mesothelioma on hold.
There's a study going on here that
I'd be very interested to see the results of.
I had that operation.
It stops fluid from accumulating,
which is apparently how the disease progresses.
Mine was a year and a half ago.
It's a piece of cake compared to
the other things they offer.
Love, Sherry.

1st May; 2000. Hi, my friend,
I've been thinking about you a lot
and hoping that you are okay.
They say that we don't look at our anger
about death until we begin the process
of healing so I hope that means that you
are on the path to peace.
You can certainly give my address
to anyone you want,
for any reason you choose.
I trust your judgment completely.
Do you know that yours is the only site
that's not written by doctors or lawyers,
which to me makes it the only one
without an agenda?
It looks like money wouldn't stop
me from visiting you.
My lawyer got me the second largest settlement
ever from one of the companies.
Of course I don't have the money yet
but I do have the promise.
And of course I'd rather have my health
but at least I get to live the rest of my lif
e in a way I never dreamed possible.
It's been over a year and a half
since I was diagnosed,
can you believe it? I can't.

For now, I'm enjoying every moment.
My life has become holy and I treasure it.
I even love doing the things I used
to hate (like washing the dishes after dinner)
because I'm so happy that I can do them.
On a heavier note, if I get upset,
the first thing that happens
is I feel it in my breathing.
This may or may not be
because of the mesothelioma,
I don't know.
But don't jump to conclusions,
it could be anything.
Thank you for your concern
but my house is never empty.
Some friends will be staying here
(sort of a vacation for them)
and they'll be taking care of
our dogs and cat.
Woodstock is sort of a famous community
here in the States.
My house is set into the mountains
and you can't see any other house
or even hear cars go by.
It's a piece of heaven and my
friends look forward to staying here.
Anyway, take care and God bless. Sherry

2nd May;2000, Deidre,
I think of us as friends
sharing our experiences.
I wish that I was qualified in some way
to counsel people but I never
even finished college.
Jack Ruda is on the lecture circuit
here in the States.
He goes around the country
helping people with cancer.
He's what we call an inspirational speaker.
I had looked at your entire site
when I first found it but
since chemo my memory's not as
good as it used to be and I guess
I forgot that you're a few years older than me.
I stopped going for the tests because I
couldn't bear the wait and
they had nothing to give me anyway.
It was as if the test was the disease.
Once I realized that they were only
guessing most things anyway,
it seemed pointless to get the scans.
I'm going to go on my treadmill now.
My breathing is a little down generally,
going up stairs and all,
and the treadmill seems to bring my endurance up.
Talk to you soon, I hope. Sherry

13th July, 2000; Hi Deidre
Sorry I haven't got back to you
but I've been real busy.
My husband was ill but he's alright now.
It was a real scare for a while.
I got a good report from the doctor.
Didn't get an MRI but my
oxygen intake level is 97% on my
bad lung and 98% on the good one
There hasn't been any fluid
for a long time.
I'm going to write you a longer letter,
but I have to run.
Take care. Love Sherry.

1st September; 2000
I looked at Jack's site and
all I can say is, "Go, Jack!"
Isn't he inspiring?
As for me, I've gotten a bad CAT scan
and have to re-evaluate what to do.
I have six new masses, all large,
and the ones I already had show some growth.
I'm coming up on my two year mark though,
and like Jack, feel pretty good.
I'm still very hopeful.
This Sunday morning,
my closest friends are coming for a prayer circle,
something I have never had before.
I'll keep in touch with you about that.
Have you ever heard from Jim or June?
Keep going with your good work.
You can't imagine how much it benefits
someone like me to read it.
You are an angel.
I may look into Jack's radiology,
I'm not sure.
I'll let you know what I do. Sherry

8th September; 2000.Hi Deidre,
Well, I started chemotherapy again yesterday.
I have a lot of confidence in my doctor
and he said that I reacted wonderfully
to it the last time.
Here in America he's called the
"Grandaddy of Mesothelioma"
by other doctors.
He's a kindly older man (about 70)
and he knows everything
traditional and alternative
that's out there.
I'll let you know how it goes.
In the meanwhile, all is well at home.
I'm optimistic that a short treatment
of chemo will help again.
I don't know if I told you,
but my last report showed significant growth
in fact, I had seven new masses
and all my old ones had doubled
or more in size.
Keep in touch, I'll email you soon.
I'm glad Jack has his site up, Sherry.

