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Writer’s Note – I’ve been on an extended hiatus for well over nine months. So, I first want to say “Thank You” to all of you who continue to stop by and check out my blog. This blog and several to follow have been accumulating in my head for quite a while.
We finally returned to Memphis later that day. It was a Sunday and we had just returned from getting our son back to college in Atlanta. I was thinking about everything that had to be taken care of at work for what promised to be a hectic Monday. Likewise, I was taking care of things around the house – moving trash cans to the street for Monday morning pickup, watering my plants on the front porch and the back patio, retrieving our dog, Nixie, from the vet, and so on.
Finally, I had a chance to check email and Facebook. There it was – T Jerry Ellis was dead at the age of 71! Oh, boy…I wasn’t sure how to feel at that moment. An online friend was dead from melanoma. He had died that morning around 10:30 or so…right around the same time I had that strange feeling. Eerie, very eerie. To add to the irony, Jerry passed away at his daughter’s home in Heflin, Alabama. Heflin is right off of Interstate 20 – the same interstate we were driving on that morning. Eerie…
To this day – until I published this post – I have never told Vicki that T Jerry died. Why? Because T Jerry’s melanoma was almost the exact same genetic mutation as mine, and he was on the same treatment regimen (Imatinib) as me. T Jerry – everyone called him that, and to this day I don’t know why – essentially had the same melanoma as I do, but it metastasized in other areas of his body. He took Gleevec for over 8 years, before the cancer overwhelmed his body. That’s one of the key reasons I did not want Vicki to know about T Jerry’s death. I just don’t want to think about what will likely happen to me.
T Jerry and I “met” online about five or so years ago. I had started to look online for answers and support groups after my bout with melanoma in 2009 (I had two melanomas removed via surgery). Back then, there was not a lot of Facebook traffic and online support groups – chat rooms, boards, etc. – were still rare. I “found” Jerry, if you will, on a message board sponsored by the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF). I was new to this whole “sharing” and asking questions to complete strangers, but T Jerry was one of those stalwarts who always had an answer or suggestion, or simple words of encouragement. As my melanoma unfortunately advanced, I would “run into” T Jerry on the Internet from time-to-time. He was still giving advice, researching new treatments for metastatic melanoma. I never really kept in-touch with T Jerry until that July day in 2013 when my world changed forever.
I immediately started to reach out through message boards and Facebook, which was quickly becoming the place for online communities. T Jerry was right there on the Internet where I had last “seen” him. Now, we had something else in common: our genetic markers for metastatic melanoma were virtually the same. I was scared, somewhat confused, and just looking for someone to “talk” to. T Jerry was there for me. I even remember talking with him about the pros and cons of clinical trials at MD Anderson Cancer Center (in Houston) versus Vanderbilt’s Ingram Cancer Center (VICC). Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to go anywhere for my treatment.
We also found out we had other things in common. We were both from Florida and we both had a connection to Memphis. T Jerry was stationed in Millington, which is just north of Memphis, for several years. I still remember his FB private message to me: “What’s a Florida boy doing in Memphis, TN?” It still makes me smile.
|A good friend.
Rest in Peace, Thomas Jerry Ellis…you are truly missed.