Melanoma Research Program, Consumer Peer Reviewer FY19-FY21, Programmatic Panel Member FY22-present
In December 2013, my wife Terry and I were living in Prague where I had been working for four years. We returned to the states for Christmas break and were looking forward to seeing and spending time with our family. During our visit, I also scheduled a dermatology appointment, as I had a small pimple that turned into a cyst type bump on the top of my head. On December 23 my doctor took a biopsy and three days later I had a diagnosis of spindle cell melanoma, a rare subtype of malignant melanoma.
Our family realized we needed to educate ourselves about this disease to better understand and prepare for the battle ahead. That’s when we discovered the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF). The knowledge base on melanoma is quite extensive, and a bit overwhelming, so the MRF website and its educational materials were invaluable resources for us.
The process from diagnosis to surgery with daily radiation treatments took three months. As we were planning our return trip back to work in Prague, I discovered a small bump just outside the radiation area. A biopsy confirmed the melanoma had already returned and further testing with a PET scan showed that the melanoma had spread throughout my liver and lungs. I now had Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma. My doctor said my best chance was a clinical trial that was being offered at Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida. With that choice, I knew that being a part of cutting-edge research in a clinical trial was just as important as finding a solution for my situation.
On November 13, 2015, we finally had a reason to celebrate. We heard the words I wasn’t quite sure I’d ever hear, "Doug, your scans show no evidence of disease."
Throughout my journey from Stage IV Melanoma to No Evidence of Disease I felt it was important to help others understand the value of education, research, and advocacy for this disease. I am thankful for the scientists, doctors, and organizations that bring this disease to the forefront. My experience on a successful—albeit challenging clinical trial—led me to develop a passion for ensuring that the necessary research continues to be funded and findings shared.
Since retiring from the business world in 2017, I’ve devoted most of my time to taking up a role on the MRF, first as an advocate, then joining the Board of Directors, and finally moving up to my current role as the Chairman of the Board. I also enjoy working on start-up boards, being a senior advisor, playing golf, and spending time with my kids and grandkids.
I was nominated to become a consumer reviewer for the CDMRP in 2019 through my relationship with the MRF. It is rewarding to be a patient advocate and have my viewpoint and experiences factor into funding recommendations for promising research. The interaction with the scientific community and understanding how they value the consumer opinion is quite gratifying to see. As I am with the MRF, I am dedicated to helping the MRP find a cure for melanoma and build a strong, supportive network of advocates.
The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this paper are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of Defense position, policy or decision.
Last updated Friday, May 5, 2023