It was April 2007, when I got the phone call from my husband, LCP Quintal, that he was coming home from Okinawa, Japan. That was when his journey began with melanoma skin cancer.
Marshall was not supposed to be back home until January 2008, but while he was overseas, doctors removed a mole he had on the back of his neck. Once they tested it, it came back as melanoma skin cancer. When he called me that day to tell me the bad news I thought, “ Well, melanoma skin cancer doesn’t sound bad, he’ll be fine.” I was wrong. Marshall came home that very next day and in April 2007, doctors performed surgery on his neck removing all his lymph nodes, because the cancer has spread. Even though it was a painful surgery, Marshall never complained. After performing that surgery, doctors put him on a treatment called interferon, which he was on for 1 full year. The first 3 months I had to drive him 3-5 days a week to the Naval hospital in San Diego. I would sit there right by his side for about 3-5 hours until his treatment was up. Those nights were tough, because he was in a lot of pain, and very uncomfortable. Marshall would have bad body aches, fevers, night sweats, stomach pain, you name it, he went through it all. I hated seeing my husband in pain, but I stayed strong for him and never lost hope. Marshall was very smart. He would go on the internet and look up melanoma skin cancer and want to find out everything about it. I remember one time, being in the room with him and he said to me “Babe, I’m going to die, I know I’m going to die,” with tears running down his eyes. My heart felt like it was going to pop out of my chest. I looked at him and said “Babe, you’re not going to die, don’t think like that. You need to think positive.” He said,“ Babe I read about it. The chances of me fighting this are very low. I saw the statistics on the internet.” When he said that, I told him he needed to stop going on the internet and reading about it. Everyone is different and he was going to fight it. I guess I was in denial, I don’t now.
About 1 year later, around May 2008, doctors saw something showing up on both of his lungs. “Oh no.”, I thought, more bad news. Well, the one on the right lung was a lot bigger than the one on his left lung, and it was also growing a lot quicker. So they decided to perform surgery on his right lung first. That was the most painful surgery he went through. They had to split his ribs open. Doctor said it’s a lot more painful then open hart surgery. Wow, was he in pain. I felt helpless! All I could do is take care of him and comfort him. Then about a month later, when doctors where planning on performing surgery on his left lung, they notice that the cancer had spread to his liver. So they decided to no longer go through with the surgery. Why? Because once it’s in your liver there is no cure for that yet. So what did they do? They gave us a referral to go to City of Hope. So in August 2008, we went to City of Hope and he was going to start on a clinical trial there, but before he could do that, they needed to perform some test to make sure his body was prepared for that treatment. Well September came, and he was very ill. I remember him complaining a lot about his jaw hurting. I would make him some hot chocolate or hot tea since it made it feel better. That’s all I could really do. I was very frustrated, because I felt like I couldn’t help. Then around mid September, he started getting symptoms of the stomach flu. Everything he ate he would throw up. He could not keep anything down. I tried buying him all types of juices/jellos/pudding, and that helped a little. The flu was going around that time so we thought, “Oh it’s just the flu.” But as he started getting worse and losing a lot of weight, I got really worried. I kept telling him, “Babe, lets go to the doctor, I don’t think this is normal.” Then he would say to me what he always said, “No babe, I’m fine.” Really, what he was trying to do is wait until my birthday. You see, my birthday is September 22. Marshall was the type of guy that wanted to make everything special for me, even when he was this sick. He was an amazing husband.
On my birthday he could barely even do anything. So he had called the Louis Vuitton store and ordered me a purse. Then he called my sister in law, who is a chef, and asked her if she could come over and bake me a cake, because he wanted to make this day special for me. So she did. That was a very special day for me. Two days later he could not take the pain anymore, so he finally let me take him to the hospital. I still had to force him to go in anyway. Marshall did not like to worry me. The whole ride over there he was very quite. I knew he was in a lot of pain. He was curled up in a little ball. After running some tests at the hospital that night, the doctors said he was in so much pain because he had kidney stones. So I thought, “No wonder your in so much pain! You have kidney stones.” So they sent him back home with some morphine. Well the next day, he still could not take the pain, so I took him back to the hospital and that’s when doctors ran some more test, and saw that the cancer had spread all over his lungs and liver. That was the worst news, but for some reason, I still thought he was going to be ok. I was wrong! Everything went down hill from there.
