In February of 2014 Dan Airhart was enjoying a full life. He was nurturing a strong relationship with his two children, who are the most important people in his life. Some of their favorite things to do together were camping, biking, swimming and soccer! Dan was also thriving in his 25 year career as a longshoreman, living a healthy lifestyle, and charming his many close friends and family with his infectious laugh, ever-optimistic outlook, and kind, forgiving blue eyes. He was in top physical shape, and was in the midst of preparing for a 10-hour, 20 mile fitness challenge, a grueling test of physical and mental toughness. Dan was never one to turn down new challenges, and this was a goal he was excited to reach for.
But one night that all changed when, while driving home from work, the right side of Dan's face went numb. Never one to take his health for granted, he drove himself to the emergency room where he was told, "If it persists, you should go to see a neurologist." The next day, while reading a story to his daughter, his face went numb again, and this time his words suddenly became nothing but slurred gibberish. Unable to regain control over his speech for some time, he again drove himself to the ER. This time he was given an MRI, CT scan, x-rays, and the focused attention he needed. Though initially diagnosed as having a mini-stroke, further review of his scans determined that he had been experiencing seizures due to a "growth" on his brain.
On February 12th, two days before his Valentine's Day birthday, Dan went in for brain surgery to remove the growth, so it could be biopsied. Dan's friends and family began the process of bracing themselves for any news that was to come. Not surprisingly, Dan's recovery from brain surgery was amazing. He was home within two days and on his way towards recovery within a week.
But when the biopsy came back, it was determined that Dan had Stage IV Astrocytoma, otherwise known as Glioblastoma. These tumors are usually highly malignant (cancerous) because the cells reproduce quickly and they are supported by a large network of blood vessels. This is when the fight for Dan's life began.
Dan went through three months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment that made him tremendously sick and unable to care for himself and his children in the ways he once did. But, he soon recovering from the trauma of that treatment, and when the results of his MRI came back, his doctor said, "Looks really good!” Though there was a hint of something remaining in the place where the tumor had been, appearing as a shadow, consensus from his team of doctors felt it could likely be swelling from the radiation treatment.
But by the time his next scan came back two months later, and in conjunction with increased seizure episodes, it was clear that the "shadow" they’d been seeing was in fact the remaining tumor tissue, and it had grown larger than it was back in February. Because the traditional chemo treatments had failed, Dan was now on track to be enrolled in a clinical trial, where a “cocktail” of different chemo drugs would first be tested on the removed tumor to create a treatment plan specific to his tumor.
Dan underwent a second brain surgery on October 1st. His neurosurgeon was very happy with the procedure, and was able to remove all visible tumor. Unfortunately the tumor had been sitting on the motor movement and speech center of the brain, and removing it caused damage to that site. He awoke from surgery, unable to move his right arm or leg, and his speech was severely impaired. Instead of being discharged home, Dan was moved to St. Mary's acute rehabilitation center for three - four weeks of intensive physical & speech rehabilitation.
Over the past couple of weeks, Dan has been re-learning how to walk and to speak effectively. He’s making progress everyday and is focused and determined to get back home. Though he is expected to make a substantial recovery of his motor skills & speech within three months time, he will have to begin his clinical trial in a few weeks. His friends and family are supporting him around the clock, and his positive, optimistic attitude is allowing for much faster healing.
Researching Glioblastomas on the web can be pretty scary. Most stories describe low survival rates, limited treatment options, and life-altering symptoms. But if you look a little harder, you find stories of survival and miracles. This is where Dan began living, in the hope and determination that those stories represented. Just like other challenges he’s faced in his life, he faces this one with the same positive, self-assured approach that is bringing comfort and reassurances to those around him.
His family has, and continues to make tremendous sacrifices in order to support Dan with fighting this cancer. But there are many aspects of that care which are not covered by insurance, such as travel costs, child care, and lost wages. We are seeking your help to offset these costs, so he & his family can direct their attention on fighting this battle.
We want to thank you in advance for all of your love and support. We will use this site for updates, so you can keep up with Dan's progress, and be with him during this next stage of this challenge. He reads all of your texts, emails, letters and posts, and is deeply moved by all of the love he is receiving. Though it is very hard to him to reply to them, please keep them coming and know he appreciates them!
"Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who is as hard as rock and soft as drifting fog."
- Judy & Rollie Acton
- Donna S.
- C Jones
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