About Martha D.
Five years ago,(February 2, 2016) at 7:40 A.M., our lives were forever changed changed. My husband, Dave, whom I had known and loved since I was 10 and he 11, had gone for pre-colonoscopy blood work ordered by his gastroenterologist. The telephone rang and I was startled as it was slightly early. It was the doctor asking to speak to Dave. I put the phone to his ear and he said “David, I have your blood work back and your PSA is 384. We looked at each other and mouthed “what is a PSA?”. In the same breath, the doctor said you have stage 4 prostate cancer that has metastasized to your bones.” I stopped breathing because my Mom had passed from Metastatic Melanoma to her bones and I KNEW! The fear for my husband is indescribable. How could this be! My 69 year old husband was so fit! He has been examined every year! My husband, sadly, did not totally grasp the seriousness of his words. Maybe he didn’t want to. At 9:00 A.M. I called his primary who had been doing the physical, DRE, every year. I prayed it may not be as bad as I thought. Dave’s primary confirmed the blood test results and advised us to see a Urologist. We got an appointment of which it was agreed by the Urologist and Dave, that I could remain in the exam room while he examined Dave. I will hear his words in my head until the day I die..”Oh Dear God…your prostate is like cement and it is stage 4.” We then went to an oncology group of which all I can say is that we were not comfortable there. Dave has been undergoing many tests at this point, cat scan, MRI and we wanted/needed a more comfortable caring office of oncology which is the purpose of my letter. In May I knew we HAD to change Dave’s doctor and I had been told of an oncologist, Doctor Giuseppe Palermo in Rockledge, Florida who was so special. The word “special” does not begin to describe this amazing man. I called and spoke with Karen Johnson, who had the kindest voice in the world. She said they were completely booked and had no space for new patients but she spoke with such kindness. I started to cry and I begged her to squeeze us in and we would wait hours without a complaint. Karen, who became a friend and a source of support to both Dave and I, gave us an appointment for June 7, 2016. I will be 74 in April and never nor will I ever, meet anyone like Dr. Palermo! From that day until December 1, 2017 he tried every treatment available to give my husband a longer time on this earth, however, it was not just about the medical treatment he gave Dave but the love and hugs and caring. They had such a beautiful relationship. I soon realized, because I listened, that Dr. Palermo treated EVERY ONE of his patients like that when he was with them. Dave did not know this, as he felt “special” when he saw him. Karen was/is, the very same personality as I watched her over and over, greet each patient as if they were the only person in the room! This office of oncology was like my doctors office as a child…so loving and in the world of corporate medicine today we do not see this today ,in my opinion. ( you can delete if inappropriate). When Dr. Palermo came into the exam room on that last day, December 1, 2017, he had tears, hugging Dave and saying “No more treatment David, it is not working”. and Oh God how this man tried in so many ways to help us, up to include funding. I never received a bill for the $3,000 I still owed him for office visits. We went often because to Dave , Dr. Palermo became so much more than a doctor…he became a friend, a brother a confidant and so much more. Dr. Palermo hugged and kissed Dave that last day as they knew they would never see each other again. It is very difficult to write this as it is all so clear in my memory and my grief does not seem to lessen with time. Dave stayed at home with my care, until his death at 5:45A.M. on Sunday morning, April 22, 2018. I don’t believe I need to detail how horrific watching someone die slowly for 27 months is..I will never be the same person I was. My purpose in writing this entry letter is recognize Dr. Palermo and his staff. I still have not been to visit/see Dr. Palermo or Karen…I have spoken on the telephone with Karen for hours as she herself was a very young widow who understood the loss. My son stayed for three weeks but he had to go back to New York to work. There are so many people who called often. These many friends I can never repay but I had to do something to fill my time as the months passed and this I direct to Kristen and Dax who work tirelessly to bring awareness to the importance of PSA Blood Screening for early detection of prostate cancer as it is treatable and curable if diagnosed while contained to the prostate. I decided to do SOMETHING in September, Prostate Cancer Awareness month , so I made blue ribbon pins and went to the American Cancer Society, PCF and PCEC to obtain pamphlets to hand out on Dave’s birthday Sept. 5th. I did this at the Cocoa Beach Library and the Cocoa Beach Health and Fitness Gym. The Florida Today newspaper covered it and the response was good but I realized by early 2019 that MORE was needed and with the encouragement of our mutual friend, Matt Wright, I decided to hold a Free PSA Screening event on Dave’s birthday in September. I decided the venue was to be CBHF Gym. It was, again, with the help of friends who donated money to pay a lab and 205 local businesses donated gift cards to be given to men tested for the PUNCH OUT PROSTATE CANCER board! I could not hold the event this year because of Covid but I offered free testing if a man went to the lab. My goals have gotten larger as I want to start a foundation in my husband’s name to give money in November each year to younger men with families who are struggling with not only getting prostate cancer treatment, but impending holidays and the need to be Santa! I will give away every dime I raise as there are no costs. An attorney agreed to donate his services. I have to do this local to Brevard County and when the time is closer I plan to enlist the help of Dr. Palermo and Karen who will choose the recipients! I have written to MLB, Joe Torre specifically, to try to enlist their help by having A TEAM each day for the 30 days of September wear Blue NOT just for the Home Run Challenge! They have the Blue gear why not use it each day, one team!!!I was proud to be active in PCF’s first ever Light IT Blue event in 2019. I was able to get the Observation Tower in Port Canaveral to Light It Blue as well as several buildings in Orlando!! I had a meeting scheduled with Curt Smith, County Commissioner of District 4, a prostate cancer survivor, who will introduce me to Congressman Posey which I hope will lead to my being able to speak to the two Congressman who head the Men’s Health caucus. It is postponed until safe. It is with the deepest of hope that you choose Dr. Giuseppe Palermo and his staff because they are truly deserving of this recognition and although they are very humble people, I feel they will be truly appreciative. Thank you for this opportunity to tell my story. I could write so much more because I want so badly to spread the word for PSA screening. This is how I honor my husband and all those who have helped me in so many ways and still do. I know I am fortunate in so many ways and I am grateful but it is so difficult to know early detection could have saved Dave’s life. Thank you to Kristen and Dax for all you do! Sincerely, Martha Duffy