Online Memorial: www.thomasperrotta.8m.com
My brother Thomas was diagnosed with Level 3 nodular melanoma on his right calf on Jun 13, 2003. 3 days before his sentinel lymph node biopsy (7/18/03) and WLE of the lesion, he developed a terrible headache. The surgeon said he would postpone his surgery until he was feeling better. Since he was bipolar and had obsessive-compulsive disorder, the doctor thought it was psychological. Eager to get the surgery over with, and convinced it was a stress headache, he said he was fine. When he woke up from the surgery he was vomiting and screaming for painkillers. The next day, the CAT scan revealed the source of the headache - a grape-sized brain tumor on his right temporal lobe. Emergency brain surgery was done 7/22/03. The melanoma had bypassed his lymph nodes and traveled through his bloodstream. We were told he had 6 months to live.
We tried to seek an alternative route, since Thomas did not want chemotherapy because he was told it would only extend his life. His cells from the brain tumor were taken to develop an autologous vaccine, but he would not live long enough to participate in that trial. Because of both his prognosis and mental condition, he was rejected as a candidate for any clinical trials. As a family, we supported his decision to enjoy the time he had left, rather than try to extend his life. We went to Disney World multiple times, took him wherever he wanted to go, and cooked his favorite meals or treats at his request.
In October, an MRI revealed a new brain tumor in the left temporal lobe. He could not do radiation therapy because as one doctor mentioned, "It would be like rearranging the chairs on the deck of the titanic." Thomas knew the cancer was raging inside his body. He started having pain in late October/early November and was hospitalized for pain management in late November. He now had 3 brain tumors, one that pressed on the muscle in his right eye and within a weeks' time, his vision went from blurry to blind in that eye. He had tumors in almost every major organ in his body: intestines, liver, lungs, kidneys, and bladder.
On December 9, 2003, he went into Hospice Care. The hospital had given us paperwork on an adult wish foundation. Thomas, although 24, was a true kid at heart. His dream was to meet Hulk Hogan. But we were told he would live 3-5 days because the tumor in his liver was the size of a grapefruit. We knew the paperwork for the dream foundation would never arrange the visit on time. Luckily, we knew Hulk lived about 40 minutes from us and my boss's friend was his next door neighbor. They got in touch with Hulk and he called Thomas. Impressed with how much a fan Thomas was and how much he knew about wrestling, Hulk rearranged his schedule because he said "I have to see this kid. He's for real." On December 12, Thomas met Hulk Hogan and Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs. Hulk spent over 2 hours, just with our family and friends. Thomas was on heavy painkillers and could barely keep his eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time, but when Hulk was there, he fought to stay awake almost the entire visit!!! Thomas had an unbelievable memory, and he was like "Remember in 1987 when you fought this match?" Hulk couldn't believe how much he knew about wrestling!!!
After that visit, he rallied, and we got 10 or so more days with him than the doctors had anticipated. In retrospect, that is nothing, but those days broken down into hours or minutes contained more beautiful moments and cherished memories than one could imagine. Thomas maintained his great sense of humor, joke-telling, childish heart, and undying devotion to his beloved family friends. He spent his last days consoling us and making us smile.
Melanoma is a vicious beast of a cancer that takes beautiful people away from those that love them. My heart goes out to all those who have lost and my best wishes go out to those that are battling this disease.
Our tribute page is www.thomasperrotta.8m.com