April 18, 2017
BENEFITING: Scott A Garet Memorial Foundation
EVENT: Pittsburgh Marathon 2017
EVENT DATE: May 07, 2017
Scott’s story begins on May 1, 2011, the morning of the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. Gathered into the starting corral, he was readying to begin what would be his greatest running challenge to date: a full marathon. He began conservatively, notching mile splits just above the 8 minute mark for the first seven miles. Those times began to quicken before the halfway point, as there were a stretch of mile times just a touch below the 8 minute mark for the next five miles. Perhaps feeling some fatigue, or perhaps saving some energy for later in the race, Scott backed off the pace. As the number of miles remaining dwindled, the pace of said miles continually crept higher.
Mile 22 – 8:53
Mile 23 – 9:17
Mile 24 – 9:27
And then, it happened. As any marathon runner will tell you, at a certain point, a wall is hit. Mental fatigue, physical anguish, emotional instability. After running such a distance, both in mileage and time, there is no avoiding the wall…
Mile 25 – 11:37
Having come so far, after countless hours pounding the pavement and lifting those weights, there was a choice to be made. Do you give in to your body and allow the wall to win? Or do you punch, kick, and scratch through said wall, finding that one more push to finish triumphantly?
Mile 26 – 8:59
Last .54 Miles – 3:59
Scott chose one more push. It was a trait that had grown to define his personality; a trait that would be put to the test mere months later, when he went on to fight a race infinitely more difficult than any of his previous…
The fight began slowly, as back pain crept into the picture as the calendar turned to August. Being at a tolerable level, and since he ran north of 100 miles each month, Scott believed he had simply picked up some type of nagging running injury. However, as August progressed, the pain became increasingly unbearable. On the morning of September 1st, with agonizing pain leading to days of being confined to his bed, Scott was taken to the hospital for an MRI. At this time, a shocking discovery was made: a tumor in his sacrum. The next day, routine testing turned into anything but; more tumors were revealed: one in his chest cavity, two on his liver, and one on his right lung. Had we not known the previous day, we knew now: Scott was battling cancer.
An official diagnosis did not come until a transfer to UPMC Shadyside in Pittsburgh: stage 4 mixed cell carcinoma lung cancer, small cell & squamous cell. In hopes of shrinking the tumor in his sacrum and alleviating his debilitating back pain, he underwent radiation treatments. Unfortunately, there was little pain relief by the time we traveled with Scott to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for a second opinion, the pain so severe it necessitated Scott lying on an air mattress in the back of a minivan for the eight hour roundtrip. The specialist at Johns Hopkins came back with the same diagnosis: stage 4 mixed cell carcinoma lung cancer, small cell & squamous cell.
Each doctor that visited Scott was baffled. How could an otherwise healthy young man, a competitive runner and nonsmoker, be afflicted with lung cancer? That answer, even to the present, remains elusive. Optimism, though, was high, as his first chemotherapy cycle began just a day after arriving back from Baltimore. Initially, everything appeared well; while his appetite was suffering, he was not experiencing the sickness commonly associated with chemotherapy. The treatments must have been working as hoped, as Scott was more mobile than he had been since his diagnosis, even being able to climb the stairs of his parents’ home. However, just one day before he was set to begin his second round of chemotherapy, the pain in his back once again became excruciating. Another trip to the local emergency room was made in hopes to both alleviate and control his pain; 8 mg of Dilaudid (a drug four times as powerful as Morphine) later, the pain was finally manageable. A transfer to UPMC Shadyside was once again sought, and in the late hours of the night, Scott was resting as comfortably as possible.
Due to the setback, chemotherapy was delayed as they adjusted the drugs he was to be given for his next cycle. The tumors had unfortunately spread to his left hip and femur, necessitating surgery to insert a titanium rod into his left femur so that it would not fracture during radiation; fluid was also drained from around his right lung. Scott’s second cycle of chemotherapy, along with further radiation treatments, were completed shortly before Thanksgiving, allowing our family the chance to share Thanksgiving dinner around our dining room table… and that we did. As pain free as he had been since his battle began, Scott joined us at the table, laughing and joking as he had in so many years prior. Friday was even better, as he sat in our living room rocking chair, flipping through the countless Black Friday ads mailed to the house. The tide began to turn on Saturday however, with the all too familiar pain creeping back into his body. And on Sunday, the realization of what may come was all too present in our minds.
Not only had the pain returned, but Scott also complained of difficulty breathing. We quickly called our neighbor and long-time family friend over to the house. As the chief nurse of the local emergency room, she watched over Scott during his time at home. On this Sunday evening, she sat with Scott, attempting to calm his nerves, as she called for an ambulance. Another trip to the emergency room was in store, followed by yet another transfer to UPMC Shadyside.
Optimism, by this time, had begun to wane. Fluid once again needed drained, this time from around Scott’s heart, as this had been causing his breathing difficulties. In addition, the tumors were now impacting his bones, drawing calcium into his blood stream. The elevated calcium levels caused by this began impacting his mind, rendering Scott confused. Shortly thereafter, doctors gave us the grim outlook: if he did not get stronger, chemotherapy could not be done. Feeding options were considered to strengthen his body; in the end, he underwent surgery to insert a PEG tube. This attempt, however, was too late. Doctors told us that Scott would last only weeks more, if that.
After hearing that news, we, as a family, made the difficult decision to bring him home. He had been asking to go home for a couple of days; we were no longer going to deny him his wishes. We still envisioned one more miracle, strengthening Scott for one more chance at chemotherapy. It was not to be, as our home care nurse made the suggestion of moving from cure to care. It was the most difficult decision any of us have had to make, a decision that nobody should have to make in regards to a 26 year old man. We knew, however, that it was time for Scott to be at peace. We surrounded him with our love, and he quietly passed away on December 20th, basked in the glow of the family Christmas tree he had so loved.
Throughout his ordeal, Scott kept his trademark smile and considerate attitude. Not a day passed when Scott did not thank the nurses and doctors for all they were doing. Our family was blindsided by the diagnosis, never believing a healthy young man could develop lung cancer. We continue the battle Scott began, and with your help, we can ensure no other family suffers the heartache our family has had to endure. Together, we can.