Today’s guest post is from Cindy. This was her first Thanksgiving since Tim’s passing, and she found writing about him quite emotional but also cathartic. Interestingly, Tim also had an ALK mutation, an uncommon occurrence in someone with SCLC.
My husband, Tim, died from non-small cell lung cancer April 27, 2102 after a two and ½ year battle; he was 51 years old. In April of 2009 he had a complete physical and received a clean bill of health. In June he started feeling run down and had a nagging cough. He went to the doctor. Mind you this is about the 6th time I had seen him go to the doctor in the 25 years we had been together. They x-rayed and gave him steroids. He felt better with the steroids, but the cough and fatigue returned after the doses ended. He was also noticing that the eye sight was getting worse in one eye. He went to an eye doctor who immediately sent him to a specialist. The first diagnosis was ocular melanoma, not to be confused with skin cancer. We were terrified, but had a clear plan. After a standard PET scan to be sure it had not spread, they would radiate the cancer with a small puck behind his eye. Done. We even consulted with the radiologist and were getting ready to schedule the appointment. We received a call from the radiologist saying they saw something on the scan. Apparently it had spread. They did not think it was ocular melanoma anymore. Next step, biopsy. Of course we all know the answer to the biopsy question. Prognosis was about 16 months. As terrified as we were with the ocular melanoma diagnosis, at that point I would have given anything to go back to that point.
I will say that Tim (and I) smoked for many years. We quit when Tim turned 40 and he was diagnosed with lung cancer at 48. We have two teenage children who lived through this with us. They are caring and compassionate children and this experience has made them more so. When he was diagnosed Tim asked them to please, for him, don’t turn to drugs or alcohol to drown their sorrows. He asked them to live their life to the very fullest, if not in spite of this, because of this. We vowed to spend as much time together as a family as we could and started planning many, many wonderful vacations and events for the 4 of us. We had some real fun.
After about 8 months of the normal treatments Tim’s oncologist sent us to the University of Colorado Hospital where we met Dr Ross Camidge. There our hopes were bolstered. Turns out Tim had the ALK gene and was able to start on the crizotinib trial. What a miracle. He was feeling great, the cancer was gone. We were having a blast! The best part of that lasted about 8 months. The cancer then found its way to his brain. Whole brain radiation followed and then some progression of the cancer in his liver. The end of May 2011, right after a high school graduation cruise for our daughter, he was removed from the trial. The next 9 months were up and down. There were new trials and new trial failures. There was more radiation and then finally, nothing they could do. He held on so tight and tried as hard as he could. I know he was so very worried about his family, but when they told him there was nothing else to do, he was able to let go. His passing was quiet and beautiful with me, our kids and our dogs there to help him go.
Tim will be remembered for his great sense of humor and positive outlook on life. He always had something good to say to the doctors and staff and was always trying to make them laugh, even when they were telling him bad news. He rarely complained and tried his hardest to participate in everything up until the day he passed. Heck, he worked almost every day until about 2 weeks before he went. He was a good man and my best friend and, smoker or not, he did not deserve to have to leave us so soon.