Michelle Salerno – Her Fight, Her Story
In 2002 Michelle Salerno was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that can normally be treated with high levels of success. Unfortunately, Michelle was one of the 10-15% of patients that don’t respond to standard treatment and was given a 1% chance of surviving beyond six months. The incredible staff at Loyola University Medical Center’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center in Maywood, IL, along with Michelle never gave up and continued to try new approaches to battle this disease.
Initially Michelle received ABVD chemotherapy, radiation and an autologous stem cell transplant. None of the treatments were strong enough to kill all of the cancer. Next in line was an allogenic stem cell transplant, but she needed a donor match. Her oldest brother, Joey, was a perfect match! She received his stem cells and after 100 days of isolation and fighting with all her strength, a CT scan indicated she still had cancer. Her brother’s cells worked with the cancer cells instead of fighting them. In total she received 3 stem cell donations from Joey.
On May 4, 2010, Michelle started a clinical trial called SGN-35. She received the drug once every three weeks. After 9 treatments, she felt better. In early 2012, she had multiple treatments of radiation to the spine and continued to receive SGN-35. The was a constant battle.
While on this challenging journey Michelle became very involved in the cancer community. She did fundraisers, volunteered to work with other cancer patients, was a named a “Super Hero” of Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, and mentored patients through the Imerman Angels organization. She also created a product called the “JoeyPouch” to enhance the quality of life for people forced to use Hickman, NeoStar, Jackman, and other drains. Understanding that something as simple as being able to sleep better at night has a huge impact on one’s life and recovery was her motivation.
Sadly on February 24, 2013, Michelle passed away peacefully due to complications from fungal pneumonia. She was surrounded by loving family members. Her dream was to share her story of courage and give the motivation to never give up. She loved the JoeyPouch. We, her family, intend to continue her project in her memory. Click on link to read her whole story. Michelle’s Story
Our Goal as Family and Friends is to continue Michelle’s legacy by being active in the Cancer Community and promoting Michelle’s product, the Joey Pouch. – Joe Salerno