Happy 44th birthday Dan! The Howards and our friends had a really great year that only could have been better with you providing your commentary and dry humor. No surprise the Eagles stink, the Phillies stink, the Sixers stink and your beloved Flyers? Well, they have a shot.
We had a great Howard family trip to Mexico in May and an amazing Bat Mitzvah for Joise. Check out that picture with Mara front and center as always! She is such a great kid, you'd be very proud of how smart she is and how great she gets along with her cousins. We miss you!
Happy 42nd birthday brother Dan! The Howard family had a great year but it would have been even better with you cracking jokes and passing around the Yeungling. We all miss you so much but get to feel your presence through the many stories about you and of course, through Pam and Mara. We'll be hoisting a beer for you and hope you're doing the same!
Love the Howards
We miss you Dan and wish you were here but we're all making sure to include you in our thoughts and tell your stories. You're right here with us and we love you!
Happy 40th Birthday Dan! For a few minutes we had you back this morning. I stopped for coffee and when they asked for my name, I told them my name was Dan. I do this every day to make sure you're with me as often as possible. This moring the guy at Starbucks said, 'Dan - that's my name too!' Then, out of nowhere I said - "it's my birthday, my 40th." We talked for awhile and when he asked if I had any special plans I told him I'm sure my wife and daughter have something planned. I was channeling you for a few minutes!
I wish that really was you at Starbucks this morning. We all miss you and love you and think of you often. Here's a couple of pictures of your amazing daughter and your freinds and family and the annual event that Pam does such a great job putting together in your honor. We love you brother Dan!
Happy 39th birthday brother Dan! Check out all the young cousins hanging out together. They all really love each other and have endless fun hanging out. Mara is a great role model for the San Francisco Howards and owns her school like no other. Ginger and Lucy are growing up with frequent stories about Uncle Dan and the Howard family. We wish you were here to tell the stories yourself. We miss you more than ever and think about you every day.
Happy 37th Birthday Dan. We are all thinking of you and wishing you were still here with us. You still have the knack of getting us all together. The High School crowd gathered at Masons Mill for a get together in honor of your birthday and Mara had a Princess Party for her 4th birthday last week.
Pam organized a great event on June 28th. Team Howard, with 93 members, was the largest team involved in Running for Cover(http://www.foundationformelanomaresearch.org/index.php), a walk/run to benefit Melanoma research held at the Wachovia Center. The team raised over $3000. Kelly won first place in the run for her age group and the team celebrated afterwards at McFadden's at the Phillies stadium just like you used to.
Dan, it's been a year since we lost you. We miss you more than ever and will feel our loss especially deeply over the holidays. Pam and Mara have moved into a great house in Blue Bell that you must have had a hand in selecting as it's perfect for them. Just another example of how you continue to watch over your family in many ways. Mara is now three years old and is enjoying her new purple bedroom and the yard in the back. Her blue eyes provide us all with a warm reminder of you every day.
Your friends, family and co-workers have demonstrated amazing loyalty by supporting the Mara Howard Fund and by going to the doctor to have their moles checked out. At least 11 people have had moles removed with at least five people catching melanoma in the early stages. One of your greatest legacies is that you provided the most powerful reminder for all of us to watch out for Melanoma going forward.
Dan, thanks for making all of our lives richer while you were here and for the great memories we have of time spent together. We miss you.
Thanks to all that attended Dan's service. Over 400 people attended with most staying on to enjoy the celebration that followed. Pam and the family felt the love and Dan would have been proud.
To view Dan's Eulogy go to the following link:
To view the pictures from the Memorial Service go here:
Thanks for all your support.
On Saturday December 9th at 1 pm we will be having a memorial service for Dan at the Julia Ball Auditorium at Gwynedd Mercy College on Sumneytown Pike followed by a more festive celebration of Dan's life at The Drafting Room, 900 Bethlehem Pike, Spring House, PA 19477. Pam attended Gwynedd Mercy High School and The Drafting Room was one of Dan's favorite hang outs.
