10/17/1960 — 01/03/2013
David was a God-send for me. The brother of a friend, David was a carpenter, new to California and came over to repair severe damage to my home. Working together turned into becoming close friends who were there for each other as true friends are, through thick and thin and rough spots that come along. Then, another literal rough spot became noticeable. It was on the bottom of his heel and looked just like a little blood blister. He then said it had been there a few years already. OH NO! And, he had just gotten steady work and would not take time off to “check a little spot.”
TWO long years later, David’s job stopped, and he finally agreed to have this spot, now worrying him since it’d doubled in size and opened up, finally checked!! “Melanoma” “Cancer” … FEAR and tears rolled. Hope and action were our only choices now. The docs at the melanoma center at CPMC, SF were amazed that all tests showed NO sign of spreading from this primary spot on David’s heel. Surgery was immediate and drastic. Amazing doctors. Arm and thigh tissue, arteries, and skin were taken to eventually reconstruct David’s heel.
After a year and a half of over the Bay Bridge trips to beautiful San Fran with surgeries, scans, long and short periods of at-home and in-patient convalescence, physical therapy, and doctors visits, David was given the all clear and a 10% chance of “inconvenient” “satellite” recurrences that could easily be removed. Two weeks later, I see a “freckle” near the incision area. It is removed, and another surgery is scheduled to “tighten up” the heel skin to make it easier to walk on. “What’s this grey color under his foot skin, doc?” I ask. “It looks like nothing … but I will check and do a biopsy just in case,” he says. I’m not convinced and agree about the biopsy. Then … he looks again, touches it, his brow lowers and he looks worried. We say nothing.
An e-mail comes (kind Dr. Brian Parrett was amazing at communication) shortly after the surgery that David needs to come in for a look at the incision. When I tell him it may be tough to get the time off of work, Doc makes it clear David should not come alone; he needs me there and the news is not good. Sigh … Biopsy confirms the melanoma was spreading in a new way in David’s fat tissue. It has mutated into what they called a fast-growing C-Kit mutation. Trying to keep our heads clear, decisions are made for immediate treatments.
So begin trials: First bio-chemo in the hospital. During the first extremely grueling ordeal of what was to be four treatments, docs determine David’s body cannot handle it. They stop the treatment of what they say was his only hope of beating this. NOT giving up! Research! What else can be tried? Choices: new trial offering possibly a few extra months of life. Not happy about it; David chooses this one. His kind heart says that even if it does not cure him, it will help someone else down the road.
After a couple of months, it shows reduction in the tumors. Hope? Then, shortly after this news, severe headaches come and what seems to be signs of a mini-stroke: slurred speech and inability to write. Scans determine eight brain lesions and three in the spine. Don’t want to give up! Radiation “just to relieve the pain” does not work even for that. Hospice recommended. I promised to keep him home with me and did. Four months and he is gone. “I was supposed to get better,” he said. Yes, … he was. Many “what-if’s” must be pushed aside.
Now, I’m getting back into work as a teacher and tutor and making myself available for others going through similar circumstances fighting melanoma and/or going through the pain and heartache of hospice and grief.
Thank you for reading David’s story and mine. Always hoping love, comfort, determination, and strength surrounds all who are touched by this dreaded monster.
Abigail Sharon Patricia, best friend and companion