Douglas Schwenker

20 Year Multiple Time Stage 4 Survivor!

It started in May of 1994, when Doug was 32. He had noticed a small scab on his back that just didn't seem to want to heal.  With a bit of prodding, he went to the Dermatologist, who scheduled him for a biopsy just to be safe.

During the biopsy Doug found out he was a cancer patient. Melanoma to be exact, and that he had a tumor roughly the size of his fist growing underneath the small scab on his back.

Doug was referred to Dr. Daniel Roses to perform the surgery necessary to remove the tumor. Dr. Roses recommended Doug have his lymph nodes removed to be safe due to the proximity of the tumor.

Doug didn't have much time to process, but he wanted to make sure he was doing the right thing.  You need to understand that 20 years ago we had no internet, we had no information and a Stage 4 melanoma was a death sentence.  We were told we better get our affairs in order, just in case.

You see, back then there weren't many places to go to get Melanoma support.  We did research and spoke to doctors and experts from every continent and country from Australia to Canada and Japan, and when Dr. Daniel Roses name was mentioned they all agreed Doug was in the right hands.

The surgery went well, and for 4 years Doug met with Dr. Roses and his first oncologist Dr. Ruth Oratz.

Then something happened that changed his course of life once again. While at work on a construction site, Doug had a seizure. Under the impression it was work related the ambulance brought him to the Meadowlands Hospital in NJ.   After an immediate MRI of the brain they found a tumor. Once again, Dr. Roses was contacted and Doug was rushed to NYU via ambulance.

Once he was admitted he had a battery of tests, and the results turned even darker. Not only did he have the brain tumor, but he also had a Melanoma tumor on his spleen. Dr. Patrick Kelly, Chief of Neurosurgery for NYU performed one of the first robotic craniotomies to remove the tumor.

While healing from the surgery he was allowed to come home for a few days for Christmas, there he proposed to his wife.

Swiftly he returned to NYU for his splenectomy, welcoming in 1998 from a hospital bed in NYU. New Year’s Day started a new chapter for Doug, he has had one more bought with prostate cancer, but has been Melanoma free, due to the vigilance of Dr. Roses and his oncologist Dr. Ana Pavlick.

Now-  years later, he still is ever vigilant with his 4 month checkups and his yearly scans.

Melanoma has become a dark reminder, daily sunscreen, second thoughts of vacations and how he spends his leisure time, but the bright side is that he is here to have to make those decisions.

Thu, 2014-03-20


DZnDef - (4/7/2014 - 3:30pm)

Hello Douglas!  Very happy to read of your success battling Melanoma.  I wish you continued success with that as well as the prostate cancer.  Could you share what treatments you have used other than surgery that you believe have contributed to your melanoma survival?  Thank you and all the best.

Maggie - Stage IV (lung mets unknown primary) since July 2012.  Brain mets September 2016.Taf/Mek, gamma knife, Keytruda resulting in clean brain scan and tiny remnants in lung as of July 2017