David’s Medical Account

$10,820 of $53,000 goal

Raised by 62 people in 5 months
Created May 11, 2018
David needs your help!

Hi. I’m David Gildersleeve’s dad – Jim.

David has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer (adenocarcinoma), with a collateral malignant infection in his liver. Testing has confirmed it’s a stage 4 malignancy. However, as a relatively young man, 49 years old, and in good health otherwise, he is well positioned to fight this scary cancer diagnosis.

Needless to say, his wife and children, Robin (his mom), Mary Anne (his sister) and I, are devastated over this news, as are other relatives and his many friends. It is not what Robin and I ever expected to hear in our retirement years. At 78 and 73, respectively, we accept our mortality as inevitable ... but for us, not for our first born.

David and his family - Samantha his wife of 22 years, Jonathan his 14 year old son, and Steven his 11 year old son - live in Savannah, Georgia. He taught sequential art at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) for 16 years, and before that at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC. In 2014, David’s teaching contract at SCAD was not renewed due to a change in curriculum emphasis. He took this as an opportunity to do what he had always wanted to do - focus on his artistic talent and become a freelance artist.

The family worked hard to create a modest but successful business, selling his art in several galleries up and down the east coast. They were very happy as he created original works of art that customers appreciated and bought. They struggled to make the business financially viable through the years (the term struggling artist is a true one!). This year, however, their financial condition was looking brighter as revenues increased. But expectations for better years ahead never anticipated the major costs associated with cancer treatments, or the prospect of reduced original output should treatments be ineffective.

David went to his family doctor in Savannah when he began experiencing trouble swallowing. It was during their examination that a suspicious growth was discovered on the lower segment of his esophagus, where it joins the stomach. They were concerned and wanted David to see a specialist who could better diagnose his problems. Their recommendation was a hospital in Charleston, SC, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), the Hollings Cancer Center.

MUSC is highly rated in the medical community and their medical staff was recognized as one of the best in the southeast. David scheduled an appointment for further testing and treatment for the following week - April 11-13. He and Samantha made the trip to Charleston, meeting Mary Anne there, and underwent numerous tests. They confirmed the fears of doctors in Savannah that the growth on David’s esophagus was indeed malignant and that the cancerous growth had spread to several spots on his liver. It was rated as stage 4 in severity. They recommended chemotherapy be started immediately, and it was scheduled for the following week (April 18-20).

Amazingly, David came through the first round of chemotherapy with very little ill effects (some tiredness). The doctor’s were encouraged with his general health and his ability to withstand treatments thus far. The decision was made to skip a week or two and to schedule a second round of chemotherapy for the week of April 30 or May 7.

And then the bad news: the high cost of treatment and the insufficiency of David’s insurance coverage. They were advised that treatments thus far at MUSC amounted to approximately $53,000 (in 10 days!), and that their insurance offered little-to-no coverage. It was clearly a policy that a struggling family could afford, but woefully deficient for any catastrophic medical encounter such as that being experienced by David – it wouldn’t cover any of the MUSC bill. In fact, the financial people at MUSC let David and Samantha know that their insurance had basically been a scam - and sadly a scam that MUSC sees fairly often (families who pay more into their insurance than their insurance would ever pay out). It’s infuriating and so sad and now David and Samantha are uncertain how they will ever be able to pay off that $53,000 debt - with more to surely come.

So the search began for insurance that would provide David and his family with real coverage for the anticipated medical costs ahead. And he now needed insurance that accepted David’s pre-existing condition. Fortunately, Obamacare insurance offered such policies, but they needed to become qualified for special enrollment since they were outside the open enrollment period. Once that was accomplished, they were accepted for a plan that much better met their needs. The new policy is real insurance - and will cover their expenses, minus their deductible and maximum out of pocket expense cap (hallelujah!), however the new policy does not cover any out-of-state medical care. Thus, the treatment and care they were getting at MUSC in South Carolina could no longer continue. They needed to transfer all care and treatment back to Georgia.   

They have now transferred David’s treatment back to Savannah for the next round of chemotherapy at a Savannah treatment center on May 7-9, and he will continue his care there. If he does not see the desired improvement to his condition, or if medical trials or other services are warranted, he will travel to to other locations, perhaps outside Georgia, and find alternate sources of funding to offset the costs involved.

We have set up this GoFundMe page as a way for David’s many friends and relatives to help him defray some of his mounting medical expenses as he fights this malignancy. His mom and I, and David’s entire family, sincerely appreciate your consideration in this regard. We also wanted to use this forum to keep you all informed on how his fight for a healthy outcome is going – we genuinely believe this struggle will culminate in this becoming a true success story.

Thank you!

*100% of all donations will go into a bank account for David, to be used exclusively for David's medical expenses.
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Update #3 (10/18/18)

Hello, friends! We have good news to report on this update to David’s condition. His latest scan of the cancerous area in his abdomen was not just good, according to his doctor in Savannah, “it was incredible!”

Again, we are indebted to all of you for your prayers and support that without a doubt helped David achieve this very favorable diagnosis. You have given us genuine hope that this nightmare David is living through will soon cease being a drag on his long term recovery.

David underwent his most recent scan (9/17/18) with high hopes since the previous scan (6/19/18) showed remarkable reduction of the size of spots on his liver. During the intervening time, he recovered much of his usual vigor and he had a healthy demeanor that excited all in his family and circle of friends.

