Shannon Hudson: Melanoma Angel
My name is Michelle Hudson and I’m the wife of and was the caretaker for Shannon Hudson (5/28-78 – 10/9/13). Shannon was born and raised in Florida and spent most of his time outdoors at the beach and on the lake. He never wore sunscreen or a shirt and had a deep tan/red complexion. By the age of 15, he was an avid boater and also a roofer. Most of his adult life he worked an outside job never wearing a shirt or sunscreen and nothing more than a ballcap to protect himself.
Shannon had the same mole on the back of his left arm since at least 16 or 17 years of age. The mole was a light brown and average, nothing to worry about. After our first daughter was born in 2004 the mole started to get darker and seemed to be changing some—we were 25 and 26. One day in the time frame of about 2005-2006 the mole incurred some trauma as Shannon accidentally scraped it on a piece of metal at work. The mole then went away for about a year or so (we knew nothing of skin cancer mole watching or any of this). Around 2007 when our second daughter was born we noticed the mole had returned but now was like a small M&M under his skin where the external mole once was (boy I wish I knew then what I know now). My husband being the stubborn man that he is insisted it was fine, no big deal and all was well.
Around 2009 we noticed that the “lump” had gotten quite large, however, we had no health insurance. Everyone kept insisting Shannon get it checked out just in case. He felt fine, “it’s just a cyst” he assured everyone (tears…I sure wish I knew then what I know now). Finally, after obtaining an inside job with great health insurance in 2011, he was able to finally see a doctor about this now quite large lump on his arm (ping pong ball size). They did a biopsy and it tripled in size within a week—we were so scared—he knew it was bad. The [doctor] told us it came back as melanoma and we needed to be seen at Moffit Cancer center right away to get it removed. We went to Moffit two to three days later and the surgical oncologist took one look at Shannon’s arm and said “oh this is bad, you need this removed yesterday” and he was immediately scheduled for surgery. He had his lymph dye test and a few of his lymph nodes showed a little something so they decided when they did the radical excision on his back left arm they also removed six to seven lymph nodes. When I got home that night and did some research on melanoma I was floored. Basically, they said my husband had five years to live. I didn’t know what to do or say or think. We took out a cancer policy and a small life insurance policy.
My husband decided against Interferon as he wanted to continue to work and was young. The first year went well as he did his scans and went to his appointments and saw the dermatologist. However, as we came into the second year, 2012, he started to miss appointments, said he was fine. He didn’t need to miss work to see the doctor and he felt fine as they cut it out (wish I knew then what I know now). I stopped nagging. Our marriage was at a critical point and not a good one so I buried myself in my business and he in his work and we were like roommates.
Around January 2013 my husband started having back pains and night sweats and chalked it up to midlife crisis and our marital issues, but they got worse and finally, near the end of March he finally agreed to go to the doctor. He was told the cancer had spread to his abdomen and there was an 11-12cm tumor encased in his small intestine. He had to be given three bags of blood as he was bleeding internally and didn’t even know it. The cancer was also in his liver—five to six lesions. They told him six to seven months he would have to live but there were pills he could take that may prolong his life and shrink the tumors; however, the pills would only work for six to seven months—this was April 1st, 2013. He started Zelboraf in April 2013 and by June had seen major shrinkage on his tumors; we were so happy.
They did another surgery in July to remove 2 more melanomas on his back; however, they also discovered the cancer had now spread to his brain and he had 3 brain tumors. He did a stereotactic radiation and they took him off his Zelboraf for a week before surgery and a week after. This is when the pills stopped working. By August 12th he went back to the hospital and they determined the abdominal tumor was 16cm and the liver tumors had grown and the three brain tumors were untreatable.
On August 20th, the first day of school for our daughters, they sent my husband home on hospice. We spent the next seven weeks in love, laughing, holding each other crying, and I watched him as he slipped away day after day. On October 9th, 2013, I held his hand and cried with him as he took his last breath and passed at 6:47 pm. It was the most life-changing event I have ever witnessed.