Determined Teen Loses Ovarian Cancer Battle, But Her Courage Inspires An Entire Community

On December 24, 2010, fifteen year old Meghan Redenbach lost her ovarian cancer battle. Although her physical presence is no longer, Meghan’s spirit will forever inspire her hometown community, as well as those who have read about and followed her courageous journey since 2008.

On December 24, 2010, fifteen year old Meghan Redenbach lost her ovarian cancer battle.  Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ covered Meghan’s inspirational story on February 26, 2009 and March 5, 2009. When Meghan was thirteen years old, she was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer known as “fibrosarcoma.” This form of ovarian cancer is so rare that there are only 30 documented cases in the U.S. Meghan was only the second child to be diagnosed with fibrosarcoma.

Meghan was a gifted and avid volleyball player in middle school and during her freshman year in high school.  “She just has incredible courage and determination and the ability to fight through things,” says Bill Holahan, Meghan’s high school volleyball coach. “Anyone who has come into contact with her has fallen in love with her and her courage.”

Meghan Redenbach was a gifted and avid volleyball player. Bill Holahan, Meghan's high school volleyball coach, said: "Anyone who has come into contact with her has fallen in love with her and her courage."

Last year, and after a difficult selection process, Meghan was chosen by Roswell Park Cancer Institute as one of three cancer patients whose stories were told as part of the Institute’s New Era New Hope campaign.  As part of the New Era New Hope campaign, each selected patient was requested to design a customized baseball cap that represented the spirit of his or her cancer journey.  The front of Meghan’s cap emphasized the word “Survivor,” along with a teal ovarian cancer ribbon. In full defiance of her cancer, Meghan placed the words “Man Up” on the back of her cap.

As part of her story for the New Era New Hope campaign, Meghan wrote:

… I will admit that at times I feel like I don’t have anyone, and just want to give up. In reality, I have so many people behind me that bring out the strength I have. I guess the saying “You never know how strong you are until strength is your only option,” is really true. People have said it is amazing how I can do all this and stay so positive. I strongly believe that I am doing what any other person would be doing if they were in my position.

Being diagnosed has opened my eyes to everything in life. I have never really appreciated my friends and family as much as I do now. If it weren’t for them, I am not sure I would have gotten as far as I have. Everyday I tell myself, “Just another day. No matter what, I will make it to tomorrow. Even if I fight all day. I’ll make it.”

I have always wanted to inspire people, and help people get through things they never imagined they could get through. And to tell you the truth, I am still trying to figure out how. One day it will all come together and all my dreams will come true. I hope this happens for everybody. One of my dreams is to speak for those who are, unfortunately, not able to tell their story. Those who have lost their fight. I plan on winning my fight in honor for those who didn’t get a chance to say, “I’m a survivor. …

Meghan’s words above require no additional explanation and reveal the character of a remarkable teenager, who was wise well beyond her fifteen years of life.  Although her physical presence is no longer, Meghan’s spirit will forever inspire her hometown community, as well as those who have read about and followed her courageous journey since 2008.

In tribute, we provide below a five minute video news story about Meghan, which was created in March 2009 by WGRZ’s Matt Pearl.  In addition, we provide a second news story video that reported today on Meghan’s life and extraordinary character, as described by those who gathered to celebrate her life.

We would like Meghan’s family and friends to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them during this extremely difficult time.

Meghan Redenbach – WGRZ News Story – March 5, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Meghan Redenbach – WIVB News Story – December 28, 2010

Sources:

Rare Form of Ovarian Cancer Not Getting Inspirational 13 Yr. Old Down; You Can Help!

GASPORT, NY: Strong Show of Support –Rare Cancer Not Getting Girl Down

Meghan Redenbach, 13 yr. old honor student & athlete, has a rare form of ovarian cancer known as fibrosarcoma.  There are only 30 documented cases of this cancer diagnosed in the U.S.

Meghan Redenbach, 13 yr. old honor student & athlete, has a rare form of ovarian cancer known as "fibrosarcoma." There are only 30 documented cases of this cancer diagnosed in the U.S. It is believed that Meghan is only the second child ever diagnosed. Click on Meghan's picture to contribute to Meghan's Fund.

“By Bill Wolcott, Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

GASPORT – Meghan Redenbach, 13 [year old], honor student and athlete, has a rare form of ovarian cancer, fibrosarcoma.

