If you would like to have your loved one added to our memory page or to honor a survivor, please contact us at 262.305.1370 or send us mail at: Ann’s Hope Foundation
P.O. Box 376
Hartland WI 53029.
In his too-short journey through life, Tom Dallmann touched the lives of so many and left an indelible impression as a person with a kind and gentle manner, a willing smile, and a gift for making you feel like the most important person in the world. He was a loving husband to Mary for 33 years and a caring father to three wonderful sons- Kyle, Tim and Bryan. He will be remembered as a reliable friend to many, a faithful son to Lois and Erv of Whitefish Bay, and a favorite uncle to his 36 nieces and nephews. His many nicknames – TD, Touchdown, Mr. Tang, Uncle Dance-Dance to name a few – give a picture of a person who was loved by many, unique in many ways and special to us all.
Tom was a proud graduate of UW Madison and Marquette University Law School. For the last 26 years of his career, he worked in the Claims Investigation area at MGIC, where he was successful as a manager and forged many great relationships with his co-workers. One person said of Tom “He was always calm in whatever storm was brewing”. Others praised him as a mentor, a role model and a great boss. Tom will be remembered for his kindness, his gentlemanly nature, his spirit of adventure- especially when it came to travel or trying the next new restaurant- and for his love of friends, family and all things Badgers.
The fight with his cancer showed the true strength of Tom’s character, his fortitude and his positive nature. Throughout it all he found a reason to HOPE and the courage to smile even in the darkest moments of the two year battle with Stage IV Melanoma. His mantra – “keep a positive hope and take things one day at a time”.
In the summer of 2008, Tom found an irregular growth on his temple under the hairline. Before long the lesion was diagnosed as Stage 1 Melanoma and surgically removed. When margins were clear and the sentinel node test came back showing no spread of the disease, we felt lucky and life went on – at least for a while- as normal.
Towards the end of 2010, an x-ray for an unrelated issue showed evidence of a growth on Tom’s lung. The ensuing week of CT, MRI and other tests revealed the presence of multiple tumors, including a large abdominal one, the lung lesion, an involvement of the adrenal gland and 4 brain tumors. Tom was soon diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma, and an unsuccessful surgery to remove the tumor in his abdomen (due to location and size) left us reeling. In typical fashion, Tom summoned his courage and faced all the challenges head on- never losing faith in a positive outcome.
With the wisdom and guidance of the incredible Pro Health oncology team, and recommendations from the Doctors seen at MD Anderson in Houston, a plan of treatment was mapped out and the fight was on. In the following 21 months, Tom endured chemotherapy, Cyber Knife radiation, abdominal and brain surgeries. In the course of his treatments, when other methods failed, two newly FDA approved drugs- Yervoy and Zelboraf were prescribed. Tom’s life was prolonged for 21 months – through his strength and outstanding medical care, and through the amazing support of friends and family. Even to the end, when the cancer was really taking its toll, Tom rallied for every visit, somehow managing to leave us joyful even in the midst of our sorrowful goodbyes. Melanoma took his life after all, and Tom died at home on July 31, 2012 in the arms of his wife and his sons, at age 65.
Throughout this journey, Tom gathered strength from all the wonderful family and friends who came to form TEAM TD supporting Ann’s Hope Foundation and the annual Block Melanoma Walk/Run. In 2011, Tom’s team for the event included over 140 members and raised over $10,000 for Ann’s Hope. What a rally team for Tom! In 2012, Tom had planned to walk again with his fellow team mates, but ended up hospitalized. To cheer him up, TEAM TD members “face-timed” with Tom from the zoo, so he was able to feel a part of it all. Tom was incredibly proud of the way TEAM TD rallied in support of such an incredible cause and organization. And, he would be touched to know that the team spirit is still strong…we are hoping for a big showing in 2014.
He will live in our hearts…here’s to the inspiration and love he left behind.
The Dallmann Family
In 2010 my husband, Tim Iverson, noticed a mole on his back that started growing and changing colors. The mole was removed and diagnosed as melanoma, so the area around the mole and some lymph nodes were removed. A follow-up PET scan showed no sign of cancer. There was talk of using Adjuvant interferon, but because of the percentage of that preventing the melanoma from returning, its harsh side effects, and the fact that he had a metal aortic valve, we decided it would do more harm than good.
Tim saw his oncologist regularly for lab work and saw his dermatologist annually. In November of 2012, Tim was feeling great and said he hadn’t felt that good in a long time. He was losing weight on Weight Watchers, keeping busy working in our woods up north and refurbished old farm tools to use in the woods.
In the beginning of December 2012, Tim started complaining of headaches and dizziness. His doctor felt he was dehydrated and suggested getting his CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) checked. A few of weeks later, when he was treated for bronchitis but didn’t improve, his doctor ordered a chest x-ray followed by a CT scan of his chest. When the CT scan showed a mass, the doctor directed us to Tim’s oncologist.
