Horace and his wife Gloria, October, 2001.
Horace Horton is a 71-year-old retired mainte-nance worker and businessman
who was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in August 2001.
Before falling ill with mesothelioma, Horace's health had been remarkable,
allowing him to work hard since he was eight years old when he was hustling
around the streets of Los Angeles with his shoe shine box and a dream.
He grew up, worked as a maintenance man for several years and eventually
opened his own cleaning business. However, his true happiness came when
he met Gloria, his wife.
They were married on October 7, 1989, and despite Horace's ties to
southern California, he and Gloria chose Mississippi as their home before
moving to Alabama so that Gloria could pursue her doctoral studies in
epidemiology. Then, the unthinkable began.
TROUBLING SYMPTOMS LEAD TO DIAGNOSIS
In August 2000, shortly after moving to Alabama from California, Horace
began to suffer fatigue and shortness of breath. Initially, he thought
this was a severe upper respiratory infection. He then began experiencing
pain in his left chest wall. He consulted with a physician in Birmingham,
Alabama, and underwent a left-sided thoracentesis, with a large amount
of fluid extracted; cytological tests upon the fluid were inconclusive.
Doctors recommended that he have an open lung biopsy, but he was hesitant
to have the procedure done.
Horace and Gloria in Egypt, 1996.
Horace continued to cope with his pain until August 2001, when he traveled
to southern California to visit family. A CT scan performed at Torrance
Memorial Medical Center showed thickening of the visceral and parietal
pleurae and an accumulation of approximately 200 ccs of fluid. The fluid
was aspirated with ultrasound guidance and submitted for testing. Again,
cytological tests upon the fluid were negative for malignancy. Horace's
lung did not fully expand after the thoracentesis, and surgery was recommended.
On August 23, 2001, Dr. James D. Hall of the Torrance Memorial Medical
Center, attempted to perform a thoracotomy, but was unable to insert the
thoracoscope because of dense adhesions on the lung. Biopsies were taken
from the left pleura and sent to the pathology laboratory. The pathological
tests upon these specimens yielded positive results for malignancy, and
a diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma, epithelioid type, was made.
Horace then met with Dr. Robert Cameron at the UCLA Medical Center in Los
Angeles, California. While Dr. Cameron felt that Horace was a suitable
candidate for pleurectomy / decortication, Horace decided against this
surgery. It is an aggressive treatment, and Horace was unsure about his
ability to endure the procedure and subsequent recovery. To attack this
disease for which there is no cure, he is currently taking an increased
dose of morphine as well as nutritional protocols; he is hoping for good results.
PHILOSOPHY AND DREAM TO LIVE
Horace's life has had its share of ups and downs. He's survived
his share of California earthquakes and been robbed at gunpoint for two
dollars of loose change -- he laughs about that one. He spent most of
his life working, saying that when you're a working man, there are
the things you have to do, some things you want to do and a whole lot
more you wish you'd done. He worked hard for years, and when he wasn't
doing that, he made sure he was helping to raise his five children. Horace's
family lived in rough neighborhoods, and he is proud of the difficulties
his children overcame. When he retired, he took college classes out of
long-held curiosity, and traveled across the country to fulfill long-held
dreams. He is glad for his experiences, because they have made him the
man he is; he is comfortable with himself and exudes confidence.
For now, all he and Gloria can do is hope and wait -- not easy for a man
like Horace. He'd rather make lemonade out of lemons and prefers to
get up and do something and work his way out of a bad situation. His father
once told him, "When there's trouble over here, you be over there."
With mesothelioma, it isn't that easy. Horace's six-foot, one-half
inch tall frame has lost 50 pounds, dwindling to 140 pounds. He can no
longer get around like he used to. One thing reassures him, however. When
he initially became sick, Gloria postponed her graduate studies but, at
Horace's urging, has now resumed them. She is a former manager but
has used her time since retirement to pursue further education. Horace
is more than happy to make sure that although he can no longer do certain
things, she doesn't have to lose all the things that she loves. Since
her return, Gloria has had an offer to upgrade her graduate studies to
the doctoral level.
He and Gloria both have a deep and abiding faith in God, and they know
they can count on each other for love and support. Despite the restrictions
on his movement and activity, Horace is philosophical about his fate.
He has read a vast collection of works, ranging from the Bible to the
teachings of Buddha. He has always understood the importance of hard work
and honesty, preferring to be up-front and giving with his children, his
family, his peers and anyone else he meets. He says, "You cannot
make money your god." He does not worry that they might lose their
home as a result of his medical expenses. He is grateful for this day,
and for now, is just trying to get over there.
*** POSTED JANUARY 21, 2002 ***
An Update -- 04/25/02
Horace's doctors have drastically increased his prescriptions of Lortab
and OxyContin to combat breakthrough pain, and Horace has found eating
difficult and digestion nearly impossible. He has lost more weight, another
20 pounds on top of what he had already lost. He endures constipation
and severe abdominal pain and finds himself able to drink only milk, but
his spirits remain buoyant. Although it is very hard for Gloria to see
him suffer, she finds inspiration in Horace's indomitable will to survive.
Horace and Gloria are moving back to Mississippi at the end of May, and
while Gloria will have to forsake her job opportunities to care for her
husband, the two of them are constantly reading, looking for possible
treatments to attack this insidious and rapacious disease. We will keep
you posted on the progress of this loving couple who will not stay down.
An Update -- 07/26/02
Horace has begun a new regimen of pain-controlling therapy, the name of
which eludes him. His weight has plummeted to 119 pounds, and he eats
sporadically. He naps frequently and finds it difficult to speak for more
than a few minutes at a time. He and Gloria would like to travel as they
used to, but Horace's condition rules out any possibility of that.
Gloria states that she and Horace thank God for every day they have together.
We will keep you posted on the progress of this faithful couple.
An Update -- 11/11/02
In October, Horace had been able to do one of the many things he loves
the most, travel. He and Gloria are enjoying a much needed vacation under
the bright lights of Las Vegas. Horace loves the laser and water shows
that the hotels put on to draw the people into the hotels and casinos.
He's not much of a gambler, so once his $50.00 is gone, that's it.
He loves the food in Las Vegas, and that may have contributed to his weight
gain of six pounds. Horace's weight is up from 119 to 125 lbs. He
still tires very easily, napping when he can. He told Gloria that he may
not be able to handle seeing the Star Trek show because it was too long,
but he's not going to miss Gladys Knight!
His pain management medication, neurontin, which stops the brain from reading
pain, and his nerve blockers help him walk short distances (as Gloria
said from one slot machine to another). For any longer distances, such
as "walking" through an airport, he must use a wheel chair.
Gloria states that the pain management program has been a blessing for
them. Horace knows that he doesn't have much time left, but he intends
to enjoy each and every minute of it while he can.
Mr. Horace Horton passed away on December 14, 2002