David Prince, now 76, recalls the wonderful road trips he took with his family when he was a child. “My father had a fascination with visiting cemeteries, and I remember being impressed by the lists of accomplishments that filled row after row of tombstones.”
So it makes sense that four years ago, when he discovered he had stage 4 liver cancer that had spread to his lung, the first thing he did was order a tombstone. “It was important for me to see what I’d done with my life before I died,” says David.
A few minutes with David and you quickly realize that what he’s done would be impossible to fit on an ordinary cemetery marker.
A native of Fredonia, New York, he grew up helping run his family business, a local service station where he worked after school and weekends from age 10. As a young man, he was drafted into the Army and served as an MP — Military Policeman. His first assignment took him to Selma, Alabama, where he was appointed to protect Martin Luther King, Jr., and marchers during the legendary 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Soon after, he was deployed to Vietnam, where, along with his regular duties, he was assigned to escort and protect General William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey, during their visits to Saigon.
After returning to the States, David began a long-time career with the Dunkirk and Fredonia Phone Company (DFT). On nights and weekends he also worked as a police officer in the Town of Sheridan, where he had bought a house and started a family. Over the years he has also served as police chief for the Town of Sheridan and special deputy for the County of Chautauqua. In 1990 he was elected judge for the Town of Pomfret and in 1997 as judge in the Village of Fredonia, holding both part-time positions until he retired from the Town Justice position at the end of 2015. As if that weren’t enough, he has been a volunteer fireman for more than 50 years.
Faced with cancer in 2015, David chose to make time in his busy life for treatment and recovery.
“There was good news and bad news,” he recalls. “Dr. Renuka Iyer explained that, given my current state, my life expectancy could be as little as six months. But the good news was that a new experimental drug was available and that I could be part of the clinical trial.”
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For three and a half years, David followed a daily chemotherapy treatment, which he took in pill form. His tumors shrank more than 50%. He was able to continue with his work as a judge in the Village of Fredonia, but chose to reduce his workload slightly by not running for reelection in the Town of Pomfret.
In September 2018, doctors at Roswell Park noted a significant change in David’s bloodwork and scans and determined that the drugs were no longer effective. “Now we’re trying something new, another clinical trial, a type of immunotherapy that uses my own cells to fight off the cancer cells,” explains David. “The side effects are milder. There is some joint discomfort, but I’m willing to continue treatment as long as it seems to be working.”
More than four years after his diagnosis, David is positive, inspirational and appreciative.
“I’ve had a wonderful ride, and every new day is a bonus. I can’t thank the doctors and staff at Roswell enough for what they do. People here make me feel so important and respected.”
He also credits his well being to the care and concern of his wife, Susan Marsh. “She’s unbelievable! Susan comes to all the treatments with me, takes notes, manages our schedules and, while we’re in Florida over the winter, flies us back to Fredonia every two weeks so I can continue my treatments.”
“I’ve been very active and have had a wonderful life. I felt so good yesterday, it’s hard for me to believe that I’m full of cancer. I just thank the Lord and my church family for all of their prayers. Right now I’m enjoying life and look forward to enjoying much more."
Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.