By the time Tim saw his oncologist, he had a fever and was admitted to the hospital on January 11, 2013. The oncologist said it could be one of two things: endocarditis (an infection around the metal valve) or cancer. The preliminary PET scan results indicated there was cancer in his bones, lung, left shoulder and a mass around his esophagus and trachea. That explained Tim having a “stuck” feeling while swallowing solid foods.
Who knew that by the way he was feeling in November, he would be diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma less than two months later. There were no outward signs of the melanoma, and here we thought we were helping ourselves by checking any moles he had all of the time.
After getting a second opinion in Chicago and having both oncologists agree on treatment, he started on Zelboraf. When we finally had the medication in our possession, his blood-thinner level was too high. He then started experiencing atrial fibrillation. Tim’s cardiologist and oncologist admitted him to the hospital for monitoring and to start him on Zelboraf. It seemed to work almost immediately — his pain was lessened and he regained an appetite.
Two weeks later, Tim was allowed to go home after his doctors were satisfied with his lab work and with how well he was moving around on his own. Two weeks later, however, the pain became excruciating, and on March 11, 2013 (the day before his 51st birthday) he was hospitalized to control his nausea and to get him rehydrated.
A PET scan and MRI seemed to indicate that the Zelboraf had stopped working. The doctors considered immunotherapy but were concerned about the tumor in his left shoulder. They feared that if the tumor grew it would compress the spine, causing him to be a paraplegic. He was already losing the ability to lift his left arm.
The doctors wanted to try radiation, which would put off the immunotherapy by two weeks. At that point, Tim was on so much pain medication, he wasn’t moving around much and had no appetite. Radiation started, but he was only able to sit through two appointments. Even with the amount of pain medication he was taking, he couldn’t stay still. He began to lose his voice from a tumor pressing on his larynx, and it was at this point that he told me he was done…he couldn’t do it anymore.
A palliative care team was asked to advise to us, and to my dismay they thought the best option for Tim was hospice. I was still holding on to some kind of hope, a miracle, anything! Tim was admitted to hospice on Friday, March 29, 2013. With all of his family, my family and friends…everyone had 8 days in hospice with Tim to say everything that needed to be said.
Kaitlyn was 24-years-old when she lost her battle with melanoma. She would have loved to share her story with you, in hopes of making a difference in other people’s lives and raising awareness for this deadly disease.Kait lived a vivacious life. She had a bright spirit and ever-present smile. Though she was young and beautiful, Kait had always felt self-conscious about being so fair skinned. To compensate, she often went tanning. In the spring 2009, Kait discovered that a long-present sunspot on her forehead was positive for melanoma. She promptly had the spot removed and moved on with her life, thinking that her health scare was over.
After Kait graduated from college, she was focused on her future, following her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. In June of 2011, she discovered a lump on her cheek. It turned out that the melanoma had spread to her lymph nodes. Keeping a positive attitude, she underwent surgery to remove the lump. Kaitlyn was referred to the UW Hospital system for follow-up treatment, where she had a wonderful team of doctors led by Dr. Albertini. That winter, Kait became engaged to the love of her life, Travis, and again looked optimistically towards her future.
On December 23, 2011, Kait was faced with the devastating news that the cancer had entered her bloodstream. Kait met this challenge with amazing strength and courage. She kept a positive outlook and never complained about her circumstances. Kait underwent several treatments to combat the cancer, IL-2 and Ipilimumab. Unfortunately, the disease moved so quickly and aggressively that it spread to her brain, announcing itself with a massive seizure that Kait had the following May 2012. Kaitlyn underwent another surgery, this time to remove the tumor from her brain. She recovered from her seizure and the surgery, as determined as ever to continue to fight this disease — a battle she fought until the end. Even though the progression of this disease took her ability to walk, eat and eventually talk, it never took the fight out of her. As Kait said in a Relay for Life Speech, “I just want everyone to be aware of how dangerous tanning beds are. They’re not worth it.”
As we recount this courageous struggle and the devastation wrought by melanoma, it is Kait’s life that must be celebrated. Kait had the most wonderful spirit. She was truly an inspiration to all those she met. While we all grieve the loss of such a young, wonderful soul, we are comforted in the fact that Kaitlyn is finally at peace. We will continue as a family to finish what Kait started in supporting melanoma research and promoting melanoma awareness to others. She is missed and loved by so many.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kuble-Ros
It was autumn when my 49-year-old brother, Mike, came to our daughter’s birthday celebration. We gathered with excitement since life is always so busy and we love having the time together. Mike was concerned about a lump under his arm. We really didn’t think it was anything serious until he was told a week later that he had cancerous tumors in his brain and liver. He was rushed into brain surgery and recovered beautifully. He lived life to the fullest between the harsh treatments and we had wonderful quality time with him but it never seems to be enough.
He struggled and fought hard but lost his battle with melanoma at age 51. Too soon, too painful and too hard to believe. I miss his beautiful smile and heartfelt laugh, and most of all, I miss his warm bear hugs that made you gasp for breath.
Early detection is key and learning more about your skin and your body is crucial. I have a generous, caring dermatologist that has helped educate me, but it is about being pro-active and getting in for check-ups.
The rest is trust and faith.