There are only 30 documented cases of this cancer diagnosed in the United States, according to the family, and the daughter of Michael and Cathy Redenbach is only the second child ever diagnosed.

The family needs help with mounting expenses, and reaction in the community has been overwhelming. Neighbors and businesses have taken note. Meghan’s Fund was established by the Rainbow of Health, and Royalton neighbors plan a fundraiser March 8 at Terry’s Corner Fire Hall.

Treatment for Meghan’s cancer began after Christmas at Roswell Park [Cancer Institute]. She goes to Roswell every three weeks and stays overnight for therapy Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She will come home Monday, depending on how she feels.

‘I’m doing great, actually,’ she said this week.

A Chinese auction, raffles and children’s activities are planned. Hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza, which were donated, will be served for $1. A donated 2010 Mustang will be raffled through the Matthew Foster Foundation to benefit the family.

‘It is phenomenal. The outpouring in this community is overwhelming,’ said neighbor Melinda Hagie, who is working on the benefit with Carole George and Shelly Ratzell. More than a dozen volunteers meet at the George home to work on the benefit, which has been given a boost from the Rainbow Foundation.

Meghan is a diehard sport fanatic, according to her father, and excels in softball, basketball and volleyball. On the day before she became ill, she tried out to play for Niagara Frontier Volleyball, a traveling team that competes statewide and in Pennsylvania. There were 70 girls who tried out for the 14-under squad and only 30 made it.

The family found out the next day about her cancer.

‘I started feeling an upset stomach on Dec. 6,’ she said. ‘At the worst, I thought is was appendix.’

On Dec. 9, Meghan was suffering from extreme cramping in the abdomen and took a battery of tests at Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo.  A CAT scan, X-rays and ultrasound revealed a mass on her ovary. She had emergency surgery, and a cancer the size of a cantaloupe was removed.

Ovarian cancer is something usually found in post-menopausal women.

‘They can’t give us any cause,’ Meghan’s father said. ‘There are limited statistics on it.’

Her third treatment was Feb. 6-8, and she returns to Roswell on Friday. Meghan is scheduled for nine treatments.

‘The first three treatments were pretty rough. The third a little smooth,’ Meghan said. ‘I bounce back after a week and hang out with friends. I’ve got a pretty positive outlook on everything.’

Dad said Meghan was scared and upset about losing her hair.

Michael added, ‘Her spirits are great. She is strong-willed and very competitive. Her attitude is fantastic and supportive of us.  She’s our little stone.  She’s been strong for us.  It’s a lot easier with her having a positive attitude.  The nurses say that’s half the battle.’

Because the cancer is rare, doctors can’t give a prognosis. Roswell doctors are checking with specialists nationwide for treatment, according to the father.

‘They are optimistic,’ dad said. ‘We’re staying positive. I’m so proud of her.’

Meghan made the junior varsity volleyball team as an eighth-grader and was promoted to the varsity for the sectionals.

A Mediport – a device that delivers medications directly into the blood system – was implanted into a main artery in her chest during a second surgery. Meghan is not allowed to play contact sports, but does travel to games with the Niagara Frontier Volleyball team and cheers on her Roy-Hart basketball team.

‘She’s biting her lips sitting on the bench,’ dad said. ‘The school administration and her teammates are very supportive.’

Her teammates wear pink shirts with her name on it for warm-ups. ‘It’s crazy sitting on the sideline,’ Meghan said. ‘It’s hard, but you gotta do what you gotta do.’

Michael works as a corrections officer at the Albion Correctional Facility, and co-workers have volunteered to do the cooking at the fundraiser. Michael said, ‘Everyone is very supportive. You hear about it all the time, but when it’s happening to you, it’s something else.’

Nancy works as a literacy aide at the Country Parkway School in Williamsville.  Dad played football and baseball at Williamsville East, and mom was a track star and softball player at Williamsville North.  Brother Nick, 18, is a Niagara University freshman.

Baskets donations are also being accepted and can be dropped of at the Middleport Village Hall or by contacting Carole George at [716-] 772-7834 or caroletup@aol.com, or Shelly Ratzel at [716-]688-8795 or mlr8588@aol.com. Cash donations can be made at any First Niagara Bank or meghansfund.org.

Contact reporter Bill Wolcott at [716-]439-9222, ext. 6246.”

Quoted SourceGASPORT: Strong show of support, by Bill Wolcott, Local Story section, Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, February 21, 2009.