Directions to Gwynedd Mercy: http://www.gmc.edu/admissions/directions.htm
Gwynedd Mercy Campus Map: http://www.gmc.edu/admissions/map.html
The Drafting Room Website and Directions: http://www.draftingroom.com/spring_house/sh_home.html
There will be a private ceremony to bury Dan at White Marsh Cemetery on Friday for the immediate family. White Marsh Cemetery is just down the road from the location of Dan and Pam's first date.
UPDATE - December 5th 2006
We're very sad to provide this update on Dan. After a two year battle with cancer, Dan passed away early this morning. Pam was by his side and the family was gathered around while a parade of well wishers came by to provide support. The family laughed and cried while sharing stories about Dan and his wonderful but all too short life.
We'll be providing an update on funeral arrangements here as soon as they are available. In the meantime, leave a comment at the bottom of the page for Pam and Mara to enjoy.
ABOUT DAN AND MARA
Dan Howard is a 35 year old from Meadowbrook, Pa. He was born and raised in suburban Philadelphia and married his long-time sweetheart, Pam, in 2001. Dan is a Senior Manager in the Philadelphia office of Accenture where he works in the Pharmaceutical practice. He has four brothers: Jim, Jamie, Dave and Rob and one sister: Anne.
Mara is Dan and Pam's daughter who was born in 2004. She is full of energy, shares Dan's bright blue eyes and is universally recognized as giving the best hugs ever.
On a normal summer day, Dan found a mole on his back. For some reason, this mole made him nervous and though he loathed to do it, he had it checked out by a local doctor. The doctor tested the mole by biopsy and determined it was non-cancerous. However, he suggested having it removed as a precaution at Dan's leisure. Mixing the Howard family avoidance of doctors with Dan’s consulting assignment that fall in Boston, it’s amazing he scheduled removal at all. When he finally did, it was November and his Melanoma had taken hold.
Six weeks after the joy of welcoming Mara into the world, Dan had finally found the time to have the mole on his back removed. It was tested again and this time, it showed it's true nature and Dan was diagnosed with Stage 1 Melanoma. At Thanksgiving, the family marveled over Mara and slapped Dan a few times on the back right where he had the mole removed. Dan's wince of pain of course, led to a few more back slaps.
Given the positive biopsy, Dan was scheduled for testing of the area around the mole and also of his lymph nodes. The cancer was quickly upgraded to Stage II Melanoma and Dan went through surgery number 2 and then surgery number 3 as it was discovered to have already spread to his lymph nodes. By the time these surgeries were complete, Dan had some impressive scars (back, neck and arm), was short about 15 lymph nodes and was 'upgraded' to a stage III Melanoma.
After a whirwind of Internet research, realization set in that there is no known cure for Stage III Melanoma. Dan announced that Pam and Mara provide all the motivation he needs to fight as long and as hard as needed to beat the disease. At this point the hope was that the surgery had captured all of the Melanoma that was loose in his body. However, there was genuine concern that the surgeries did not capture all of the cancer. Dan and his doctors identified a promising drug treatment that could potentially prevent the natural progression of the disease which, in time works its way through the body to other remote locations.
Dan's first drug treatment was called Interferon. Patients usually are able to endure Interferon treatments for a few weeks before the severe side affects force the patient to drop the treatment. Dan provided an early indicator to the melanoma in his body that he is not to be taken lightly, he not only continued his Interferon treatment for an entire year, but he also continued to work full-time at Accenture through side affects that would keep most of us in bed and some of us in the hospital. Dan lost 50 pounds but retained his confidence and joked that he was about 30 pounds over weight anyway.
Doctors ran some tests after a few months that seemed to show no spread of the disease. After a year of the Interferon, another battery of tests were run. These tests showed that after suffering for a a full year on Interferon, the cancer had spread to two small spots on Dan's lungs. Dan had reached Melanoma Stage IV.
