Judy Marsh, a Pasadena resident who has fought a well-publicized battle with her insurance company while struggling against breast cancer, has cleared the final and most dangerous phase of a controversial treatment method at a North Carolina hospital.
On Saturday, doctors at Duke University Hospital Cancer Center in Durham injected bone marrow they removed from her body the week before -- and so far, Marsh's body has accepted the transplant. All they can do now is wait and see what happens during the next five weeks, said her husband, Roland.
"We are real hopeful," Roland Marsh said. "She is smiling and is in good spirits. She is able to get up and walk around, but she gets tired very quickly."
Roland Marsh said the hardest part for his wife was last Tuesday, when she received her final dose of the intense chemotherapy, which amounted to five month's worth in four days.
"She struggled a little bit, but she made it," Roland said. "It was a little scary for me."
Marsh in undergoing what is called an autologous bone marrow transplant, in which some of her bone marrow is removed, frozen and returned after the chemotherapy is given.
The chemotherapy will burn up the remaining bone marrow in her body, along with the remaining cancer cells, her doctors hope. The stored marrow is then injected back into her body so it can regenerate. Doctors say that is one of the most critical times in the procedure, because the body could reject the marrow. But Roland said that has not happened.
Marsh's insurance company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, first said it would pay for the treatment, but the company officials refused, saying the procedure is experimental.
Marsh's file is being reviewed by the Federal Employment Program, which sets insurance policy for federal employees and retirees covered by Blue Cross. Roland Marsh retired this year from the Social Security Administration.
Friends, neighbors and others made it possible for Marsh to have the treatment, which could cost as much as $170,000. So far, $115,000 has been raised. This past weekend, a bowl-a-thon raised $4,000 in cash and an additional $5,000 in pledges. "I'm sorry I can't help them," Roland Marsh said. "But I'm here (in North Carolina), and they are there."
Anyone interested in contributing to the Marsh fund should send donations to: Benefit of Judy Marsh, P.O. Box 118, Pasadena, Md. 21122.