Dr. Reza Mehran - Thoracic Surgeon, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Operated on both of my lungs (2 surgeries). Removed the last known traces of metastatic melanoma from my body.
Also, the one who sent me home this week & cancelled my surgery because there was no need for additional surgery because the P.E.T. scans were normal. He told me "Go home, Mr. Madaris, and enjoy your summer."
Dr. Edward Kim - Thoracic Medical Oncologist, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
I only had one appointment with, but it was hugely significant. He read a bunch of test & scan results, examined me, diagnosed me with stage IV metastatic melanoma--a very grim diagnosis--and said, "I'd like to be aggressive if that's OK with you. I'd like to speak with a friend of mine who is a surgeon & see if he'll go get those spots out of your lung." (thus, was I referred to Dr. Mehran for the first time)
Dr. Jade Homsi - Medical Melanoma Oncologist
My "main" Dr. out at MDA. A native of Syria, he is the one who laid out the medical options in addition to surgery, deciding on high-dose immunotherapy. He's been very good at keeping me on schedule with tests, scans, appts., and with handing me off to thoracic and to Dr. Mehran.
Dr. Patrick Hwu ("Who") - Chairman, Medical Melanoma Dept.
Presiding physician for my first round of high-dose immunotherapy using interleukin ("IL-2"). A very impressive, soft-spoken man, who has one of the great bedside manners ever. Dr. Hwu was on the team the developed the high-dose IL-2 treatment protocol some years ago. I mentioned this to him, and he emphasized "I just one small part of the team." He then said "there's so much we don't know about this illness..." Said it rather wistfully, actually.
Dr. Wen-Jen Hwu (also "Who," though no relation to Dr. Patrick Hwu) - Medical Melanoma Oncologist
Presiding physician for my second round of high-dose IL-2. She was also very pleasant to be around. Very competent...always smiling. She was very excited that I made it one treatment farther with round 2 than with round 1.
Jessie Richard - Medical Melanoma Advanced Practice Nurse
She was the hands-on nurse for both of my IL-2 cycles. She is an incredible nurse. Highly competent & impressive, with a great bedside manner. She also loves to fish in the northern Gulf for Spanish Mackeral. We swapped tips & lure recommendations. Which reminds me...I need to send her some of the ones used over in our part of the Gulf. She was not familiar with it.
Meritas Domine - Medical Melanoma Nurse
In the course of our many visits to Dr. Homsi's office, plus the many accompanying phone calls about tests, appts., scans, etc., we have spent a lot of time with her. This past week, she called after our appt. w/ Dr. Mehran when he sent us home. She was so very excited about my P.E.T. results.
Dr. Nagen Bellare - Medical Oncologist, Hattiesburg Clinic
I've written about him before, but he is awesome! Last Spring, he put me through a number of tests & scans here, the results of which were inconclusive. He said, "I have a hunch...I'd like you to go to M.D. Anderson for more testing..." Thank God for his hunch! Nagen was a friend for several years before he became my oncologist.
Dr. Ric Pecunia - Plastic Surgeon, Hattiesburg Clinic
Ric performed the surgery in 05 that removed my original melanoma. At the same time, he did two sentinel lymph surgeries, plus a skin graft. At our first meeting, he walked into the room and said "Hi, I'm Ric." Love it! I've seen him several times in the 3.5 years since, and he always makes a point of asking how I'm doing.
Dr. Brett Robbins - Family Practice, Hattiesburg Clinic's Lake Serene Clinic
My primary care Dr. who did the initial excision in Nov. 05 of what turned out to be melanoma. Also a friend. Great sense of humor, very good skills. He gets online & tracks my reports from MDA, which I appreciate.
As I look over this list of some of my heroes, I'm struck that every single one of them approaches their profession out of a genuine sense of calling. With great passion. I am grateful for every one of them. It is not much of a stretch to say that I am alive today & healthy because of them.
It's been a hellacious, difficult, joyful, tearful, demanding, expensive, triumphant ride. I'm so glad to have made some new friends who have become heroes to me. Don't you long for the day when “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away?"
Until then, rejoice with me that my friends listed here are just a sampling of the vital ones we'll need in varying degrees until then. And pray--fervently pray--for all of those working to eradicate cancer and "make cancer history." Imagine with me some time in the future: "It's melanoma...here, take this shot today & these 2 pills for 6 months & you'll be fine." Pray toward that end with me, won't you?
Celebrating Medical Heroes & longing for the day when they're no longer needed,