Mom battles cancer while pregnant with twins

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the July 6 print edition of The Times-Sentinel. Danielle and Tyler Dick have since welcomed baby daughter Reagan and baby son Colby.

By Tessa Castor

Danielle Dick, battling metastatic melanoma, has delayed treatment to protect her unborn twins. Dick, a 2004 graduate of Clearwater High School, lives with her husband, Tyler, and two-year-old daughter, Taylor, in Goddard.

Dick and Tyler were married in 2008. Two years later, Tyler noticed a strange mole on his wife’s back, which was diagnosed as melanoma in 2011. The mole was removed with surgery, and additional scans and a lymph node biopsy showed no additional evidence of disease.

For the next five years, Dick had skin checks with her dermatologist every six months. In June 2015, Tyler and Dick welcomed their daughter, Taylor.

Dick became pregnant with twins in December. She said that this pregnancy started out like her first, other than fatigue and occasional nausea. Around 15 or 16 weeks into the pregnancy, Dick began getting dizzy spells and headaches.

“I had been having some difficulty speaking and headaches for a few weeks before we went to the ER, but I attributed it to the pregnancy,” said Dick. “Turns out, the tumors and the surrounding swelling was pressing on the speech portion of my brain.”

Danielle Dick, right, pictured with her husband, Tyler, and daughter, Taylor. Dick had surgery on May 1 to remove three brain masses.

On April 29, Tyler found Dick unable to speak. The two went to the hospital, where they found out that Dick had three brain masses and two masses in her abdominal wall.

Dick underwent brain surgery on May 1 to remove the brain masses, and the abdominal masses were removed two days later. Melanoma was found in each, and likely spread from the original mole. The two decided to delay some treatment to save the twins.

“If I was not pregnant, I would have immediately started treatment,” said Dick. “I went to MD Anderson, and unfortunately, they did not have many answers for me, as there have not been many patients that have melanoma and are pregnant.”

In the beginning of June, Dick received radiation on the sites of the removed brain masses. Six weeks after surgery, another tumor was found on her adrenal gland. Based on further test results, Dick was able to start limited treatment.

The twins will be delivered in mid-July, at 29 weeks. They will likely spend a few months in the NICU, and each placenta will be tested for melanoma.

“We do not know the sexes,” said Dick. “We wanted it to be a surprise. Once they are born, I will start my full treatment and also be getting some scans that I could not get while pregnant. I guess we will go from there.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up on behalf of Dick’s family. The page raised nearly $20,000 in its first 10 days.

“Please share Danielle’s story so others will become more aware of this disease and take necessary action to prevent it,” the page said. “It seems that skin cancer is often seen as easily treatable and not a serious issue, which is obviously not the case.”

Dick’s story has made both local and national news, and was told on both Fox News and Daily Mail. A garden tour will be hosted in Clearwater on July 8, and all proceeds will be donated to the Dick family.

Dick is pictured before and after her May 1 surgery. The surgery was to remove three brain masses. The masses, along with masses found in her abdominal wall, tested positive for melanoma. Dick’s twins will be born mid-July at 29 weeks. While they are being cared for in the NICU, Dick will begin full treatment to battle her metastatic melanoma.

“I have learned about the power of community and prayer,” said Dick. “Even the doctors really did not know what to do with my case at first, so really all we had to go on was faith and support of our friends and family.”

Dick said she urges people to use sunscreen or protective clothing while outdoors, and to get skin checks by a trusted dermatologist.

“As far as melanoma goes, I really think that a lot of people think about it as ‘just skin cancer,’” said Dick. “I was probably one of them before all this. It is a horrible disease and is just as deadly as other cancers.”