My family is honored to have crossed paths with so many compassionate people. We are thankful for those who loved us through not only cancer, but our entire life together from the day Brian and I married on September 26, 1992, until he left this world on May 28, 2012.
My hope is that one day there will be a cure for all cancers. Until then, we can all do our best to manage our health and know our risks. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk.
This is Brian after his surgery in 2007. Diagnosis: stage 1B melanoma. A large, football-shaped piece of skin was removed along with a tumor. Lymph nodes were taken from his armpit. The original mole was less than one centimeter in diameter. We had no reason to believe melanoma would return. It did 5 years later.
This is just part of the in-home pharmacy I worked from to make sure Brian was comfortable and as pain-free as possible while he lived out his last days. I coded and labeled everything, had an app that alerted me when it was time to dispense meds, and I stayed in constant contact with our hospice superheroes who worked tirelessly to come up with the best pain management plans possible. When I look at those pill bottles now I can still rattle off a lot of medications. There is not one for grief. Sure, you can take things to help you cope, but there isn't a pill to cure it.
Brian was an athlete - a runner, swimmer, paddle boarder, weight lifter - who could turn just about anything into exercise or competition. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic melanoma on February 10, 2012, his biceps were 17-1/2 inches. He lost weight rapidly as the disease progressed over 112 days. The photo on the right was taken in the last month of his life. His biceps were 11 inches. The difference is startling. Had he not been in such impeccable physical condition, I don't know that we would have enjoyed 112 days. ...Brian would have said "all things in moderation" though. He would never turn down a piece of carrot cake! Take care. Live epically.
- Know your skin - be aware of changes. Brian's cancer began as a tiny, innocent-looking mole. Spots on your skin that change in size, color, and shape should be taken seriously and checked by a doctor.
- Use sunscreen and protective clothing - the sun is wonderful and we should all be out playing in it and enjoying the benefits and beauty, but sunburns are extremely dangerous and can be deadly.
- Give up the tanning beds - golden skin is not so pretty when you're lying in a bed, suffering and dying of cancer. Skip the tanning bed. You're gorgeous and radiant just as you are.
Take some time to visit the following websites to better understand melanoma and what you can do to save your skin.
For those who never had the opportunity to meet Brian, here's a short glimpse at his life and his family.
Brian asked me to write our story. I promised I would.
This is my family today: Jacqueline, Jordan, Brittany, and Brian.
We have each learned to hold on and let go in our own ways, in our own time. I recently ran into a friend who left me with five words of wisdom: Love Them While They're Here.