The most tragic element of Kerri Prettitore's battle with colon cancer to Chad Lapp of Ridgewood was that after just one chemotherapy treatment, her condition worsened.
Tests indicated that 42-year-old Prettitore had suffered from a condition called Dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase deficiency (DPD), which was caused by the chemotherapy and prevented her body from breaking down one of the chemotherapy drugs.
Lapp will be honoring Prettitore, who died of medical complications while battling cancer, and raising awareness toward DPD by running a 24-hour race in the Northcoast 24 Hour Endurance Run in Cleveland, Ohio on Sept. 22.
The ultra runner has competed in races longer than the traditional 26.2-mile marathon. In the past nine years, Lapp has run in fixed-time events of 12, 24, 48 and 72 hours, running as many miles as possible.
His personal best in the 24-hour race is 107 miles and this year he set a new personal record running 208 miles in a 72-hour race.
Four years ago, Kerrie Prettitore, a mom of three, was diagnosed with colon cancer and subsequently had a successful surgery to remove the tumor. While recovering from surgery, she began what was to be a routine, 6-month chemotherapy regimen. But after just one treatment, Prettitore fell ill and her condition quickly became life-threatening.
A test performed several weeks after the chemotherapy treatment revealed she had a condition known as DPD deficiency, which prevented her body from breaking down one of the chemotherapy drugs she received: 5-FU (fluorouracil).
Prettitore was given no chance for survival because her body was completely deficient of the main enzyme needed to break down the 5-FU chemo drug. Doctors contended that the toxicity of the 5-FU would ravage her body and her immune system, preventing her from fighting even minor infections.
"Had Kerrie been tested for DPD deficiency prior to the start of her chemotherapy regimen, she would not have been given 5-FU and her life would not have been put at risk," Lapp said. "But testing is not required, even though 8 percent of the population is vulnerable to severe toxic reactions including death."
Medical journals have acknowledged the devastating consequences of DPD deficiency and chemotherapy for over 30 years, yet most patients are not even informed of the deadly risks, according to Lapp. Conversely, European countries routinely test patients for DPD deficiency prior to chemotherapy, the U.S. does not.
Prettitore eventually fell into a coma. She fought hard with the support of her family and friends to emerge through a vegetative state to a minimally conscious state, eventually able to say some words in response to questions, although inconsistent.
Never one to give up, Prettitore continued to make gradual improvements over the next few years. She lived and fought for her life in a care facility close to her home in Ridgewood, where she was able to get frequent visits from friends and family. Prettitore had many setbacks and fought hard each and every day, but on July 7, 2018, Kerrie passed away from a multitude of life-threatening medical complications.
STRONGMOM.ORG was created in October 2014 to provide financial assistance to Kerrie’s family and to raise awareness of DPD deficiency, while striving to make patient testing for DPD deficiency a requirement prior to 5-FU based chemotherapy treatments.
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