When Ralph Cousins describes the hole
in his head, he tries not to sound overly dramatic:
“I guess it’s about the diameter of
a coffee can.”
How it got there, how it was surgically
reconstructed at UT Southwestern, and how the 71-year-old Dallas man is still walking
this earth – much less traveling, volunteering with non-profits, and playing with
his grandkids – well, that is quite remarkable.
One morning in 2012, Mr. Cousins
woke up and noticed blood on his pillow. Three hard bumps on his head, which he
worried might be skin cancer, turned out to be something much more rare: angiosarcoma,
an aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of blood vessels.
For every million people in the U.S., one will be
diagnosed with angiosarcoma each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy
directed by his oncologist at another medical facility in Dallas worked
initially, but the angiosarcoma resurfaced three years later in 2015 in a lymph
node in Mr. Cousins’ neck.
Then in January 2019, he noticed an
unusual spot on the original wound and a scan found a tumor. This time it was
inside the skull, straddling the superior sagittal sinus – a large vein that
runs from the front of the brain to the base. Surgery would be risky, at best,
several doctors told him.
Knick that vein and “you’ll be
hearing the angels sing,” one told him.
'We might only have one chance'
But Mr. Cousins and his wife,
Harriet, “the rock” in their 42-year marriage, were not about to give up.
“We knew it would be a moonshot, and
that we might only have one chance,” says Mr. Cousins. “But never in the seven
years since I was first diagnosed have we discussed the possibility that the
cancer would win.”
A referral to UT Southwestern
gave them their moonshot.