Most people look forward to annually celebrating their birthdaysurrounded by family, friends, desserts and drinks, but Mea Pierman rang in her 60th birthday with a colonoscopy, which led to the discovery of a very rare form of cancer. After enduring sharp pains in her lower back in December 2013 and several tests later, she discovered her right kidney was no longer working, which led to doctor’s discovering evidence of cancer in her abdomen. Mea was diagnosed with appendiceal adenocarcinoma which has metastasized to her abdomen. This type of cancer is rare and there is no protocol, research or recommended treatment plan. Mea was initially told she had 18-24 months to live, but has long exceeded her expiration date due to a path she has paved for herself with the help of oncologists at Levine Cancer Institute (LCI) and many of the 55 free programs supported by 24 Foundation.
“The fact that I am still here, in relatively good health, and have had a chemo vacation for a year is a tribute to the brilliance of the medical professionals at LCI, the power of prayer, support of family and friends and the overwhelmingly effective programs offered by LCI through Survivorship and Integrative Oncology supported by 24 Foundation,” said Mea Pierman, cancer survivor. “While Dr. Chai takes care of keeping the cancer at bay, explaining my treatment options, keeping me informed about the next steps we can take and figuring out how to proceed, Dr. Bailey-Dorton and her merry band of nurses, therapists, assistants and supplements take care of the rest of me.”
Mea began chemotherapy on April 1, 2014 and continued through February 2015 with infusions every other week. She then began maintenance chemotherapy with a pump connected every other week for 48 hours. Since November 2015 Mea was able to step away from treatment all together. However, over the last 6 months scans showed growth in her tumors and Mea will resume chemotherapy in January 2016.
Being the youngest of seven children and a part of a family of nurses and doctors, Mea is fortunate to have several medical resources that have helped pave her cancer path. Her initial feelings upon diagnosis were surprise, fear and dismay, but she was overall calm and set her mind to moving forward.
“Truthfully, it took me a couple of weeks to wrap my mind around this change in my life and have not looked back since,” Mea said.
During her first year and a half of treatment, Mea came to depend on the Survivorship and Integrative Oncology programs at LCI that are funded by 24 Foundation. Mea is no stranger to 24 Foundation and she has lived in Charlotte since 2000 and drove to work in Dilworth via the Booty Loop. This year, Mea was finally able to see 24 Foundation first hand and rode on a tandem bike in our survivor lap.
“There is nothing fun about cancer but there is everything fun about 24 Foundation,” Mea said. “It’s the feeling we are all in this together, fighting as one, beating cancer down one case at a time. A “can do” attitude that it is possible to have life with cancer.”
Having cancer is a life changing experience in its self, but Mea says being treated at LCI has made her life with cancer much more manageable. You can tell a lot about a person by the type of people they surround themselves with, which is a true testament to the amazing healthcare professionals that staff LCI. The doctors, nurse and other personnel at LCI have made it clear to Mea that she has control over her cancer life and that her treatment is up to her. Mea recounted that when she first met with Dr. Bailey-Dorton, she decided they were not going to call her time in treatment a “journey” because journeys are suppose to be fun, but rather refer to it as a path that she could step off of and take fun journeys. Dr. Bailey-Dorton reminded Mea that she will have many people assist her along this path and carry her when needed.
“Now that I am part of the 24 Foundation family – I know they will help hold me up when I need it and encourage me to be the best I can be as we walk this path together,” Mea said. “My family keeps getting bigger and my group of friends include people I don’t know personally, but I am confident they have my back.”
For Mea, LCI, 24 Foundation and Survivorship/Integrative Oncology are one in the same. When she is not in treatment she is scheduling to attend classes and programs supported by 24 Foundation. She arranges her infusions around the integrative oncology classes. She started with trying a yoga class an soon after tried another and another. Aside from yoga, Mea participates in Deep Relaxation, Meditation, Therapeutic Art, Tai Chi, Writing Community, Water Coloring and Cooking Club. Mea has created quite the schedule of integrative and survivorship programs to attend in the last year she has been off treatment, which she attests have made her stronger than she has ever been, making her ready for chemotherapy in January.
“What I found was the more I put myself out there, trying new things, meeting new people, talking and laughing … the better I felt and the stronger I became,” Mea said. “I fully believe one of the main reasons I am still here today and feeling so well are the opportunities I’ve taken advantage of through the survivorship programs.”
Her involvement in the integrative oncology and survivorship programs have shown Mea how truly phenomenal the resources are right in her own backyard. Her cancer path has expanded her family in Charlotte to include fellow cancer survivors, caregivers, therapists, instructors, nutritionists and other professionals who have taught her so much about living with cancer.
“At this point cancer is written small, not large – Family, Friends, Support System – those are the keys to success in my life now,” Mea said. “I thought I understood what it is to truly appreciate life and all it has to offer, but it wasn’t until my cancer diagnosis that I really learned the meaning of appreciating the little things like waking up and feeling like getting up to face the day.”