He was very young and it had recurred in his brain. Tad was playing on his computer when I walked into the room. He looked healthy, his eyes bright and beaming with intelligence. I sat across from him in the old cancer center and he asked me question after question. I connected with him instantly and we talked. He always came alone, never accompanied by anyone. I respected his independence. He looked things up on the internet brought them to my attention. My melanoma program was young then and new therapies were still not available. It was hard to tell him about death, to share with him the lack of treatments available and to tell about how clinical trials work. He took it all in and shared with me that he would like to try something. He participated in a trial only offered here in Iowa. He became an instant hero. I shared with him the limitations of research, the problems we faced and how science alone is the best way to fight cancers that have no good treatments.  We discussed many thoughts and theories and he engaged with me as he went through his treatments. His tumors grew despite the treatment in his brain. I look back at the day I told him the news and he was wheeled off to surgery to have the tumors removed.

It had been 2 years without a word. I knew he was out there. He had not come back to see me nor visited. I thought about him a lot and what he was up to. I heard small snippets of his life. Tad did not want to get any more treatment and was living it up. I missed him and thought about his bravery and how his disease was just an obstacle that had crippled his life. I formed my own convictions about what and how he was living. Suddenly out of nowhere he came to see me. He was not the same, he lay there. He was crippled with his disease, his speech slurred, and he had a hard time articulating his words. I walked into the room, dazed that this man had made the journey after such a long time of silence to say goodbye. I sat down next to him, held his hand and began to cry. It is a rare moment for me to cry with my patients. He wanted me to know that he was content with everything, that he was comfortable and had lived his life fully. I was stunned at his outgoing attitude despite all the difficulties this disease had placed in front of him. He told me its ok, and he just wanted to say goodbye. I cannot find the words to express to you how that made me feel and I write this blog with words that cannot describe my sentiment around him that day.

Tad’s impact went further than anything I could imagine. One month after he passed, friends of his gathered at a bar and collected donations to help my growing program. His parents whom I had met on his last visit came to see me to share with me the event that took place. I am humbled by the efforts of all those who have helped create snowballs that become avalanches that remove uncertainty from the knowledge of this cancer. Helping us find ways to wipe it out. Tad resonates deeply in my heart and he showed me that “Every man dies, but not every man lives” his most famous quote from William Wallace. Tad died, but he lives in the Iowa Melanoma program, moving the science forward in ways I hope he would be proud of. Each year dedicated friends and family gather round and make sure that Tad’s legacy remains that he was a man who decided to live his life despite all the odds.

Tad, I bow deep and honor your courage. You are one of my true heroes. Thank you.


On Monday, March 3rd, I was a guest on the Paula Sands Live show in the Quad Cities, talking about Tips for Tad. Watch here: http://bit.ly/NUlU5P

Mo at Paula Sands Live

Mo tips for tad shirt

Tad Flyer


5 thoughts on “Tad

  1. Mo,
    I remember your story last year when I read that. I would’ve loved to met Tad. You are such a great Dr. I am honored to have you as my doctor and I now in the cancer world you are going to make a huge difference. My hat will always go off to you and your wonderful team at the university. You are an amazing doctor of science Dr. Mo. I
    will always be grateful to have you. Your favorite Fan!

  2. Dr. Mo,
    This is an incredible story about Tad. Your words are beautiful. And this is why we share your work with as many as we can. Your research is going to make a difference in the cancer world. We are confident of that!
    We cannot imagine a more compassionate and competent doctor than you to care for our son Erik.
    With deep gratitude,

  3. Reblogged this on Mo and commented:

    Today was the annual Tips for Tad fundraiser at Pints in Davenport, Iowa. This event honors the life of the late Tad Agnew and raises money for my melanoma research program. I made an appearance and said a few words. I’m re-blogging my post from last year about Tad in case you missed it. He was truly unforgettable.

  4. Mo, I cried again when I read this… I didn’t know Tad but he sounded like such a great person to know. I am glad to see people are going to try to remember him and also bring some good out of his death… What a great cause. My hat goes out to anyone that is fighting the fight and to you Dr. Mo my amazing doctor of science for trying to make a difference in the cancer world..

  5. Dr. Mo, this was amazing to read and yes, what an enduring legacy he has left in his family’s mind as well as what it has done for your program. I hope this benefit continues to have great success in Tad’s honor as well as for melanoma research.

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