Ted and Donna Munn September 2007
Ted Munn was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1940. His warm and friendly
southern persona shines through in everything he does. Hardworking, humorous,
optimistic, and tougher than a boot are all characteristics that fit Ted
to a "T."
Ted and his wife Donna have been standing faithfully at each others'
side for almost 35 years. They were married on November 11, 1973, after
Ted had met Donna while he was working as a detective. In 1972, Donna
called the police station in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and reported a stalker
to the local police. Not willing to just file a report, Ted staked out
her home and intercepted the suspect as he approached the house. The stalker,
expecting to find his prey alone and unprotected, received a most unwelcome
shock when confronted by strapping Ted, his badge, and a burly pair of
forearms. Ted recalls the encounter with a laugh. "He got a good
talking to, and after that she somehow wasn't bothered any more."
After the stalking incident, Ted and Donna began dating, and shortly thereafter
they were married. Donna recalls with a laugh, "I knew I had found
my knight in shining armor." Their marriage and their lives have
been strengthened by their devout faith in Christ. Say's Donna: "We
will accept God's destiny, whatever it may be."
Ted's ability to do his job while maintaining a humorous outlook on
life held during his days as a sailor in the U.S. Navy and throughout
his lifetime career in law enforcement. Ted will agree, however, that
fighting crime turned out to be easy compared to fighting mesothelioma.
The difficulty of the fight, however, hasn't slowed him down a whit.
He approaches it with the same commitment and the same good cheer that
he approached late night patrols in coastal Mississippi.
Ted and Donna have a daughter, Melanie, who inherited her parents'
intellect and work ethic. Melanie now works as physician in nearby Hattiesburg,
Ted always viewed his physical health as one of his most precious possessions.
He took especial care of his health, and always prided himself on being
fit. As a career police officer, fitness was a key to performing his job
well, both in the practice of enforcing the law, and defending himself.
He ran and lifted weights four to five times a week for decades. Ted always
assumed that his healthy diet, fitness regimen, and balance between work
and personal life would stand him in good stead.
In the spring of 2007, Ted was in Alaska helping build a church when he
noticed an unusual shortness of breath. For a man who was rarely if ever
sick, and who was accustomed to long days at work without ever tiring,
he was taken aback by this troubling symptom. He returned to Mississippi
in June, and the shortness of breath worsened. His daughter's wedding
was scheduled for July, so Ted decided to keep silent regarding the shortness
of breath. "Time enough for that after the wedding," he thought.
After the wedding Donna noticed that something was wrong and encouraged
him to consult a doctor.
Ted met with his family physician in Purvis, Mississippi. After the chest
x-ray was taken the doctor sauntered in and said, "Well, Mr. Munn,
it looks like you've lost your lung." Ted's right lung was
invisible on the x-ray film, and only a large white blob could be seen.
Ted next underwent a CAT scan and met with a pulmonologist at the Forrest
General Hospital in Hattiesburg.
At Forrest General Ted underwent a thoracentesis, talc pleurodesis, and
tissue biopsy. The pathology report for the tissue specimen confirmed
a diagnosis of mesothelioma. The cancer was confined to the lung and had
not involved any lymph nodes. After the biopsy Ted underwent a second
talc pleurodesis, as the lung had begun to leak again after the first
Ted's doctor reported that there were no surgical treatments for mesothelioma
and urged him to begin chemotherapy. A friend from his Ted's church
is an oncologist and once he heard about the diagnosis he suggested Ted
contact M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
Ted traveled to Houston and underwent a battery of tests including a pulmonary
function test, EKG, blood work, more CT and CAT scans, and a bronchoscopy.
The doctors at M.D. Anderson recommended an extra-pleural pnuemonectomy.
This radical surgical procedure completely amputates the lung, and Ted
pulled back from their recommendation. Through his own research and with
the help of his daughter Ted learned about the pleurectomy / decortication
surgery which is also used to treat mesothelioma. He read about Dr. Robert
Cameron at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and made an appointment
to see if he might be a candidate for this lung-sparing surgery.
In November 2007, Ted and Donna flew to Los Angeles for their appointment
with Dr. Cameron. Donna had many questions as did Ted, and they peppered
Dr. Cameron with a barrage of inquiry. After the consultation Ted decided
that Dr. Cameron was the man he wanted to do his surgery. Two days later
he checked into the hospital at UCLA and underwent the pleurectomy with
Ted's surgery with Dr. Cameron went well and even though it was months
before he felt like himself again, he recovered from the surgery like
a champion. Next he had to take on the twin challenges of radiation and
chemotherapy. Ted's radiation started in January and lasted for five
weeks. When asked how the radiation went Ted said, "I didn't
have a lot of bad side effects except being fatigued. It makes you tired,
The cancer itself percolates up into his consciousness at strange times.
