‘Be in Control and Be Thankful’: A 12-Year Survivor Shares Her StoryValentine’s Day is special for Dorothea Consolini of New Hartford, Connecticut, but not because of cards, candy, or flowers. That’s the day, in 2001, that she got a new lease on life.
A few months earlier, Consolini was experiencing shortness of breath. She had a chest X-ray in December 2000, which showed fluid around her left lung. The fluid was drained “a couple of times, removing a liter each time,” she said, and a biopsy was performed. “My regular doctor in Torrington broke the news, telling me I had mesothelioma and giving me six months to live.”
Fortunately, Consolini’s oncologist had read a medical journal article by the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) team, and made an appointment for Consolini to be evaluated in Boston. The diagnosis was confirmed, and on February 14, 2001, “I had the lining of my left lung removed,” said Consolini. “They also removed a rib and made me a new diaphragm.”
Despite the dire prediction of her local doctor, she said, “I didn’t dwell on it or let it get to me. I went to the hospital with no real thought of what might happen. I just knew I’d be coming back home. I was determined to move ahead and get through it.”
And get through it she did. “I was in the hospital for a week or so,” she said. “I remember they made me get up and walk around right away and I had all these tubes trailing along with me on the IV pole. I knew I was getting better when they began taking out a tube every day or so. The last tubes were taken out here in Connecticut.”
“I remember they made me get up and walk around right away and I had all these tubes trailing along with me on the IV pole. I knew I was getting better when they began taking out a tube every day or so.”
Because the importance of exercise had been drummed into her in the hospital, Consolini began “deck walking” when she got home. “I knew I had to keep moving, so there I was in the middle of winter all bundled up and walking back and forth for 30 minutes on the backyard deck.”
Consolini, now 75 and retired, had been active all her life. For many years she was the cook in her family’s bar/restaurant, serving burgers, hot dogs, and other hearty fare to families and factory workers in town. After her family sold the restaurant, she worked as a cook in another local restaurant.
She still cooks, but only for family – two daughters (both nurses), a son, and a granddaughter. “One of my daughters and my granddaughter live with me,” she said, “and it’s such a blessing to have my own ‘in-house’ nurse. She took care of me during the rough times and my dear, late husband drove me back and forth to Boston when I was sick.”
Consolini is grateful for the care and attention she has received from the IMP team in Boston. “They can’t do enough for you,” she said, “and I know they are watching me carefully. Every time I come in for a check-up, they welcome me with open arms. I get ‘one-stop-shopping’ care and they make sure I have everything I need before I go home again. I’m thankful to them for the 12 years I never thought I’d have.”