Terry Walker

4/29/1952 — 12/16/2011

Terry’s melanoma journey began in December 2009, at a long overdue physical with his primary care physician. I finally gave up and made the appointment for him. He had a small cyst on his chest just below his throat. The primary care doctor didn’t think anything of it but told him to see a surgeon for removal. He met with the surgeon, and he also thought it was nothing major. Surgery was scheduled for 3/31/2010.

On his follow-up visit to the surgeon on 4/12/2010, he was given the news “malignant metastic melanoma” was found and would require additional testing and surgery to get a clear margin. Ignorance is bliss because his comment to the doctor was “I only want 20 more years.” He underwent an MRI on 4/16 and PET scan on 4/19. Our daughter was getting married on 5/1 so he scheduled follow-up surgery on 5/12. The surgeon was aware of the wedding and choose to delay telling him the findings of the tests until 5/3. He had one lung lesion and one lesion in the groin, but
the primary site was unknown. His family has a history of moles but no history of melanoma. All visits to the dermatologist had resulted in benign biopsies.

Terry did undergo surgery on 5/12, which resulted in clear margins, and he was referred to the University of Virginia for further treatment. After further testing and a lung biopsy to confirm the original diagnosis, he began the first of two rounds of IL2 treatment in June 2010. He started a second round of IL2 in October but was unable to complete the second week of treatment due to a DVT in his leg and a pleural embolism. He began IL2 again in late January 2011 and completed the cycle in February. He was feeling pretty good, with his next scans scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day. On March 3, Terry started experiencing seizures and was rushed to the local ER; diagnosis three brain tumors. One was removed surgically and the remaining two were treated via gamma knife. On April 14, he was again rushed to the ER with extreme pain in both legs. Diagnosis was full leg DVT in both legs. He spent 9 days in the hospital and came home with major swelling from the waist down. Another MRI on 5/19 revealed another small brain tumor, which was again treated with gamma knife.

A PET scan in May, however, revealed suspicious activity in upper intestine. His oncologist recommended six cycles of chemotherapy. He completed four cycles with the only complications being breathlessness and extreme fatigue. A PET scan in mid-August showed progressive disease, and chemotherapy was discontinued. His breathing became much more difficult, and after additional consultations with the oncologist, he decided to discontinue any type of treatment and began hospice care on 9/1/11. His quality of life continued to diminish over time, and by Thanksgiving he required full-time assistance to get out of bed. Terry went from working 50-60 hours a week in a manufacturing facility to disability retirement and not enough energy to do anything.

After 20+ months following diagnosis, Terry went into a coma on 12/14 and passed away peacefully on 12/16.

Susan, wife

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