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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, 4 years ago Kerrie Prettitore, a 42 year old mother of 3, was diagnosed with colon cancer. She subsequently had 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, she became very 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 (Dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase deficiency) which prevented her body from breaking down one of the chemotherapy drugs she received, 5-FU (fluorouracil).

Kerrie 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.

The most tragic element of this story is that this never should have happened. 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. But testing is not required, even though 8% 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. Conversely, european countries routinely test patients for DPD deficiency prior to chemotherapy, the US does not.

Kerrie 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, Kerrie 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, NJ where she was able to get frequent visits from friends and family. She had many setbacks and fought hard each and every day, but on July 7th, 2018, Kerrie passed away from a multitude of life-threatening medical complications.

STRONGMOM.ORG was created in October of 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.

The community has embraced Kerrie’s family over the years with various fundraisers and events. On September 22-23 a friend of the Prettitore family, Chad Lapp, will run for 24 hours at the US National 24 Hour Championship in Cleveland, OH. He will run in honor of Kerrie and STRONGMOM.ORG.

Chad is an Ultra Runner, and competes in races longer than the traditional 26.2 mile marathon distance. In the past 9 years he has run in fixed-time events of 12, 24, 48 and 72 hours, running as many miles as possible, usually around a 1 mile loop, within the time frame. His personal best in the 24 Hour race is 107 miles (, and this year he set a new PR running 208 miles in a 72 Hour race in NJ.

Donations can be made to support the Prettitore family and STRONGMOM by following this link: STRONGMOM.ORG

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