Victor Borges, Melanoma
"Everything I had to do, I was going to do."
Father Honors Doctor With Special Tribute
In early 2000, Victor Borges noticed a small mark on his nose that wouldn’t go away. His dermatologist told him it was melanoma, a form of skin cancer, and recommended he get the lesion removed.
Victor had surgery, and his doctor told him he was good to go.
“They told me it was gone,” he recalls. No follow up appointments were scheduled.
Five years later, in April 2005, Victor was lying in bed when he erupted in a rough coughing fit. He coughed up blood. Victor and his wife remained calm; he had probably just popped a vessel or something, they thought.
When a more severe coughing fit struck the next day, he scheduled an appointment with his doctor. An x-ray showed a mass in his chest, and the doctor recommended he get a CT scan.
Victor came to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. A biopsy was performed, and he was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic melanoma. A tumor the size of a grapefruit was growing in his right lung. He was determined to beat it.
“Everything I had to do, I was going to do,” he says.
Victor hit the books, researching everything he could find about cancer. He has always been an avid reader, curious to learn about whatever topic piqued his interests. He brought that same vigor to learning about his disease.
The scariest moments, he says, were when he saw the low survival statistics for Stage 4 melanoma. He recalls one night of breaking down in tears with his wife; but after that, he was prepared to face the road that lie ahead.
“If there’s a one percent survival rate, I’m going to be in that survival rate,” he says. “That’s just the way I am. Nobody can tell me I can’t do something.”
Before cancer, Victor was active, frequently playing basketball with friends. However, his eating habits were less than ideal; beer, soda, and fast food were all staples in his diet.
He met with a nutritionist, who said all that needed to change.
Red meat and excessive sugar were replaced with vegetables and berries. Victor also began practicing yoga and meditating. He immediately felt the impact of a healthier lifestyle; not only did he have more energy to endure treatment, but also he found more energy for chores around the house.
“It was the food,” he says. “It would kick in, give me more energy. I needed everything that was going to be on my side.”
Lynn G. Feun, M.D., professor of medicine, was impressed with how Victor approached his treatment. “Victor has shown great courage and grace during his battle with cancer,” he says. “He is an example to all of us.”
His course of treatment was challenging. But after multiple surgeries that removed two thirds of Victor’s right lung, one third of his left lung, his spleen, his right axilla, and a couple of lymph nodes, a CAT scan on June 21, 2006, showed no signs of cancer.
Six years after other doctors originally thought the melanoma was removed, Victor was now truly cancer free.
“Everybody that I met here, from the nurses to the doctors to the receptionist … they’re always going out of their way to make you feel better,” he says of the support system at Sylvester.
He holds up a picture of his daughters, four-year-old Kaira and two-year-old Amaia Lynn. Both girls have brown hair like their dad; Kaira is wearing purple face paint and a red flower in her hair. Amaia Lynn, whom Victor named after Dr. Feun, is pressing her smiling face against her sister’s.
Victor cites his girls as his main motivation to beat cancer again, should it return.
“If it comes back, I’ll beat it,” he says. “I know.”