"I will wake up all through the night and it is just something that's
on your mind," he says. "You get up in the morning and you say,
'Oh, I've got Mesothelioma.' That's not a nice thing to
wake up to every day."
The Strong Arm of the Law
During the time they were in Los Angeles for the radiation therapy, they
were able to get out, do some shopping and see some sights. Ted and Donna
returned to Purvis in February and consulted with Dr. Cameron in April
back in LA. After the radiation therapy they discovered a nodule on his
arm in April. The nodules were malignant but Ted decided to have the second
surgery back home in Mississippi.
He was hospitalized overnight and after the surgery he was referred to
a local oncologist. In May the oncologist started an 18-week chemotherapy
regimen of Alimta/carboplatin. The side effects have "been like a
rollercoaster. After the third day I get very dizzy and tired. I kind
of stay fatigued; this really makes me weak," Ted says.
On the other hand, he experienced only a little nausea after the first
treatment, and anti-nausea medication before and after the chemotherapy
has been very effective. He gets around pretty well and has gained weight
back. The steroids in some of the treatments have helped him gain weight,
and best of all he has an appetite and can eat when-and what- he wants to.
The last time he had a CT scan (he's taking one every six weeks) there
were no signs of tumor. There's a lot of scarring on the lung from
the radiation, however, and as the lung heals it loses much of its natural
elasticity and becomes hard. "It's harder to breathe and I'm
a little short-winded," he says.
Ted recently went to a dietician who reviewed his diet and gave him some
great news. He's free to eat roast beef, pizza, and anything he wants.
However, he normally prefers to eat a lot of vegetables, although the
southern staples of cornbread, collard greens with a little pork, chicken
fried steak, and turnip greens manage to find their way onto his plate
Regarding his surgery in Los Angeles, Ted and Donna appreciated the nice
apartment provided through the Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute,
and they stayed there for a week. After that time they stayed right next
to the hospital.
Ted feels like Dr. Cameron and the entire hospital staff were excellent.
"If I had to do it again I'd do the same thing. I just wasn't
comfortable with the other option of having them take out my lung. When
I asked the folks in Houston how many of the P/D surgeries they'd
done, they said three. Dr. Cameron has done more than a hundred. It wasn't
a hard decision to make," Ted says with conviction. "What affected
me most was the radiation and the chemo after the surgery." He walks
on the treadmill now towards the end of each chemo treatment because he's
not as weak as towards the beginnig. Once he's out from under the
chemo he's confident he'll be feeling much better.
Ted's doctors agreed that fitness from his job was a powerful factor
in his favor. He had a strong heart and had never been out of shape. "The
surgery wasn't much of a deal to me," Ted says. "I was there
eight days and took painkiller but I was never under severe pain. I didn't
take nearly the amount they recommended, I just took half of the recommended
dose. There's going to be some discomfort, I figured, so might as
well just get used to it."
When Ted reflects on his life, he thinks often about the 38 years that
he lived and worked as a policeman in Pascagoula. When asked about his
best memories, he unhesitatingly recalls the enjoyment of his first ten
years on the street, patrolling his area. "That's when you caught
the bad guys," Ted says with a smile. "Catching the burglars
in the buildings, or somebody doing something they shouldn't."
One incident stands out, however. He remembers an accident on a bridge
going over the river, a bad place where accidents often happened. A man
had bought a fancy new Honda motorcycle and while going too fast had hit
the metal joints on the bridge. The rider had taken a pretty bad spill
and was lying on the pavement with "a few big chunks taken out of
his rear end and about everywhere else. But when we got to him he didn't
ask for an ambulance or if he was going to live or beg us to help him,
he just looked me square in the face and said, 'Do you know anyone
who wants to buy a brand new motorcycle?' I told him I was pretty
sure I wasn't interested."
Thinking about his career Ted turns contemplative. "I saw a lot abused
children, and really I worked so many of those cases towards the end of
my career because people didn't used to report those crimes and they
do now. I'd rather put a child molester in prison than a murderer.
These helpless little children who are always the victims, almost always
victims of the people they should have been able to trust."
Ted Munn's commitment to his faith and his defense of the helpless
stand as a monument, even as he battles on against his mesothelioma with
matter of fact relentlessness, never willing to give up or to lay down arms.
** POSTED ON OCTOBER 2, 2008 ***
*** Mr. Ted Munn passed awary on April 29, 2009 ***