Five Years Later, Patient Participating in Vaccine Trial Remains Free of Ovarian Cancer

“Like most women with ovarian cancer, 44-year-old Christine Sable of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, did not discover she had the disease until it was in the advanced stages and had spread to other areas of the abdomen. ‘I knew my chances of recurrence were very high-75 to 80 percent at that particular stage-and that the disease would likely recur within a year or two,’she says. ‘Once it recurs, it is difficult to cure.’

After aggressive surgery and chemotherapy, the only other option her doctor could offer was more chemotherapy. But the first round had been ‘very hard,’ Sable recalls. ‘I wanted to find something that would work with my own immune system and not be so harsh on my body.’

Then she learned about a Phase I clinical research study of an ovarian cancer vaccine developed by Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, Surgeon in Gynecologic Oncology and Co-Leader of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at Roswell Park [Cancer Institute]. The vaccine is designed to trigger an immune response in the significant number of women who have tumors that test positive for the antigen NY-ESO-1.

The study was open to patients who had completed their initial treatments and who had no further evidence of disease; Sable fit the profile. She says the day she was accepted into the study was ‘one of the most exciting days of my life.’ She began treatment at Roswell Park in February 2004, and her immune system responded so strongly to the first five doses of vaccine that she received another five, then another five, each time experiencing a better response-with no side effects. Now 49 and still cancer-free, she returns to Roswell Park just once a year for continued monitoring.

Odunsi is currently leading a team of Roswell Park researchers who are working to improve the vaccine’s effectiveness. The vaccine is an important new focus in the search for better treatments for ovarian cancer, which is often difficult to treat. Sable says participating in the trial ‘was a very good experience; I was very well cared for. Dr. Odunsi is a gentle, kind man, brilliant and dedicated and very compassionate.’ In May of 2008, Sable will mark the fifth anniversary of her diagnosis and survival. ‘To have had this many years cancer-free is really amazing.’

The study in which she participated was supported by the Cancer Vaccine Collaborative Program of the Cancer Research Institute and Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, and results were reported in the … [NY-ESO-1 Peptide Vaccine Phase I Clinical Trial Results, Odunsi, K et. al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 141, no 31, July 31, 2007].” [Quoted Source: Science Daily News Release dated April 7, 2008.]

In March 2008, The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF) awarded a $900,000 research grant to Dr. Odunsi and his colleagues at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) to fund a collaborative study with the stated goal of developing a promising vaccine to unleash the power of the immune system against cancer. The prestigious award will allow Dr. Odunsi and the RPCI research team to combine four different immunotherapy approaches, all designed to enhance the immune system’s response to ovarian cancer. [Source: “Roswell Park Cancer Institute awarded three-years funding for ovarian cancer vaccine,” a News-Medical.Net News Release dated April 7, 2008.]

Comment: Vaccine or immunotherapy can play an important role in an ovarian cancer survivor’s overarching treatment strategy. This aspect of treatment is often overlooked. It is important to be aware of the availability of vaccine therapy as early as possible in treatment because most clinical trials utilizing vaccine therapy require an extremely low disease “tumor burden” or no (macroscopic) evidence of disease as a prerequisite for patient eligibility. Low tumor burden or no evidence of disease is generally present immediately after chemotherapy treatment(s) resulting in “complete remission,” and/or surgery resulting in “optimal debulking/cytoreduction.” Christine Sable is an excellent example of an ovarian cancer survivor who is proactively managing her care through enrollment in a beneficial clinical trial.

The Roswell Park Cancer Institute, as of this writing, is currently recruiting Stage II through IV ovarian cancer participants for a Phase II vaccine clinical trial involving the use of “Recombinant Vaccinia-NY-ESO-1 (rF-NY-ESO-1) and Recombinant Fowlpox-NY-ESO-1 (rF-NY-ESO-1) in Patients With Epithelial Ovarian, Fallopian Tube or Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma Whose Tumors Express NY-ESO-1 or LAGE-1 Antigen.” For more information with respect to this clinical trial, contact the Roswell Park Cancer Institute Clinical Trials Office at 877-275-7724.

I encourage you to watch the video segment below which addresses Christine Sable’s case, including an interview with Kunle Odunsi, M.D., Ph.D.., the Co-Leader of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at Roswell Park.

MediaSourceTV Video Segment Re

Christine Sable and Roswell Park Cancer Institute Clinical Trial Vaccine Program