The greatest challenge of my life began in 2012 when I was coaching girls’ high school basketball in Texas. I had a callus break open on the bottom of my left foot right below my third toe.

Initially, I didn’t think much of it, but after a few weeks of the wound not healing, I went to see a podiatrist, a foot doctor friend of mine. He took an x-ray and told me that I had a cyst within the callous and he could cut it out, which he did and showed it to me. It was a gelatin sac with some white fat in it. There was no blood, no dark spots, nothing that gave either one of us concern. Fortunately, he sent it off to pathology to have it looked at.

Two weeks later I received a call from him, and as I mentioned, he was a friend of mine. The more difficulty he was having telling me what was going on, the more frightened I was becoming. Until finally he just laid it out for me. He said, “Terry I have been a doctor for twenty-five years and I have never seen the type of cancer you have. You have an incredibly rare form of malignancy called Acral Lentiginous Melanoma, which appears on the bottom of the feet or the palms of the hands.” Because my cancer is so uncommon, he recommended I be treated at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. So, I did.

I had two surgeries to remove the tumor on the bottom of my foot and all the lymph nodes in my groin and then had a skin graft to close the wound on my foot.

Since, at the time, a melanoma diagnosis was a death sentence, after I healed, my oncologist put me on a weekly injection of the drug, Interferon to help keep the disease from coming back.

Interferon was a horrible, nasty, debilitating drug. The side effects of the Interferon were that it gave me severe flu-like symptoms for 2-3 days after each injection. I lost 50 pounds during my therapy. I was constantly nauseous, fatigued, and chilled, my ability to taste food significantly diminished and my body continually ached. And I took those weekly injections for almost 5 years. So, imagine having the flu every week for 5 years. But that was not a cure. That was just as my oncologist used to say, “We’re trying to kick the can down the road in the hope of buying you more time for additional treatments to become available.”

By 2017, the Interferon became so toxic to my body that I ended up in the Intensive Care Unit with a body temperature of 108 degrees, which usually isn’t compatible with being alive. Fortunately, I was at a Level I Trauma Center and they were able to stabilize me, by literally packing me in ice and giving me a hyperthermic medication, before sending me to the ICU.

Because of the toxicity to the Interferon, I had to stop taking the drug, and almost immediately after discontinuing the medication, the cancer came back in the exact same area on my foot where it initially presented in 2012. This necessitated the amputation of my left foot in 2018.

The melanoma worked its way into my shin in 2019 requiring two more operations.

In 2020, an undiagnosed tumor in my ankle area grew large enough that it fractured my tibia, my shin bone, which required the amputation of my leg above the knee and I also found out I have tumors in my lungs that I am currently being treated for.

My leg amputation occurred in the middle of the COVID pandemic. My wife literally dropped me off at the hospital the morning of the surgery. I was not allowed to have anyone with me. My surgeon had to get special permission to even perform the operation and I was the only surgery scheduled that day. I was supposed to remain in the hospital for ten to fourteen days after the amputation to learn how to function without a leg, but due to COVID, I was sent home after 48 hours.

Once I healed from the amputation, my doctor wanted to put me on chemotherapy. When I asked him if it would save my life, he indicated it might buy me some more time but wouldn’t prevent me from dying.

Initially, I didn’t want to take the chemotherapy, but my family convinced me to take the medication.

I spent six months on chemotherapy. The chemotherapy was a bridge that kept me alive long enough for my doctor to switch me to the clinical trial drug I am currently taking.

The clinical trial drug removes the protein from the cancer that allows it to hide in my body and gives my immune system the opportunity to fight the disease. I have been on the trial medication for almost three years and it has shrunk the tumors in my lungs and kept them stable.

The downside of the trial is that I go to the hospital Monday thru Friday every three weeks and am infused with the medication. The side effects of the drug are that I violently shake, throw up, and have a headache a few hours after receiving the medicine.

I know this journey sounds very dark and depressing, and at times it certainly has been, but I came to appreciate a couple of things, during these past 11 years. First, I don’t believe you ever truly know yourself (or what you are capable of) until you have been tested by some form of adversity. And, second, cancer has made me a better person. It’s made me a better person because I’ve come to appreciate the good fortune I have in my life and it has allowed me to find a new purpose, putting as much goodness, positivity, and love back into the world with whatever time I have left.

Submitted by Terry Tucker