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Dave's Story

Monday, August 23, 2004 11:56 PM CDT

THE HISTORY

For those of you who don't know the full story of Dave's brain tumor saga....here's the copy I just submitted to virtualtrials.com There's more to add, but this is the basic story.

Dave Meyer’s Story

In 1996, my husband, Dave, was 33 years old with two small boys and a baby girl. He was a high school history teacher who coached football and basketball, working out with his teams and riding his bike to school. He was full of life and energy and love for everyone around him. His life motto has always been, “Use things, love people.” He had a few headaches, but attributed them to fatigue. He was considering visiting the doctor, because he noticed during basketball games he’d occasionally be overcome with a funny, surreal feeling and sounds were distorted. But before he could make that appointment, the world crashed in. He was driving to Portland with his brother, early in the morning, December 23, 1996. They hit a patch of ice and the van rolled 3 times. The state patrol called our home to say he’d been taken to the hospital. It took me over an hour to locate the right hospital. By that time, I was frantic, but when I finally talked with the ER nurse, she said, “Yep, they’re cracking the nurses up. Your brother needs a stitch over his eye, but that’s it. You can come get them!” “Whew,” I thought, “That was close!” Little did I know.

When I walked into his room, Dave said, “There’s something growing in my head.” I looked at the doctor and said, “Is he okay?” thinking Dave was one fry short of a happy meal. The doctor said, “Not really,” and popped a CT film over the lights. They had done the scan because his heartbeat was irregular and his eyes were unequally dilated. Even to my untrained eye, the tumor was huge, taking up fully a quarter of his head and pushing his brain to the side. “That has to come out,” I said. “You got that right,” said the doc. “If he hadn’t been in this accident, he’d have been dead in a month or two.” Who knew you could be grateful for car accidents?

So, we were off to the nearest neurosurgery center, which happened to be in our hometown, Walla Walla, WA. We saw the neurosurgeon that night and they did an MRI. They put Dave on decadron and dilantin and sent him home for Christmas.

Dave had surgery on January 6, 1997. There were 20 people in the waiting room, pulling for Dave, all with “sympathy bandages” on their heads. The doctors were unable to remove the entire tumor because it was wound around some major vessels and his optic nerve. The diagnosis was anaplastic astrocytoma grade 2-3. The neurosurgeon had said earlier that if it was “cancer” that it was probably a slow-growing variety, since the tumor had grown so large with so few symptoms. Even though they said cancer, we were feeling pretty confident that it was slow growing and all would be okay. Until I got to ICU. The nurse was a friend of Dave’s from high school and she was crying. She wouldn’t look me in the eye. I knew I didn’t have the full story. So back to the neurosurgeon I went. “Tell me the story again.” Finally, he asked if I was asking for numbers. I said, “Yes, I guess I am.” He said, “With treatment, 80% of the people with this type of cancer live 2-3 years.” My mind reeled. WHAT??? He has 3 small children who need him. This cannot happen. But I knew that Dave had never been at only 80% his entire life. He had to be in the group that lived, he just had to.

I told Dave about the diagnosis. He smiled his famous smile and said, “Get me out of this place. Hospitals are for sick people!” He went home after only 3 days of charming the nurses. A few weeks after that, he made a surprise appearance at a community concert: “Conspiracy of Hope.” This concert benefits a different charity each year, and Dave was instrumental in getting it started a few years before. He sang a song that he wrote for our son, Kenny, who has autism. It was wonderful, and the crowd went wild!

Dave had 33 sessions of radiation. Our entire community was praying for him, bringing us meals, helping with the driving and the kids, bringing meals and groceries to our home. He went back to work right after radiation began. Staff had donated enough time for Dave to take the entire year off, with pay, but he went back to work after only a few weeks. The radiation oncologist said, “Well, what’s the plan here?” And Dave replied, “We’re going to kick its butt!” His strength and attitude are inspiring.

Dave continued to have MRI’s every 3 months. After 6 months, the residual tumor began to shrink away. Pretty soon the scans were deemed “clean” and only taken every 6 months. Dave just continued doing all the things he’s so good at, teaching, coaching, singing and inspiring. He often said, “It ain’t nothin’ but a thang. There’s a reason I’m still here.”

Dave’s tumor showed some growth 6.5 years later, March of 2004. After much consultation, he had another surgery, this time at the University of Washington. Then he began a regimen of high-dose temodar. He took this chemo for 21 days then rested for 7, as opposed to the usual take for 5, rest for 23. And right after he started chemo, we decided to take the kids to Disneyland. Kate came down with chicken pox the morning of our second day there. Isn’t that just typical? Oh well. Even then, Dave managed to smile.

Dave continued on the chemo for 14 months. During all this time, he continued to teach, coach, play music, and encourage hundreds of kids, especially his own three.

Just this last week (8/19/04), Dave was at UW again for gamma knife radiation to treat two tiny tumors that were found on his last scan. On his website, www.caringbridge.org/wa/davemeyer you can see his incredible smile as they screwed the frame into his head.

Today, he’s 41 and grateful for every day. He celebrates his survivor status by saying, “Well, sometimes you have to excuse me if I act like a kid…I’m only 7 and a half in my new life!”

When he first found out about his tumor he said, “My first goal is to be home for my baby girl’s first Christmas. My next goal is to dance at her wedding.” We all have no doubt…he’ll be there!

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