In Memory of William (Bill) A. Schupp, Jr.

June 30, 1954 - June 9, 2018​   
HE WAS A FIGHTER!

My Uncle Bill was a gardener.
A dedicated accountant. A collector.
​A Christmas lover. A genuine, sweet soul.
But most of all, he was a fighter.

 

Uncle Bill was diagnosed with ocular melanoma in February of 2016. He quickly had surgery to remove his eye and the tumor, and soon after his surgery, all his scans came back clean. Good news!
 
He was a fighter. Despite the fact he had just had his eye removed and beaten a close brush with cancer, we went on a vacation to Glacier National Park and celebrated together as a family the beautiful sights of Northwest Montana. No scare with cancer was going to stop him from living his life! He was a fighter. This, and the many other vacations I shared with my Uncle Bill will become vivid memories I will never forget.

After celebrating the glory of a successful surgery and a wonderful experience out West, he got the news in February of 2017 that the cancer had in fact spread – to his liver.

Ocular melanoma is a rare form of aggressive cancer. And basically, nothing is known about it. But the statistics that are known are grisly. The five-year survival rate for ocular melanoma that has spread is only 5 percent. Uncle Bill’s doctors told him he could expect to live no longer than 1.5 years past his diagnosis. This is something he refused to accept.
 
He started on treatment immediately. A combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy treatments happening every three weeks. He lived in Louisville, but the nearest doctor who specialized in ocular melanoma was in Cincinnati. So, every three weeks, his sister, my Aunt Sis, would drive him the hour and a half trek up I-71 to University Hospital in Cincinnati for his treatments. Since I live in the Cincinnati area, I was able to visit during his treatments. I loved spending time with Uncle Bill and being with him in his most difficult times. But I will forever wish the visits could have been for a different purpose.
 
For the first several months of his treatments, Uncle Bill continued to work. As I mentioned, he was an accountant. He enjoyed working. He enjoyed the routine. As I found out by talking with some of his co-workers at his funeral, Uncle Bill was the first one at the office every single day. And every single day at the same exact time, he would make the same trip to the vending machine for his afternoon snack. A creature of habit. His cancer diagnosis forced him to change his beloved habit. His office was on the second floor of a building that had no elevator, only steps. Eventually, a day came where he couldn’t make it all the way up the steps. At this point, my Aunt Sis was driving him to work because he was too weak to drive himself. She walked him in the door at 6:30 a.m. and assisted him up the steps as she had been doing, until this one morning he just couldn’t do it. He sat down on the steps. But he wanted to make it all the way up. He wanted to go to work. This cancer wasn’t going to stop him. He was a fighter. After a while, my Aunt Sis was able to get him to his desk, and he had a conversation later that day with his boss. He was getting too sick to walk the steps and he just wasn’t feeling good. He didn’t want to stop working, but he had to. So, he retired, and just like that the cancer had made its first big dent.  
 
The next few months were rough. The treatments’ side effects were taking their toll on his body. But he was a fighter. So, he kept up both the immunotherapy and chemotherapy treatments until his doctors told him he had to stop the immunotherapy because it was too hard on him. Still, he refused to let the cancer stop him and he was able to make a trip to Cumberland Falls in October of 2017. This would be his last vacation.
 
The side effects of the treatment continued to get worse. But Uncle Bill refused to stop the treatments because he knew that if he kept fighting, he wouldn’t become another victim of ocular melanoma’s gruesome statistics. He was going to survive this cancer and he was going to live into his 80s and die working in his garden. He knew it.
 
14 months after his diagnosis, the cancer had stopped responding to the treatments. He went up to Cincinnati expecting to receive his umpteenth round of treatments, but instead, the doctors told him they couldn’t do the treatment because the cancer was too bad. It was time to go home and call Hospice.
 
He was a fighter. Uncle Bill did everything he could to try and beat this disease. Up to the point where the doctors had to force him to stop fighting. Never once during his battle did Uncle Bill complain about the pain. Never once did he complain about the treatments. If you asked him how he was doing he would say, “I’m good” with a smile. No matter how obviously in pain he was, he always insisted that he get out of bed. And so every day, my Aunt Sis would lift him out of bed and help him walk into the kitchen to eat lunch.
 
On a Friday night, June 1, 2018 he went home to Louisville after that last visit to the hospital where he was told to go home. On Saturday night, Aunt Sis helped him out of bed to the kitchen table for dinner. But after dinner, he couldn’t move one bit. His body had just stopped working. He was admitted to a hospital in Louisville the same night, and exactly one week later on June 9, 2018, Uncle Bill passed into his new life, only two months before the 1.5 year timeframe his doctors had given him.
 
He was a fighter. Despite the cancer literally breaking his back, he made sure he was getting up and out of bed until the week that he passed. He refused to lay around and let the cancer take him. He knew that if he kept moving, if he kept living, the cancer wouldn’t take him. And he did just that until his body gave out on him.
 
His fight and his determination are unparalleled. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and the fear that he must have been feeling. And to force yourself to get up and keep moving, to keep going when your body is literally shutting down on you?! He was a fighter.
 
It is in remembering his fight and his determination that I am going to run my first marathon this fall. I signed up for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon this past March as a bucket list item – to treat myself to 26 miles for my 26th birthday. But in mid-June, while I was reviewing the training plan I had selected, I found it more than a coincidence that the exact day my training was supposed to start was on 6/30/18 – what would have been Uncle Bill’s 64th birthday. And the marathon date is on 11/3/18, which will be the morning after the mass that our priest scheduled to be Uncle Bill’s memorial mass. In other words, the entire range of training for my marathon ended up falling exactly between two very important dates regarding Uncle Bill’s journey!
 
In dedicating my first marathon to Uncle Bill’s fight, I also want to raise money in his memory for the Ocular Melanoma Foundation. In raising funds for the Ocular Melanoma Foundation, I hope to help provide it with the resources it needs to conduct more research for the purpose of learning more about this rare cancer and to discover better treatments that can cure, or at least prolong, the prognosis and extend the healthy lives of those who are diagnosed.
 
I miss my Uncle Bill every day, as I will continue to miss him for years to come. But in running my marathon this coming November in his honor, I hope to keep his fight and his determination to keep going alive.
 
Because after all, he was a fighter.
by: Clare Field
​​If you would like to send in a check to us, please mail it to:

Ocular Melanoma Foundation
1717 K. Street NW  Suite 900
Washington, DC 20006

Thank you so much.
If you have any questions or want further information about Warrior fundraising with OMF, please email warriors@ocularmelanoma.org