Barry Lotspeich was a Melanoma survivor from the day he was first diagnosed in the fall of 2006. A routine check-up with a physician led to a quick referral to a dermatologist and removal of a mole between his shoulder blades that was indeed stage 1B Melanoma. He followed all of the rules, going to follow ups every 3 months for the first year and every 6 months for the next 7+ years, all of which led to clean margins. After receiving his Melanoma diagnosis, our family all went to the dermatologist for skin checks and after everyone was clear, life went on as usual. Quite honestly, at that point in our lives, Melanoma was “just a skin cancer.” Fast forward 9 years, and that all changed.
After battling a few weeks of nausea in the fall of 2014, Barry visited his primary physician. He was checked out and scheduled for an upper GI tract endoscopy which came back with normal results. It was not until a couple of weeks later that an unrelated medical condition caused him to have an MRI. On that day in December of 2014, we found out that something was terribly wrong. They had found a large mass in his intestine. He was quickly sent to his physician and a couple of days later was admitted to the hospital. That marked the beginning of a 9-month battle that would forever change our family.
Barry had his first surgery on December 27, 2014 to remove the tumor because there was fear that it would cause a full blockage of the intestine. The surgeon came out and turned our family’s world upside down when he mentioned that he thought that the tumor that he removed and another tumor that could not be removed were Melanoma. How could that be? His margins were clear in May and he didn’t have any new moles. After some internet research (which I would highly recommend avoiding) we knew that a tough road was ahead of us. Recovery was going very well until an infection from his surgery very swiftly landed Barry in ICU. He was immediately put on a ventilator and had emergency surgery that night. Although he was not expected to make it through surgery, he did by the grace of God. Unfortunately, our family was awoken the next morning in the ICU waiting room with news that his condition was not compatible with life and he had 48 hours, at most, to live. Once again, he proved everyone wrong and continued to very slowly, progress.
Over the next couple of weeks, we were told his chances of survival were slim so our family made the decision to mediflight him to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas under the care of his cousin, Dr. Kenney Weinmeister and his team. It was there that Barry was truly given a second chance at life. The doctors and nurses treated him as family during his 4 month stay that was spent fighting his initial infection and in May 2015 he was mediflighted to MD Anderson to finally begin fighting the cancer. Upon arrival in Houston, we found out that he was BRAF positive which meant that he could immediately start an oral targeted therapy combination of Mekinist and Tafinlar. After just two days on the medication he was eating like a horse and after just a few days his tumors were visibly shrinking!
Barry and his wife traveled back to MD Anderson a couple more times receiving both good and bad news at times. After it was discovered that the cancer had metastasized to his brain, he began a new regimen of oral chemo as well as full brain radiation. Unfortunately, after a few treatments of full brain radiation, it was decided that the disease had progressed beyond treatment. On September 26, 2016, Barry Lotspeich won his battle and was brought home to Glory.
Barry had a vibrant spirit, a heart for people from all walks of life and a laugh and smile that could only be described as contagious. I know for a fact that one of his greatest desires would be to ensure that others do not have to go through what he did. If you have not had a skin check with a dermatologist within the last year, you owe it to your family, your friends and yourself to schedule one today. If you don’t wear sunscreen on a daily basis, today is a really good day to start doing so. If you tan in tanning beds, I beg you to stop. If for no other reason, do these things to honor those whose lives were cut short by this terrible disease.