When A Survivor’s Compassion Turns to Guilt

Geraldine is Senior Vice President of TheGrio’s, known as Black America’s News. Although she never met Virgil Abloh, she followed his career and knew of his many talents. Geraldine says that she and Virgil are in the same club, but it is a club no one wants to belong to.

The news of Virgil Abloh’s recent death at the age of 41 from rare cardiac angiosarcoma immediately brought the thought to Geraldine Moriba that “it could have been me.” When she was 38 she was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma and given only six months to live.

Geraldine writes that guilt is one very complicated emotion. Her fight against her cancer lasted for eighteen months, but now her doctors report that her body is free of any active cancer cells.

She can only say that it is a mystery that she survived while so many others did not or will not survive. This is where feelings of guilt are continually in the back of her mind. Geraldine said when she heard the news about Virgil the guilt resurfaced.

About Virgil Abloh

Virgil Abloh, a Ghanaian American, was a celebrated fashion designer and the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection. His creativity in fashion was often compared to that of Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons in art. He studied civil engineering and had a master’s degree in architecture.

Louis Vuitton recognized Virgil’s genius and helped him to become one of the most powerful Black executives in the exclusive world of fashion. Time Magazine named Virgil as one of the most influential people in 2018.

Virgil worked with celebrities such as Kayne West, Serena, and Venus Williams, and many at Louis Vuitton voiced their ‘shock’ and ‘devastation’ at his death. His family issued a statement saying that Virgil chose to endure his illness privately while undergoing numerous challenging treatments and at the same time managing his eclectic businesses.

Virgil died after a two-year battle with a rare and aggressive type of sarcoma, where the tumor grows in the heart and can block blood flow out of the heart.

A spokesman from Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that when symptoms occur it is an indication that cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body.

There are many different types of sarcoma cancers. The cardiac angiosarcoma and the soft tissue sarcoma that Geraldine survived both have a poor prognosis.

About Soft Tissue Sarcoma

The National Institute of Health defines soft tissue sarcoma as cancers starting in soft tissue such as tendons, muscles, nerves, and blood and lymph vessels. Although these cancers are usually found in the legs, arms, abdomen, and chest, they can develop elsewhere in the body.

Geraldine added that sarcoma tumors are often found in people who have no obvious risk factors. She emphasized that there is no known cause and no cure. There are over fifty different subtypes of rare soft tissue sarcoma. So little is known about the disease that it is often misdiagnosed as it was initially in Geraldine’s case.

Sarcomas are accompanied by a dismal prognosis. Life expectancy after it is diagnosed is several months. Virgil managed to survive for several years after he was diagnosed.

Geraldine’s tumor developed in her right arm along the radial nerve. It was eventually diagnosed as a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor. Whereas Virgil was rumored to have had cardiac angiosarcoma.

Geraldine’s Thoughts About Rare Diseases

She believes that there is a need to build awareness about rare diseases and puts an emphasis on rare cancers. Then she discusses the race issues and lack of sufficient access to healthcare.

Black men have a lower life expectancy than other ethnic and racial groups in the United States.

However, there has been a heightened awareness. Since the announcement of Virgil’s death, the number of Google searches for cardiac angiosarcoma has increased tenfold.

Geraldine points out that Virgil has helped so many aspiring Black designers while he was alive that she believes his death will highlight greater awareness of the deadly disease.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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