9th October; 2000; Hi, Deidre,
Well, my chemo regimen is two weeks on,
two weeks off,
so that means that I have two
free weeks a month.
They haven't taken any pictures yet,
so I don't know how I'm doing.
I'm pretty unsymptomatic still,
as long as I don't try to go skiing
or hiking or anything in a high altitude.
So what's the weather like in December?
I will have a CT scan done in November
and I hope that I have something to celebrate!
As for Dalinda, I hope that her balance problem
is just a side effect of one of
her alternative treatments.
Have you heard from Jim or June?
Also, anything new from Jack Ruda?
I'm going to go check your updated website now.
Write soon. Love,Sherry

1th October; 2000; Hi Deidre,
I had gone to see my daughter in Utah,
where the altitude is much higher
than where I lived.
I was okay when I was standing still
but if I tried to climb even
two or three steps,
I had to rest for a long time
and wait for my breath to come back.
I figured that by the time I got home,
it would fix itself.
Instead, it got worse.
I would walk a few steps and feel
as if I wasn't getting enough air.
I would have to rest just going from my bed
to my bathroom (just a few feet of walking).
When I took the train to work,
I had to allow 15 minutes just to get up
the steps (including resting).
I didn't tell anybody.

Finally, I went to a doctor who said
I probably had bronchitis or
pleurisy or something.
He gave me antibiotics.
They didn't work, of course.
Then the chest x-ray.
The technician said that I had
an awful lot of scar tissue
on my lung and asked me what kind of
surgery I had had.
(The answer was NONE.)
Back to the doctor who told me that
they would have to drain my lung.
They removed ten or twelve liters
that first time and the doctor
who I had only met that day, said,
"Listen, I'm going to do you a favor.
There's only one thing this can be.
It's very serious.
By the time they confirm your diagnosis,
there's a good chance you won't be around.
Go home, put your affairs in order
and if there's anything you want to do,
do it now because in a few weeks
you're not going to be able to do anything.

"Dumb Greek bastard," I thought to myself.
Well, they sent the fluid for biopsy
and it came back meso,
which I had never heard of.
I didn't believe it.
I was still having trouble breathing though
and they drained another
eight to ten liters.
This time I insisted that they
check me for everything on earth.
All the tests came back meso.
Several surgeries later,
even I couldn't deny it.
I began to have sore throats,
pain in my shoulder and rib cage,
difficulty catching my breath, etc.
The only symptom I had really
was difficulty breathing.
All the rest was in my mind.
It was fear doing a number on me.
I suppose that the fluid had been
building for a few months
but I don't know for sure.
I remember walking through New York
with a friend of mine and not
being able to keep up with her.
That was in June.
By October I had a diagnosis.
I've just passed my two year mark
(since diagnosis)
and probably almost two and a half years
since the fluid began and I
feel healthier than ever.
Love, Sherry

I was not sure if any of you had
received this news of Sherry's passing.
I hadn't seen it listed so thought
I would post it in case you wandered
why she wasn't on anymore.
I shall miss her terribly as I feel as though
I have lost a very good friend.
She was so positive with everything
she did and I always looked forward to her mail. Deidre.

Sherry A. Strumph Levit, 53, of Shokan,
NY died on Monday, April 29, 2002
at her home after a courageous battle
with mesothelioma that drew the
admiration of many.
A "Fire Island hippie,"
she was the confident of and
most able assistant to the
late Peter Morrison, Esq,
Attorney General for the
State of New York and the Founder
of Transcript Associates,
a media services company in Manhattan.
Her love, generosity,
and celebration of life was an
inspiration to her many
friends and relatives.
Surviving are her husband Hiram;
her daughter Kristin Hooten;
her sister Eileen Forte;
and brother Joseph Strumph.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend
a celebration of her life at
The Tibetan Budhist Monastery
in Woodstock, NY on
Wednesday at 1:00 PM.


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