Two days later, on Friday September 26, 2008, doctors said we needed to say our goodbyes because he was bleeding internally from his lungs, and they didn’t think he was going to make it. They needed to go and stick a tube in his lungs to drain the blood, but he was way to weak and he wouldn’t survive. At that point I thought “ WHAT! I just brought him in two days ago and now your telling me he’s going to die.” The doctors eyes would tear up every time they would look at us. They said “We’ll give you guys an hour.” Marshall was very calm. All I could do was keep kissing him and saying “ Marshall, I love you so much. I don’t want you to die. Talk to God babe, please, talk to God. Tell him not to take you yet.” He looked at me and said, “Okay babe, but if it doesn’t happen right now, it’s going to happen either way.” I was like “No, no babe.” After a while, I didn’t know what else to say. Finally, the time had come. One last kiss, one last I love you, and one last good bye. So as I got out of the room, I’m walking down the hall way, and all of a sudden I break down. I just remember my sister holding me telling me, “Sis it’s ok, it’s ok sis.” I look at her with tears coming down, “No Iris, he can’t die, he can’t die”. Man, was that the worst night ever. My body went into a paralyzed mode. I felt like I couldn’t move, cold, just numb. An hour passes and I here the doctor say, “He’s doing good. Surprisingly, he’s doing good. He made it through.” As I walked back to see him, I felt so much better, because he looked better. He said, “I feel so much better now. I don’t feel pressure in my chest anymore.” Well everything went wrong after that. He started getting infections in his blood, his heart rate would go up to 160 and the lowest it would go was 120. So it was popping out of his chest the whole time. Well he was in the hospital for another week. His pee was black, because his liver was slowly shutting down. I didn’t sleep the whole time I was there, because I was scared he would pass while I was sleeping. It was so hard to see him like that, but some how I was able to stay strong and keep comforting him. Finally, doctors came in and said,” Marshall, we have tried everything. Don’t think we have given up on you, but there’s nothing else we can do. What are your wishes?” He said, “Well I don’t want to die here, I want to die at home.” That was very scary for me, because that meant I had to take care of him myself, and he would by passing away in my room. So the next day I brought him home. It was very hard having him home. I had to do everything myself. I had to give him all his medicine, I was able to give him one bath and shave him, but what was the hardest is seeing him in pain. On the 5th day of him being home, I knew that was going to be his last day. He was hallucinating really bad all night. He was not making sense in anything he would say. So I called everyone in my family, some friends that wanted to come see him, and told them to hurry, because I didn’t think he was going to make it much longer. That day, one of our pastors from our church had came over to visit. Marshall had asked to be alone with the pastor, but he said it any a very weird tone of voice. So we all got out of the room and waited in the room next door. About 10 minutes later, our pastor came out to talk to us. He said, “Marshall said he’s ready to go, but he’s worried about his wife. You need to go in there and tell him it’s ok for him to leave.” Man, was that hard to do. By that time, Marshall could no longer talk anymore. Every time he would breathe out he would make a humming noise. I sat right by his side and I started singing him in his ear, our favorite song, “Because You Love Me.” Then I told him a couple times that he can go now. Not to worry about me, I was going to be fine and he can go. Then he took his last breath. I freaked out for about 15 seconds, and I can hear my brother telling me, “Sis, just let him go sis, let him go.” All of a sudden I felt peace. It was as if God wrapped his arms around me. I knew Marshall was no longer suffering, and he had gone to heaven to be with the Lord.