A fifteen month old Mara had recently started walking and talking and was providing plenty of great energy around the house. However, Dan’s diagnosis with Stage IV Melanoma signaled that 2006 was going to be a very difficult year. The Howards called an emergency meeting in Key West, Florida to go over all the possible treatment plans and to possibly test brother Dave’s theory that large amounts of alcohol could wipe out the cancer. The brothers spent a long day at the bars discussing treatment options, then proceeded to party until 5 AM two nights in a row. We didn’t cure the cancer but Dan once again demonstrated his resolve to fight.
Unlike most cancers, Melanoma past stage II has no proven cure and therefore has no standard course of treatment. Dan was forced to evaluate clinical trials to choose the most promising. Dan and Pam, with help from friends and family arranged visits with the top Melanoma specialists around the country. Dan discussed or met with specialists in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Houston. There was no consensus on treatment strategy, with each doctor recommending different strategies. Dan and Pam had to make their own decision and chose a difficult but potentially promising path of a series of clinical trials and drug treatments. Each one would be followed by tests to determine the effectiveness of the treatment. If a trial or drug treatment did not work, he’d move onto another and another until he found one that worked.
In Spring 2006 Dan felt pretty well and showed his incredible resolve by participating in a local 5k run while undergoing drug treatments for Melanoma. By summer, that drug therapy was determined to have been unsuccessful and Dan was preparing to start on a promising treatment that had extreme side affects including hospitalization for long periods. As part of the prep procedure for this treatment, called IL2, Dan mentioned to the nurse that he had just recently been having some headaches. They ran a test and found that the cancer had spread to Dan’s brain. This was a serious development as it prevented that clinical trial but more importantly, it put Dan’s life immediately at risk. A course of radiation treatment was needed to clear the brain of cancer before he could continue on another treatment to eliminate the cancer from the rest of his body.
Through all of these treatments, tests and appointments, Dan had continued his work with Accenture. The radiation and his growing list of medications finally forced Dan to stop working at the beginning of July. Another change came in the form of his shaved head which he and his brother Jamie (as a sign of support) had done in a pre-emptive move against the pending hair loss from the radiation. For the first time, Dan started to show hints to the casual observer that he might be fighting cancer.
Dan celebrated Mara’s second birthday by winning the battle with cancer in his brain, shown in a clean brain scan. His victory prize was entry into another clinical trial to get back to the business of fighting the Melanoma in the rest of his body. The newest treatment turned out to be the one with the most difficult side affects to date. The drugs induced nausea, vomiting and fatigue which when combined with the spread of the disease, affected Dan’s daily life considerably.
The clinical trial started in September was discontinued at the end of October after tests showed that is was not effective in stopping the spread of the disease. Dan then prepared to start the IL-2 treatment (the one with the dramatic side affects including hospital stays) however, the doctor running the trial discovered several tumors that had grown too large to proceed with the trial. Dan started a chemotherapy regimen with the goal of shrinking those tumors to clear the way for the new trial.
In mid November, Dan was admitted to the hospital with difficulty breathing and it was discovered that he had both pneumonia and blood clots in his lungs (pulmonary embolism). Dan received treatment to correct both of those problems during a week long stay in the ICU at Abington Hospital. He was released from the hospital in time to spend Thanksgiving with his family. After the hospital stay he is ready to get back on track with the search for a cure.
Through 3 surgeries, 4 different drug regimines, radiation and chemotherapy, Mara and Pam have provided the foundation for Dan. Pam is always there when needed to provide the love, support and medical direction. She has put her pre-cancer life aside to provide care and to take over managing the household with incredible strength and poise. Mara knows no difference between the 225 pound Dad with a full head of hair and the bald, skinny father of today. Dan is quite simply, heroic. He battles with considerable pain, weakness and nausea on a daily basis, but continues to plan for the next treatment and the next set of side effects with unwavering determination. He looks like a different man than he did two years ago. But as one of his closest friends said, when you look him in the eye, he's still the same Dan Howard.