Jesse Coykendall

My husband won't tell his story, so I will. He is my hero!

My husband's story began in 2003.  He was 18 years old and decided to get his hair cut.  While getting the hair cut, his aunt noticed a mole on his neck that was black.  He had thought it was a pimple and ripped it off.  He was sent to the dermatologist and a biopsy was done.  The results came back it was Stage III malignant melanoma. 

He was referred to The James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio right away. He had two surgeries to remove almost 30 lymph nodes and the cancer itself within a two month time span.  In June of 2003, he started Interferon treatment.  One of the medicinces that he was on, Compazine, made him have a muscle spasm which ripped his sutures out of his neck and made his body contort.  He had to pack his neck for months to get it to heal.  Along with the lymph node removal, the doctors were worried about his thyroid.  After his neck was healed, he went back in to have his thyroid completely removed to make sure it was not cancerous, which it wasn't. He has done radiation as well as the interferon, both which were completed around 2006. He now has to take Synthroid for the rest of his life because of this.  He went for his check ups, and we were thrilled when his doctor said he only needed to see him once a year. 

We were married in 2007, and everything seemed fine.  About a month before his annual appointment in 2008, we got a letter stating that his oncologist (who was also his surgeon) had unexpetedly passed away and he would have to wait until the new doctor came.  Our first experience was horrendous and we decided to look for another oncologist.  After no luck, we went back for a check up because his regular physician told him he needed to (this was in 2012). He went and did scans, and everything was great.  We were also expecting our first child in October, so things were pretty crazy.  We welcomed our beautiful baby girl and our life felt complete. 

In November of 2012, my husband came in from being outside and started coughing.  He coughed so hard he started coughing up blood.  He was rushed to the E.R. and a CT scan was done.  The doctors found a 4cm mass in his right lung, and he was sent to the James again.  He now has been diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic melanoma, and he has the BRAF mutation.  He is taking the Zelboraf, but just yesterday started coughing up blood, so he was rushed to the James again. He had a scope done, and the tumor was lasered through because it was blocking his airway.  We are awaiting further information now.  He is fighting for me, and for our almost 7 month old daughter, and he is only 28 years old.  He is my hero, although I'm sure if I told him that he would laugh at me.  We are in this fight together, and I've told him he is not allowed to give up because our child needs her father around for as long as possible.  I am blessed to be able to share his story.

Tue, 2013-04-30


shining4jesus - (5/6/2013 - 4:35pm)

Please know Jesse will be covered in prayers, as well as you and your daughter! I, too, have melanoma. This is a fight  everyday of our lives here on this earth! God has given me strength through this, and I pray he will give your husband, Jesse, the strength as well!

God Bless you!

heidiboardman - (6/14/2013 - 8:31am)

I hope your husband continues to fight and stays positive.  I too have melanoma and mine has spread to my brain. I was first diagnosed in Feb 2010 when I had a mole removed (ay my request- doctor said it was fine but biopsy came back as melanoma!)  It had already to my lymph nodes in groin which I had all removed, and then the melanoma came back in original spot a year later and it was surgery again.  Now I too have started to taked Zelboraf and am now on my 3rd month of treatment. the brain tumours were diagnosed in Nov 2012, and have been onn steriods and had stereotatic radiotherapy, and now zelboraf.  I continue to fight for my children, aged 13,11 and eight.  It's hard, but I wish your husband all the best.  I am 40 years old. 

mrscoykendall - (8/25/2015 - 11:01pm)

For some reason I cannot figure out how to edit my initial post about my husband.  Unfortunately, things never really got better for him.  He continued radiation and chemo, but eventually stopped doing chemo in fall of 2013.  He told me his numbers were good enough to not do chemo for awhile-but I am not sure if this was true, or if he just told the doctor he didn't want to do the chemo anymore.  In May of 2014 he went into the hospital to have another Bronchoscopy done to remove more of the tumor in his lung (he also had found out he had brain mets late in 2013; which is why he did radiation).  This procedure had been done three or four times before, so we had thought nothing about it. He had just been released from the hospital the day before for having seizures caused by the tumor is his brain, so he was weak.  i grabbed some lunch and when I went back up to the waiting area, the doctor was there waiting for me.  During the procedure my husband had flatlined and they had to hook him up to machines to get him to breathe again.  They called a code blue for him while the doctor was talking to me.  I called my family, and the hospital called his mom. They got him breathing again and let me see him.  I knew the minute I saw him hooked up to all those machines on an operating table that my husband wouldn't be back--at least not the same as he was.  He was in ICU for a week or two, and then transferrred to a regular room.  He was being treated by the pain and pallative care team, as well as the oncologists.  Our hospital stay for the next three weeks was TERRIBLE.  I felt like I was not being helped like I should be to plan his move back to our town (an hour away) and that the doctors were changing meds and things without notifying me (we had done a living will when he was in for the seizures, and they told me they treated him like a head trauma patient-but were changing his medicines without my acknowledgement).  Finally, I got help from a nurse case manager through his insurance who got him home.  We were given a timeline of a few months, to a few weeks of life expectancy.  Fortunately the nurse case manager was my savior at the time-and his hospice care and nursing home charges were competely taken care of-as well as all of the things from his hospital stay. My husband told me two things: he didn't want to die in the hospital, and he didn't want our daughter to see him die.  Even though I got a lot of grief, the nursing home was the best place for him-so that I could fulfill his wishes as best as possible. He had his good days where he talked, he tried to go to Taco Bell one morning (lol), and he interacted with our daughter as much as possible.  When he passed on the table in May, he had a heart attack and a stroke- so he had a weak left side and he said he couldn't see well.  He ended up getting the pain patch which helped quite a bit-he wasn't screaming out in pain anymore.  Unfortunately, on August 4, 2014 I got a call from Hospice that they only expected him to live 72 hours.  He lived only about 5 1/2.  With his parents, my mom, me, and his brother and sister around him-he took his final breath.  He looked at me before taking it-and that is something that will always stay with me. My husband had beautiful blue eyes-but I had never seen them as blue as they were the day his life ended. 


I was a mess. I was angry and wanted to punch him-not angry at him, angry that Melanoma killed him. Angry that our daughter was now without her dad, and she was only 21 months old.  Angry that we weren't growing old together.  Since I knew the end was near, I had already started planning his funeral (at 28, something I never thought I would have to do).  He had a great funeral, his best friend did a eulogy. He was cremated and is now in his grandmother's china cabinet in my kitchen.  He told me if I buried him, he'd haunt me( I believe him, he was passionate about not being in the ground. I had to fulfill those wishes).

It has been a year now.  I dont know that missing him and feeling the pain/anger/hurt gets any easier.  He is a daily conversation in my house-because I keep his name/memory alive for our daughter-who has his love of music, life, and personality.  She is so happy go lucky.  There is a possibility that she could have the BRAF mutation, but at this time I am not going to test her-because I do not need that worry in our lives right now.  We have had benefits for him, done shirts in his memory, and stayed close with those that matter the most and will always honor his memory. 


Does life get easier? I doubt it.  Maybe more tolerable.  I just know that my husband, who only lived to be 29 years old-would want me to advocate as best as I can, and make our daughter have the best life possible-all while remembering him.

mkirkland - (10/14/2015 - 5:55pm)

I have tears in my eyes just reading your story... Your life! I can't even imagine the pain you feel not only to lose your husband but your little babies father! It's just not fair! Your husband sounded like a very brave man. u hope he lives on through y'all's child and you find comfort!