Scott's Battle

May 1, 2011: the morning of the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. Gathered into the starting corral, Scott was readying to begin what would be his greatest running challenge to date: a full marathon. He began conservatively over the first seven miles.

Mile 1 – 8:24 / Mile 2 – 8:06 / Mile 3 – 8:13 / Mile 4 – 8:03 / Mile 5 – 8:12 / Mile 6 – 8:10 / Mile 7 – 8:15

Those splits began to quicken before the halfway point.

Mile 8 – 7:57 / Mile 9 – 7:50 / Mile 10 – 7:43 / Mile 11 – 7:48 / Mile 12 – 7:58

Perhaps feeling some fatigue, or possibly saving some energy for later in the race, the pace slowed.

Mile 13 – 8:08 / Mile 14 – 8:06 / Mile 15 – 8:25 / Mile 16 – 8:20 / Mile 17 – 8:30 / Mile 18 – 8:35 / Mile 19 – 8:41 / Mile 20 – 8:54

As the number of miles remaining dwindled, the pace of said miles continually crept higher.

Mile 21 – 9:16 / Mile 22 – 8:53 / Mile 23 – 9:17 / Mile 24 – 9:27

And then, it happened. As any marathon runner will tell you, at a certain point, a wall is hit.

Mile 25 – 11:37

After countless hours pounding the pavement and lifting weights, there was a choice to be made. Do you give in to your body and allow the wall to win? Or, mustering every ounce of heart and soul, do you find that one more push to finish triumphantly?

Mile 26 – 8:59

Last 0.54 Miles – 3:59

Scott chose one more push. It was a trait that had grown to define his personality; a trait that would be put to the test mere months later, when news brought all our worlds to a screeching halt.

Back pain was the first noticeable sign of something being amiss. Holding at a tolerable level, and since he ran north of 100 miles each month, Scott believed he had simply picked up some type of nagging running injury. However, as August progressed, the pain became increasingly unbearable. On the morning of September 1, with agonizing pain having led to days of being confined to his bed, Scott was taken to the hospital for an MRI. A shocking discovery was made: a tumor in his sacrum. The next day, routine testing turned into anything but; more tumors were revealed: one in his chest cavity, two on his liver, and one on his right lung. Had we not known the previous day, we knew now: Scott had cancer.

An official diagnosis did not come until a transfer to UPMC Shadyside in Pittsburgh: stage 4 mixed cell carcinoma lung cancer, small cell & squamous cell.  In hopes of shrinking the tumor in his sacrum and alieving his debilitating back pain, Scott underwent radiation treatments. Unfortunately, there was little pain relief by the time we traveled to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for a second opinion. The specialist at Johns Hopkins came back with the same diagnosis: stage 4 mixed cell carcinoma lung cancer, small cell & squamous cell.

Each doctor that visited Scott was baffled. How could an otherwise healthy young man, a competitive runner and nonsmoker, be afflicted with lung cancer? That answer, even to the present, remains elusive. Optimism, though, was high, as his first chemotherapy cycle began just a day after arriving back home from Baltimore. Initially, everything appeared well; while his appetite was suffering, he was not experiencing the sickness commonly associated with chemotherapy. The treatments must have been working as hoped, as Scott was more mobile than he had been since his diagnosis. However, just one day before he was set to begin his second round of chemotherapy, the pain in his back once again became excruciating. Another trip to the local emergency room was made in hopes to alleviate, then control, his pain; 8 mg of Dilaudid (a drug four times as powerful as Morphine) later, the pain was finally manageable. A transfer to UPMC Shadyside was once again sought, and in the late hours of the night, Scott was resting as comfortably as possible on 7 Main.

Due to the setback, chemotherapy was delayed as they adjusted the drugs Scott was to be given for his next cycle. Further scans had shown the tumors had spread to his left hip and femur, necessitating surgery to insert a titanium rod into his left femur to prevent fracture during, what would be, additional radiation treatments; fluid was also drained from around his right lung.

Scott’s second cycle of chemotherapy, along with the additional radiation treatments, was completed shortly before Thanksgiving, allowing our family the chance to share Thanksgiving dinner around our dining room table. As pain free as he had been since this ordeal began, Scott joined us at the table, laughing and joking as he had so many years prior. Friday was another positive step forward, as he sat in our living room rocking chair, flipping through the countless Black Friday ads mailed to the house. Saturday found the tide beginning to turn however, with the all too familiar pain creeping back into his body. And on Sunday, the realization of what may come was all too present in our minds.

Not only had the pain returned, but Scott also complained of difficulty breathing. We quickly called our neighbor and long-time family friend over to the house. As the chief nurse of the local emergency room, she watched over Scott during his time at home. Late this Sunday evening, she sat with Scott, attempting to calm his nerves, as she called for an ambulance. Another trip to the emergency room was in store, followed by yet another transfer to UPMC Shadyside.

Optimism, by this time, had begun to wane. Fluid once again necessitated draining, this time from around Scott’s heart, as this had been the cause of his breathing difficulties. All the physical setbacks, from the beginning of his ordeal through December, were difficult to comprehend. Nonetheless, we still had Scott: our son, our brother, our nephew, our friend. However, all was quickly coming to an end.

Many days during this ordeal are a blur in our memories; this specific day, this specific moment, for our family, is not. The tumors were now impacting Scott’s bones, drawing calcium into his bloodstream. The elevated calcium levels caused by this began impacting his mind, rendering Scott confused. Our loved one, the man who had dedicated himself to a healthy way of living, the one who had finished his first full marathon in a mere 3:46, was now merely a body in a hospital bed. Shortly thereafter, doctors gave us the grim outlook: if Scott did not get stronger, chemotherapy could not be done. He underwent surgery to insert a PEG tube, hoping this would strengthen his body. This attempt, however, was too late. Doctors informed us of Scott’s prognosis: weeks more, maybe. News you are never prepared to hear.

Scott had expressed his desire to go home; we, as a family, were not going to deny him his wishes. Our wish: one miracle, strengthening Scott for just one more shot at chemotherapy. Such was not to be, as our home care nurse made the suggestion of moving from cure to care. Less than a week later, on December 20, surrounded by his family, Scott peacefully drifted away, basked in the glow of the family Christmas tree he had so loved.

Throughout his ordeal, Scott kept his trademark smile and considerate attitude. Not a day passed when Scott did not thank the nurses and doctors for all they were doing. Our family was blindsided by the diagnosis, never believing a healthy young man could develop lung cancer. We continue the battle Scott began, and with your help, we can ensure no other family suffers the heartache our family has had to endure. Together, we can.