Who would have believed a year ago that you would be gone. In November 2011, you finally showed the Doctor that cute little mole that you always had. But it had changed, became red and angry looking. After a simple biopsy showed melanoma cells, a dissection of the area and lymph node was done on January 5th. It was great news when the lymph nodes showed no sign of melanoma. As far as we were concerned, you were in the clear and had nothing to worry about unless we found another mole.
On leap day, February 29, 2012, I came home from work and found you on the floor. Unable to speak a simple sentence it first appeared to be a stroke. At the Emergency Room they immediately took you for a CT Scan and that is when our world turned upside down. The diagnosis was metastatic melanoma. Tumors on both sides of your brain. I prayed for God to give us a little more time. More time for me to get used to the idea of the possibility of losing you. We moved you to The Ohio State University Medical Center James Cancer Institute where they ran an MRI during the night and on Thursday morning the tumor board met and decided upon surgery on both sides of your brain. The MRI also showed the melanoma had already spread to the lower lobes of your lungs and to a rib which it had broken. At that time, unless the brain was taken care of, the other areas would make no difference. The surgery was scheduled for Friday March 2, 2012 and was just over 10 hours. In the recovery room, you were alert and able to talk and move and I believe that it was a miracle performed by God through the skilled hands of Dr. Elder. You were released from the hospital on Monday March 5th and needed only the use of a walker for a few days.
The next stop was radiation. 10 days of radiation to the brain. On the final day, you took me back with you and I was allowed to watch them put your mask on you and snap you down to the table for your final treatment. I backed out of the room as they snapped the last one down feeling very claustrophobic for you. Dr. Fen Xia was amazed at your progress and said no one on the tumor board had much hope that you would be functioning after the surgery. She called you a miracle.
Then it was off to the Melanoma Specialist, Dr. Kari Kendra. We met her Fellow first. He was the one who told us that 75% of patients with Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma lived 7 months. 10% will live for 2 years. Because we could not remember his name and he is the only one who gave us this information, we nicknamed him Dr. Happy Pants. Dr. Kendra told us that melanoma often spreads through the bloodstream instead of the lymph node system. Your Chemotherapy was pills taken at home for 5 days every 28 days. We laughed when the first shipment came in a large box with 5 large prescription bottles containing 1 pill each. The bottles were marked Day 1 through Day 5. Dr. Kendra was amazed that you had no side effects from the Chemotherapy and that you were progressing so well. We had no reason to believe that you would not be one of the 10% who lived for 2 years.
Your rib started bothering you and on June 18th you started 5 days of radiation to your rib causing you to skip a month of the chemotherapy. Still, you were active, working outside like you loved to do and no reason to believe there was any problem.
On July 13, 2012 you woke up with a cold and was coughing. You were so irritated with me when I suggested you call our regular doctor. You suffered through the weekend and on Monday morning asked me to make the appointment for you. She gave you antibiotics,and albuteral and sent you for a chest xray. The xray tech said we needed to wait until the Radiologist talked to the Doctor. We told here we already knew there was cancer at the bottom lobe of your lungs. We were able to come home where you did not get any better.
On Sunday, July 22, 2012. after spending the day feeling bad, you asked me to call the squad. You spent the week in ICU at the local hospital and it was determined that you had bloody plural effusion on your right lung. You had a chest tube put in and I was given instructions on how to drain your lung when it became uncomfortable for you. You came home on Friday around 4 p.m. and I called our friend Timmy to come help get you in the house because you were so weak. You spent the weekend in bed. On Sunday morning at 6 a.m. you asked me if I would call the squad for you again. We tried draining the lung and there was hardly anything so the squad was called and you went back to the local hospital.
On Monday, June 30, 2012, we decided to request they move you back to OSU where your Oncologist would have some say in your treatment. We spent Monday night in the James and on Tuesday morning you were moved to CCU and put on B-Pap. You had developed sepsis and they needed to find where it was coming from. By 9 a.m. Dr. Kendra was talking with the group of doctors. You said to her, there is my pretty doctor and made her smile. By Tuesday afternoon, the group of doctors decided that in order to continue running tests you should be put on a ventilator and at that time they could also take a biopsy of your lung tissue. Your response was simple, "breathing is good". We agreed that the ventilator would remain only until there were no more tests to run unless something was found to make you better. After we kissed and both said "I love you" I went out and called my sister, Vickie. She came and stayed with me Tuesday and Wednesday nights. In the mornings at 5, the nurse would tell me you had a good night and I was encouraged by your vitals and you would wake up just enough to know I was there and nod and smile. At 9 when the Doctors made their rounds, I would hear worse news. On Thursday afternoon, they were down to one last test. They would test the plural effusion. They found nothing and the results from the lung biopsy was back. Rhinovirus. (cold) Your daughter, Beth, was on her way from Virginia and would be there Friday morning. I asked that they remove the ventilator around 9 am Friday morning.
My sister had to leave. She had an interview Friday morning. She did not want to leave me there alone. The nurse came out and told me that because you were being changed from Critical Care to Comfort Care, I could stay in your room for the night. I held your hand as much as I could during the night.
At 5 a.m. July 27, 2012 you were awake. You gave me a look and I asked you if you were tired of this. You nodded that you were. You will never know how hard it was for me to tell you without crying. They are going to take it off this morning. I am so sorry they did not find anything. You shook your head no. I told you "I love you so much. When they take it off, if you want to, you can get out of that bed and we will get the hell out of here and go home." You smiled and shook your head no again. I told you, the kids will all be here at 9. That is when they will take it off, if you just want to sleep for a few more hours. You closed your eyes and went back to sleep. I watched you sleep, I cried, I waited for that dreaded time.
When the kids got there, you were not as alert but you knew they were there. When the doctors came in, they asked us to step out while they removed the ventilator and then we would go right back in. They pulled the curtains closed. The nurse had told us it could be seconds, minutes or hours. I found a crack in the curtains and watched as they removed the tube. You still had oxygen and you smiled your beautiful smile. I am so glad I saw that. It gives me comfort to know I saw your last smile. By the time we got back inside you were starting to struggle to breathe. It was just a few minutes and you were gone from me. I sat with you for a few minutes more. I kissed you and I went out.
Everything you had been through and all they could find was a cold. I realize it was the melanoma in your lungs that was probably what took you from me, but you were doing so well until you caught the cold. You are the bravest man I have ever known. Through all of this, you were so strong which helped me to be strong. No one fights alone.
You are missed by many, especially me.