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Keeping the Faith

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Submitted by:
Danielle Bienz

On Sunday, May 1st my younger brother, Steven, lost peripheral vision in his left eye. He was also having headaches causing extreme nausea, and even though he kept taking the medication he had been previously prescribed for migraines, there was no relief. The next day he went to work and was incredible pain. His manager ended up driving him to the Emergency Room at Swedish in Edmonds. An MRI was done showing at least 30 brain tumors ranging in size from a small pea to a half dollar. The largest tumor is on his left optical nerve which had been causing the vision issues in that eye. The doctor suspected cancer (based on his history of Melanoma almost 3 years ago) and referred Steven to the neurology unit at Swedish Cherry Hill. His brain was swollen, he was considered high risk, and was transported via ambulance to the neuro-ICU that night. After numerous tests and a PET scan, Steven was transferred to the oncology unit at Swedish First Hill. The PET scan revealed multiple tumors from his feet to his brain.

The diagnosis is Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma.

Steven’s treatment is incredibly aggressive. He started one week after the diagnosis with two weeks of daily whole brain radiation. We have now moved on to two types of strong oral chemotherapy. The doctors need to attack this disease as aggressively as it is attacking Steven’s body. Before this obstacle, Steven was an avid basketball player, a young father to a beautiful 17 month old, and a trained chef who loves to cook. Now his whole life revolves around the pain of his cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy.

We do our best to get him out of the house when he’s up to it, I’m going to push him in a wheelchair in an upcoming 5K in August, and he is active in my fundraising efforts for Melanoma research. He is such a trooper and makes me smile every day. 🙂