This scan was important since it would validate the previous improved prognosis for David’s recovery … and it would also give credence to the program of medication and dietary changes that he adopted in lieu of more chemotherapy … we attribute David’s improved quality of life to his discontinuance of chemotherapy.

The scan itself was, according to his doctors in Savannah, as well as to Dr. El-Rayes at Emory University, excellent. The previously observed growths at the intersection of the esophagus and stomach appear to be healing as there was extensive scarring of the affected areas. The spots on the liver were smaller in size, which confirms a continuation of healing there.

While this is good news, all doctors agree that his struggle with cancerous growths will continue and the risk should not be ignored. The doctors’ recommendation: "continue with exactly what David is doing … it appears to be working very well!”

Another scan is scheduled for December, and we are anxious to have more evidence from it that David’s healing trend is continuing. Until then, David will be continuing his current regime of dietary changes and medication that have brought him to this point. Cost: approximately $1,000 per month (not counting obligations in excess of $30,000 incurred from his earlier treatments at the Medical University of South Carolina, the Hollings Cancer Center.)

As David says, “I am thankful for the improvements shown in this scan, and for the renewed energy and vitality I had lost early on. But I am most thankful for your support … you have made the lives of me and my family bearable. Thank you!”

His mother and I second that thankfulness … and we urge you to continue your prayers for David’s rally from this dreadful disease. I sense even better news awaits us in the near future!
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Update #2 (7/31/18)

Hello everyone! Just want to update you on David’s progress. 

As always, we are extremely thankful for your prayers and support that have sustained David through his ordeal. Just knowing you are there and that you care makes David’s condition more bearable, and allows us to truly believe that there is a positive outcome in our future.

David has finished four rounds of chemotherapy and has had another scan to determine the effectiveness of treatments thus far. As of now, the scans show that the cancerous tumor is (listen up) no longer visible and “there is no evidence of malignancy or metastatic disease”. Great news!  As you can imagine, we're all very excited and encouraged by the scan report!! However, the doctors continue to tell us that, while this is good news, David is still, and will continue to be, in a fight against this cancer. (Although with scans that say what those scans said ... we feel it's miraculous!!!)

He also recently met with Dr. Bassel El-Rayes at Emory University (St. Joseph’s Hospital) who will be guiding David’s future evaluations and treatments. He is the Director of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. He is also the chief clinical research scientist responsible for coordinating and providing high-level direction to the clinical cancer research programs and clinical cancer trials across the Emory campuses. 

As a result of the improvements exhibited in his recent scan, David is pausing all Chemo treatments while continuing to focus on diet and exercise protocols. The chemo, although no doubt contributing to Dave’s improved condition, had a very real negative impact on his well-being – it weakened David and caused frequent dizziness, impairment of focus and hearing loss. Since his last chemo treatment, he is slowly recovering from its impact, but he still has a way to go.  

Under Dr. El-Rayes’ guidance, David will explore more fully genomic therapy and immunotherapy options in lieu of chemo. It is expected that David’s gene therapy will begin around the first week of August as a means of targeting the cancer cells specifically. We are very hopeful that this will continue moving him in the right direction in fighting and hopefully moving his cancer into remission over the months ahead. 

Again, we are thankful for your prayers and urge continued positive thoughts for David’s full recovery. More good news is coming … I can feel it!
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Update on David (6/5/18)

As David’s mom and dad, we are sincerely appreciative of the help he is receiving from all of you who have responded to his plight. We are all, especially David and Samantha, deeply moved and extremely grateful for your generosity – both for your monetary support, but especially for your prayers and messages of spiritual encouragement. It really does help get us all through these difficult times. It is incredibly humbling!

David continues his treatments and remains in good spirits. He has completed his third round of chemotherapy with only minimal ill effects – mainly tiredness. He did, however, begin experiencing hair loss which he handled even better than we might have expected. From his early years he preferred his hair neatly styled, but on the long side, in spite of his dad’s kidding him about looking like a “hippy”. As he aged, however, so did his hair style.

Now, with the advent of hair loss, he elected to face it head on and he decided it should all come off. But he was worried that sudden baldness might be hard for his boys to accept, so he did a very wise thing. After explaining why he was losing his hair, he asked Jonathan and Steven to help make him look like tough guy Bruce Willis. Together, they approached David’s head with shears and razor and converted an artist’s head into that of the Die Hard hero. So next time you see David, you’ll be forgiven if you mistakenly call him Bruce.

The next step in David’s effort to defeat his illness will be a meeting he has scheduled with his new doctor at Emory University hospital outside of Atlanta on June 8th. This doctor will be his primary caregiver as he moves forward against the cancer. While he receives the chemo under the watchful eyes of a clinic in Savannah, the doctor at Emory will oversee David’s lab work and scans, and provide overall direction to his treatment.

David continues to augment the chemotherapy with his diet and other measures that hopefully will contribute to the success of his battle. We remain hopefully optimistic and will update you again following the Emory appointment and subsequent lab work and scans.

Again, our sincere thanks for your continued prayers for our David.
Meet "Bruce" ... er, David
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$10,820 of $53,000 goal

Raised by 62 people in 5 months
Created May 11, 2018
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