Mom Thought She Had 'Pregnancy Brain' but MRI Reveals Deadly Sign of Cancer


When Tyler Dick, a nurse anesthetist, noticed an odd-looking mole on his wife’s back in 2011, he urged her to visit a dermatologist.

The doctor removed the mole and determined that it wasn’t worrisome. Relieved, the couple went home.

When the mole grew back, however, they decided to consult a different doctor. This time the results of the biopsy were much more grim; it was melanoma.

After the doctor removed the cancerous mole and both of Danielle’s lymph nodes, the couple was able to breathe again. “Everything looked okay,” Tyler said.

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The scare motivated the couple to visit the dermatologist every six months and to use sunscreen religiously. They learned just how serious melanoma is and didn’t want to take any chances.

Four years later Danielle gave birth to their first daughter, Taylor. They were elated when they were pregnant again in 2016 … with twins!

Twins didn’t run in either of their families so it came as a shock.

As her nine months passed, her memory began to get worse and worse. Danielle didn’t think much of it; she just assumed that it was “pregnancy brain.”

She continued thinking that way until April 2017 when her slight forgetfulness turned into not remembering words. She knew something wasn’t right, so she visited a doctor.

The doctor found something she had only had nightmares about; her cancer had returned, but this time in her brain. After tests confirmed the tumors were in fact melanoma, they began to devise a plan to save Danielle and the 29-week-old twins.

While still pregnant, she took chemotherapy pills and went through some pinpoint radiation.

The twins were then delivered through a Caesarean section so they could continue to develop in the neonatal intensive care unit.

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After four rounds of radiation and continued intake of chemotherapy pills, doctors found around 20 new masses in her brain.

“She never got any breaks. Every time she went to the doctor she got the worst news of her life,” Tyler recalled. “It was just shocking how they would get one (tumor) to shrink or go away and another would pop up.”

While the constant bad news could be enough to bring anyone down, Danielle refused to think that way. She spent every possible moment with her children.

She would take them to the park or make crafts with Taylor. “She loved those babies so much,” Tyler said.

The couple was even able to knock a few things off of their bucket list: swimming with dolphins, going to see The Killers in concert, and watching March Madness games.

Then, at the beginning of 2018, she began to have pain in her back and her hands became numb. Doctors found that the cancer had moved to her spinal cord.

Doctors referred her to MD Anderson Center in Houston, Texas for further treatment. Specialists there tried new forms of treatment in hopes of directly attacking the cancer, but it was too late.

Tyler said, “She started getting so sick she wasn’t able to start treatments.”

Danielle passed away on April 25, less than a year after her diagnosis.

Tyler now hopes that his wife’s story will raise awareness of melanoma and help save others lives. It’s a message that is especially important as we go into the summer season.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays raises your risk for melanoma. Luckily, there are simple ways to protect yourself like using sunscreen, wearing a hat, and wearing long-sleeved shirts.

While these are good practices to help lessen your risk for skin cancer, it does not guarantee that you will not get it. Regular skin exams are still important.

The American Cancer Society suggests performing monthly self-skin exams so that you can be more aware of the moles and freckles on your own body. If you know what is normal for your body, you will be able to detect odd growths sooner.

Look for moles or freckles that violate the ABCDE rule: A for Asymmetry, B for Border, C for Color, D for Diameter, and E for Evolving. If anything raises concern, visit a dermatologist to have it checked out.

That is something Tyler will continue to tell people. “Go to an annual skin visit,” he said. “Danielle just hoped that people would become aware of how scary skin cancer could be.”

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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