Dr. Monica Bristow smiles up at a photo on the living-room wall. She remembers when they took that picture: Her husband was just finishing a course of chemotherapy, and his hair was starting to regrow. In a silly mood, the family arrayed themselves around him on the front stoop and piled their hands on his downy-topped pate, the grins on their faces reflecting his.
Life was full of things for her husband to smile at. A clinical psychologist, Dr. Gregg Schimmel’s passion was to help his patients live better lives, but he also plunged himself with enthusiasm into his tennis game and his favorite classic-rock bands, whose albums still dominate the dining-room wall.
Each time his rare skin cancer came back — again, and again, and again, for eight and a half years — his will to stay in the world that brought him so much joy propelled him forward, Bristow says.
Then, there came the time last year, when Schimmel’s Seattle doctors told the couple that they had run through every treatment option they could find for his Merkel cell carcinoma, both standard and experimental.
Bristow had long sensed that this conversation would happen one day. But that didn’t make it easier to hear those words.
At home with family, Schimmel passed away in his sleep on July 21, 2017.
His story, however, was hardly finished.