On Oct. 22, 2015 Brandon’s life changed forever. He was diagnosed with stage 3b melanoma. It came as quite a shock after two dermatologists examined him and told him that the mole on his right temple was of no concern. But after a biopsy, the results were not in his favor. It was a rough year for the family – earlier in 2015, Brandon and his wife Brittany suffered the loss of a child due to a miscarriage. But by the time of his cancer diagnosis, his wife was five months pregnant. Brandon knew he had to fight as hard as he knew how to because he was determined to meet his little girl. “My heart dropped when I received the news that I had cancer. I had lost a friend a few years back to melanoma, so immediately my mind started to wander. What stage? Has it spread? What are my options? Am I going to get to meet my daughter? Am I going to die?”
Brandon called his wife to tell her the news. He felt so lost. The two decided to leave work to go home and be together to try and process the devastating diagnosis. Brandon decided to write his unborn daughter a letter, with the fear that he might never get the chance to meet her.
“Even though I had never met her, I was wrapped around her finger. I wanted her to read my words how I felt about her and what she meant to me. I poured my heart out to her and that really helped me cope with my situation. I knew a lot of things were out of my control but what I could do is make an impact on my daughter even if I wasn’t going to be there.”
Nov. 30 was Brandon’s first surgery where doctors removed two inches of skin on his right temple, removed three lymph nodes and did a skin graph from his leg to cover the hole in his head. Two weeks later, Brandon received the news that the cancer had spread to one of the three lymph nodes that was removed and another surgery was required. Jan. 20 was his second surgery where 18 lymph nodes were removed which resulted in a four night hospital stay at Moffitt. He was able to go home on Jan. 24 with instructions to take it easy and to get lots of rest. On the night of Jan. 25, Brandon’s wife’s water broke and they rushed to the hospital to deliver his baby girl, Blakely Ann.
“My neck was all bandaged up but I had the biggest smile you can imagine because I was holding my daughter and I was going to cherish every single second I had with her.”
After a few nights in the hospital, they were able to bring their baby girl home. That week, Brandon had a follow up appointment at Moffitt where Blakely became quite the celebrity.
“The staff at Moffitt has watched my daughter grow in her first year of life. They met her when she was one week old and now I can’t go to an appointment without everyone asking me how she is doing and wanting to see her pictures. Moffitt felt like a home and a family to me.”
In May of 2016 Brandon was accepted into a clinical trial at Moffitt using an immunotherapy drug called Keytruda, the same drug President Carter took after his melanoma spread to his brain and now is cancer free. Brandon is half way through his treatments and has no signs of cancer.
“I wanted to share my story because I know there are other young adults out there who have recently received a cancer diagnosis and feel like they are alone with this disease, but when you’re with Moffitt you aren't alone. Cancer has almost been a blessing; it's taught me how to live my life to the fullest. I've learned not to take anything for granted, not to let the small stuff in life bother me, and that no matter how bad your situation is, there is always somebody fighting a harder battle than you. So in the words of the late Stuart Scott, "Live! Fight like hell! And if you’re too tired to fight one day, lay down and rest, and let somebody else fight for you. We all have someone extra special to live for."