Avid Outdoorsman Battles His Mesothelioma
Ralph Dale and his daughters, Rana and Debra
Ralph Dale was a 72-year-old retired engineer and construction supervisor
who lived in Ketchikan, Alaska. Since his sophomore year in high school,
Ralph expressed an immeasurable passion for working with wood, boating,
and being outdoors. From tables to patented rowing oars, Ralph loved using
his hands and tools to craft personal masterpieces. His passion for wood-working
led him to pursue various jobs in the wood pulping industry. Unfortunately,
Ralph's love led him to a pulp plant where he was exposed to asbestos.
In January 2005, Ralph was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.
Ralph's story began less than a year ago. After a left hip replacement
in November 2004, Ralph was anxious to return to his active lifestyle.
With four children and eight grandchildren, Ralph could expect a busy
schedule. He and his family have some land and a quaint cabin outside
Ketchikan that can only be reached by boat. Ralph loved spending time
at the cabin where he went fishing and relaxed. Ralph's love of boating
and working with wood led him to patent a design for a rowing oar. He
even planned to create a business for his personal design. However, Ralph
noticed an unusual shortness of breath in December while recovering from
his hip surgery. After contacting his doctor, he underwent a CT scan,
chest film, and ultrasound. Ralph's doctor discovered a fluid build-up
in Ralph's thoracic cavity. The doctor tried to perform a thoracentesis,
but he was unsuccessful. He recommended that Ralph visit the Swedish Cancer
Center in Seattle, Washington.
Ralph Dale and his catch-of-the-day
In January 2005, Ralph met with Dr. Aye who suggested Ralph have a pleural
biopsy. After a thoracoscopy and talc pleurodesis, Ralph was diagnosed
with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The Dale family already had an unfortunate
history with cancer. Ralph's wife of nearly 50 years died of colon
cancer in March 2004, and his new diagnosis was truly shocking. Ralph
met with Dr. Eric Vallieres of the Swedish Cancer Center, who suggested
he begin chemotherapy as soon as possible before they considered him for
an extra-pleural pneumonectomy (EPP). Ralph bravely began treatment on
February 14, but he felt very sick in the days after.
Ralph never regained the energy he was hoping for after his hip replacement.
The chemotherapy treatments left him weak and frequently in a great deal of pain.
"I sure wish I was busy. I have no energy.
I have never been so low."
After the first round of treatment, the unpleasant news came that his mesothelioma
had not reduced. Without a reduction in the cancerous site, Ralph did
not qualify for surgery. At this point, doctor's suggested further
chemotherapy treatment, which they called "life-stretching"
treatments. There was no cure for Ralph's mesothelioma. He was faced
with the decision of what to do next. First, he decided to continue with
chemotherapy, hoping for the best. Sadly, the chemotherapy delivered the
same painful side effects and no sign of improvement. Ralph's last
chemotherapy treatment was in April 2005. It was after this final round
of therapy, that Ralph and his family decided it was no longer worth the
added pain and suffering to treat something doctors deemed incurable.
His situation was grim. In late May 2005, Ralph was admitted to the long-term
care unit at his local hospital. He was not expected to survive the month
of May. However, he showed glimpses of the strength and spirit of his
past and held on to life as long as he could. His family was by his side
since day one and continued to be there for Ralph while he fought a courageous
fight. Sadly, Ralph lost his fight against mesothelioma and passed away
June 23, 2005.
Ralph Dale passed away on June 23, 2005.
POSTED AUGUST 11, 2005 **