In March 2003, Scott Dameron noticed a very small bump on his right forearm. In six weeks the bump grew to 1½ times the size of an eraser head. After consulting with a private physician, Scott was sent to Shands Jacksonville to see an orthopaedic oncologist.
The University of Florida College of Medicine physician he saw there sent him immediately to surgery. Scott had lymphoma.
“Death, it’s cancer, it’s all you think about,” said Scott about his reaction when he was told the news. “I was scared of dying. Cancer – all you hear about is horror. What do I do now? What about my wife?”
With his wife Deborah Buckner of 17 years by his side, it is now 2010 and Scott is alive and well because of a bone-marrow transplant he received at Shands at UF in 2007. However, making it to 2010 was a fight – a fight that took Scott to the brink. Following his 2003 surgery, Scott underwent eight sessions of Rituxan treatment. In 2004, physicians continued to monitor him.
The cancer returned in 2005 and he underwent eight sessions of chemotherapy. In 2006, Scott began to slip.
“I remember saying, ‘I feel like I’m fading away’” said Scott, who is now 60 years old.
Deborah, 57, remembers in January 2007 when Scott collapsed in their Palm Coast home. “You’re not dying, are you?” she asked as she scrambled to phone for help.
Scott may have been dying. He went from 230 to 175 pounds in three weeks. The lymphoma had progressed to chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in his bone marrow.
He remembers the day he was pushed into Shands at UF on a wheelchair in April 2007. He said Jack Hsu, M.D., University of Florida College of Medicine hematologist/oncologist, told him he had a 25 percent chance of survival following his bone-marrow transplant.
On a December day in 2009, Scott walked through the newly built Shands at UF Cancer Hospital and despite his jovial and prankster personality, he couldn’t help reflecting.
“I looked around in there today,” he said. “I saw the people in the waiting rooms. I know what they must go through. I’m a survivor. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.”
He has the hard work of physicians and medical staff to thank for this – and his sister, Gina Abbananto, who was his bone marrow donor.
“After having something like this, you realize how mortal you are,” said Scott, who is still taking anti-rejection medicine. “I thought I was going to live forever.”
“Thanks to the medical team here, I get to have my life back.”