The inspiration behind the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund
By Sari Cornfield, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund Board Member
My name is Sari Cornfield and I was blessed to be David Cornfield’s wife. Our love story began as do most – boy meets girl, girl and boy fall in love, get married and so on. We were young and in love, we were best friends who spent every free moment together. We were starting our life together, having adventures, working hard at our respective careers and planning to start a family. Unfortunately, that’s where our love story took a turn.
One night David complained of an itchy bump under a mole on his back. David had a family history of melanoma so I made him an appointment with his dermatologist. The biopsy results were not what we expected and in an instant the floor dropped out from under our perfect world.
David was 29, a rising star at his accounting firm with his whole life ahead of him. A cancer diagnosis was not in our plans. And so together as a team we tackled the cancer as we did any other challenge. I followed David, my fearless leader, as he directed the course of the next year. And he did so with his usual determination, confidence and humour. Cancer was no match for David! We spent hours researching and discussing the best treatment options. David suffered through a year of treatment with brutal side effects that challenged both of us to our core.
With a clean bill of health, a new sense of appreciation for every single day and my strong vibrant David feeling more like his pre-cancer self, we were delighted to find out we were expecting our first child. April 2, 2004 was filled with excitement, joy and so much love and gratitude as we welcomed our shining star Noah into our family. Our first year as a family of three was the usual sleepless nights, magical firsts and continued thankfulness for our beautiful life together.
One week after Noah’s first birthday, David went for a routine scan where a spot on his lung was found. And a few days later, despite prayers and hope, our worst fears were confirmed. The cancer was back and this time the beast would not be tamed.
For the second time, our happy, blessed life was turned upside down and we were faced with surgeries, travelling to the US for treatment and scary statistics. David reassured me that we would beat the odds. Again he smiled through treatments that tested his endurance convinced the more terrible the side effects, the better chance of it defeating the cancer in his body. But the beast raged on and the cancer quickly spread to his brain, intestine and finally his spinal column, paralyzing him and confining him to bed. I will never forget the terrible day the doctors took away our last shred of hope telling us there was nothing more they could do.
During the last few weeks we had together, David and I continued the long talks we had always shared. David believed there was a reason behind his illness and knew that his story would somehow be used to make a difference in the fight against melanoma. December 18, 2005, of all the awful days we had experienced, was the very worst. This was the day David told me quietly he had to go.
The days, weeks and months that followed David’s death were some of my darkest moments. The only things propelling me forwards were my beautiful son and David’s wish and belief that something good would come of this tragedy.
Because of the amazing person that David was and all of the lives he had touched, soon the people around me stepped forward wondering how to honour their friend, their brother, their colleague. Collectively we were all looking to channel our grief in a way that would honour David. And thus, the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund was born. And with it a sense of pride as we knew we were encompassing David’s spirit and values and a legacy that would help others and hopefully make an impact on the melanoma community.
During those early months and years, we struggled to find DCMF’s purpose. We wondered how we as a small charity could make the most impact. As we met and began to talk, to explore and to share ideas, it felt as if David, our leader, was once again guiding us. I remembered a conversation with David where I was convinced that we needed to start a charity to raise funds for research because I was so frustrated with our own experience of having such limited treatment options. David said: “A million dollars buys a test tube. It is impossible to make a difference that way. We need to raise awareness.”
It is hard to believe it has been 11 years since David left us and 10 years since DCMF began the journey to aid in the awareness and prevention of melanoma. We have come a long way thanks to the incredible support of so many. With each life lost and each life touched and saved, our determination grows. I know that David is so proud of all we have accomplished and all that we will continue to do.