April 30, 2016
I am so very, very sad to report that Michelle passed away yesterday about 1:30pm Pacific Time at the OHSU ICU. I was there, along with a few close friends, and even our dog Ronny made a brief appearance after some special arrangements with the amazing staff. Michelle died with no pain and leaves behind incredible memories in all of those with whom she lived, loved, and adventured.
During and after our trip to Seattle, Michelle was feeling increasingly weak and nauseated and was not taking in much food or drink due to discomfort. Within an hour after arriving home on Tuesday, we decided to head into the OHSU emergency room to get her some fluids and a check-up. We almost went to the ER in Seattle on Monday night—we've had two prior ER visits and saw it as a chance for her to hydrate for a day and catch up a little. By Tuesday it was pretty clear that we shouldn't wait any longer.
Throughout Tuesday night, she was feeling better and we decided to have her admitted to the adult oncology unit for a day or two for some rest and closer monitoring. We spent Wednesday day and night there, visiting with a few friends, enjoying an amazing view from the room, and talking to family on video conference.
We also began to learn of the results of last week's biopsy, when it became clear that Michelle suffered from a very rare type of pancreatic cancer that is particularly aggressive. Upon discovering this, the medical team in Seattle revised their opinion dramatically, completely agreeing with OHSU. Our brief glimpse of a better prognosis was not to be, but I do know that Michelle never accepted defeat and continued to fight as hard as she could to hold on and to rebuild her strength in order to undergo another treatment. Her past career of over a decade as a Physical Therapist reinforced her desire and equipped her with tools to never give up on this terrible disease.
On Thursday, after discussing with our team, we decided to have Michelle undergo a celiac plexus block, which is a brief, low-risk outpatient procedure to help remove pain sensations in the abdomen. I am confident that this would have never been suggested had they not believed Michelle would benefit from a few months of much less pain and pain management afterwards, until the next block.
One of the possible side effects of the procedure is lowered blood pressure. Michelle experienced this, but also benefitted greatly from the block—this was clear in our conversations Thursday afternoon. But as her blood pressure was still not stabilizing, it was decided to admit her to the ICU overnight for even closer monitoring.
We spent Thursday night and Friday morning there, boosting Michelle's fluids and albumen in order to help increase her blood pressure. However, it became increasingly clear that the cancer was majorly involved with her stomach, as a result of which she went into cardiac arrest. She was revived for a few hours, during which time we sat with her, talked to her, and let her know how very much she is loved and how great an impact she had on those who knew her.
Our families have already started to arrive in Portland throughout the night. We will post more details soon, but we are planning a service in Portland in the next week and another service in Connecticut, Michelle's original home, sometime in the near future. She grew up in, we met in, and she has so much extended family and great friends in the Northeast, but we made our home for the past near-decade on the West Coast. We feel that remembrances of her should reflect that.
Michelle, we are still standing strong and your memory will always live with us. You were the very best thing to ever happen in my life and I will always, always have you in my heart. Your fight was an inspiration to so many, including me, and I miss you more than I can ever express.
Michelle Marie Petruzzi
October 1, 1979 - April 29, 2016