David's story - Bristol Myers Squibb - Our stories

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David - BMS Patient


It first appeared on his left cheek, just under his eye: A small growth the size of a pencil eraser, a few shades darker than his skin. Within a year, it grew to the size of a golf ball, a taut brown sac that practically closed his left eye.


From the very beginning, David Smith knew this was bad. For months, as the growth continued to balloon at an alarming rate, he went to doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist, and no one would treat him as they didn’t accept his insurance plan, David said.

David’s rock bottom came one night in 2017, when the growth erupted a black ooze all over his pillow while he slept. At the emergency room, multiple doctors told David he needed a biopsy — but none of them would perform the procedure.



I was just livid. I have this thing leaking all over me and I couldn’t get anyone to help me. It was mentally debilitating because I felt I had nowhere to turn.”



Not long after, a friend connected David with a dermatologist who reviewed pictures of the growth on David’s face and told him to come into the office right away.

“He looked at it and said it needed to come off and so, two hours later it was off, and he didn’t charge me anything,” David said.

Within days, David had a diagnosis — stage 4 metastatic melanoma. The growth on his face was just one part of it; the cancer had spread to his lungs.

After connecting with specialists at the Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, David looked at his options and chose to enroll in a clinical trial. 

Starting in 2018, David traveled the 100+ miles from Orlando to Tampa every month for 14 months to receive his treatment intravenously. It was not an easy road, he said. “After a few months, it really started to knock me down. All my energy was gone — my get-up-and-go kind of got up and went.”

“But,” he added, “I would do it all over again.”

Today, at 62, David is in “supervisory” mode — the cancer cells have “dried up” and new ones have stopped growing, he said. Throughout his treatment journey, his proudest moment was being able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding in 2021.

David said “the timing was everything” when it comes to his story. 




Just five years ago, there wasn’t really anything on the market for me. Now there are new drugs out there that could potentially give people a chance to live. ”




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