My story began in February 2009. Well, thinking about it, it really began back in my childhood with all of the sunburns I acquired as well as the tanning I became addicted to as a teenager, and then the tanning bed overuse that occurred between the ages of 28 to 38. I grew up with two sisters, 10 and 11 years older, who would often “lay out” on the roof of our garage with those lovely foil blankets and baby oil. So I began my tanning addiction. We didn’t have sunscreen but we had coconut tanning lotion SPF 4! Every summer I got my base “burn” and remained tan the rest of the summer. Becoming a teacher didn’t help either because I have my summers off – so my tanning fetish continued after college. A friend then introduced me to tanning beds when I was 28. She was tan all year so I inquired about how she kept her golden glow all year round. Needless to say I became a fan of the “fake” tan and continued that bad habit from between the ages 28 and 38 during the winter months! Can you say way overexposed??
Ultimately in November of 2008 I noticed a funny looking “growth” on my shin where I thought a very small mole once inhabited. This spot resembled a blood blister the size of a pencil eraser. Of course I ignored it until my sister, who’s a nurse, asked how I got the “blister” on my shin.
Fast forward to January 2009 when my sister asked me if the “blister” had healed yet. Of course it hadn’t and it even looked bigger and bled. There were warning signs everywhere that I ignored because I really never thought melanoma or skin cancer were a possibility.
I managed to get into my family doctor in early February and she removed the growth without any concern. She even said, “Doesn’t look like skin cancer.” So I proceeded with living until a week later I received a call from my doctor’s nurse who asked if I could come in to speak with the doctor. “Well, that can’t be a good sign,” I said. “It’s best if the doctor spoke to you personally.” Gulp.
The longest day of my life was waiting to see her. I received the news on February 11, 2009 – stage 2B ulcerated…lots of technical jargon I didn’t understand. I had the WLE, 6 lymph nodes in right groin removed and 4 weeks of high dose Interferon. I tried the low dose but due to my history of depression I became suicidal and had to stop after just three weeks. Then in June 2009, about three weeks after I stopped the injections, another spot near my original melanoma appeared. More melanoma that required another surgery with a skin graft from my stomach to cover the gaping hole left behind on my shin.
My original oncologist was not a melanoma specialist, which was a big mistake. When I asked him what my next step was he said, “Nothing. Just watch and wait.” I did not like that answer, so I sought out melanoma specialist, Dr. Mark Albertini. He suggested I try Leukine for a year. So for 14 days each month from December 2009 to December 2010, I injected myself wherever on my body I could find fat and not a bruise from a prior injection. It was very doable compared to the Interferon. The beast stayed away from 2010 to 2012.
In April of 2012, a routine PET scan revealed I had two spots in my right leg, so surgery was scheduled for May 17th. I also took part in a clinical trial at UW Health under the guidance of Dr. Albertini for three months during the summer. It was rough, but nothing compared to the whole month of Interferon. Just when I return to a life of living, a PET scan in February of 2013 revealed two more lesions. A fourth surgery and a consult with a Chicago doctor about Isolated Limb Perfusion was in order. It was determined that my tumor burden was too low (I’m so glad I’m not an overachiever in that department) so “watch and wait” was my only option. I had a PET scan denied October 2013 because two prior scans were clear and I was asymptomatic.
In December 2013, I felt a lump on my ankle and called the oncologist who saw me quickly. He examined the lump and ordered a dermatologist to biopsy it. Upon her examination, she felt a second bump and I end up leaving with two more punch biopsies to add to the numerous divots on my body. In the meantime, while waiting for a January 10th PET scan, I felt a third bump. I really don’t know what is worse: knowing you have tumors within your body but you can’t see or feel them, or actually being able to feel the beast on the surface of your skin. Both are equally frightening. So a fifth surgery in five years occurred February 11th. I continue to deal with lymphedema and the fear of more recurrences. Melanoma has become a part of me. Definitely a part I did not willingly choose.
There has not been a day that goes by when I don’t think about this beast. I used to cry at least once a day when I thought about how I was going to die such a terrible death. I don’t cry every day anymore, but on occasion I do! However, I go to sleep at night with it on my mind and I awake with it on my mind. I feel as if I am walking around with a ticking time bomb.
Thank God I still feel healthy enough to teach because that is when I get the most peace. I don’t think about every ache and pain – there are a lot of them, especially the swelling in my leg. I have suffered emotionally, physically and financially due to this insidious disease. My son, who was 16 at the time of my diagnosis, had one request of me when I was going through treatment: “keep fighting.” That still resonates with me as I read about the journeys of so many other melanoma warriors who are not in a good place right now. I don’t know what my future holds but I know who holds my future, and I will keep fighting.
I share my story in the hope that my story does not become another person’s nightmare. Please protect your largest organ, practice sun safety by limiting time in the sun, wear sunscreen, sunglasses and protective clothing. As with all cancer, early detection is vital. Seek a dermatologist for an annual exam and if something just doesn’t look or feel right, INSIST it be removed. Do not watch and wait. It may be too late. I thank God for the support I have found in an AMAZING online community, as well as for the love and support of my family and friends. No one can beat the beast alone.
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