Melanoma took many things from Todd and Linda Nagel, but it never took away their hope. Throughout Todd’s five-year battle, they remained positive and embraced every moment together even more preciously. Today, Linda celebrates the life of her beloved late husband by hosting an annual event that raises vital funds for skin cancer research and education and brings hope to patients and their families.
By Linda Nagel
A Beautiful Life
Todd and I began our life together as high school sweethearts. We fell madly in love, and in 1989, right after college, we tied the knot. For the next 12 years, we were best friends and partners in adventure — traveling, hiking, biking and just enjoying each other and our careers. We loved to golf, so we built a house on a golf course in Shakopee, Minnesota, and made it our home. Todd was a great cook, so, naturally, we did lots of entertaining. He had such a passion for living and a wonderful knack for bringing people together. Life was beautiful.
In 2001, before one of our bike trips, Todd went to his doctor for a routine physical and had a mole the size of a pencil eraser removed from his left shoulder. From there, we happily set out to enjoy our vacation. On the way back, we stopped off at the doctor’s office to get Todd’s stitches removed. I still remember sitting in the waiting room chair when a nurse appeared and said, “You need to come in and speak to the doctor.” That’s when we learned that Todd had stage IV melanoma. We were devastated to hear this news.
Holding on to Hope
From that moment on, we did all we could to battle his disease. During his five-year journey, we had every emotion two people can experience: fear, sadness, frustration, joy, relief and above all — hope. Neither one of us ever gave up hope.
After Todd’s first surgery, he got into a clinical trial for a promising new immunotherapy treatment. This was a true gift that I believe helped extend his life. Todd was so strong; what a fighter he was! He chose to live his life, went to work when he could and faced each day with a positive attitude. The treatment was tough on him, but there was an 18-month period where his cancer was suppressed. We were ecstatic. We really thought we were in the clear.
During that time, our son Ryan was born, which was the best thing that could have ever happened to us. Having a young son, all Todd wanted to do was soak in every single moment as a family — and he did. For us, that extra time together meant everything. Unfortunately, it was not for as long as either of us expected.
When the cancer came back, it was very aggressive. Back then, there were not nearly as many treatments available for advanced melanoma, and the success rates were not high. Even as his options dwindled, Todd kept fighting, and we traveled the country to get into any trial or treatment that would extend or save his life. But the cancer was relentless. Sadly, Todd lost his battle in 2006 when he was just 42, a short while after Ryan’s third birthday.
Watching Todd suffer so immensely and leave this world so soon broke my heart and changed my life forever.
After Todd passed away, I knew that I had to do something to honor his life. While I couldn’t bring Todd back, I could do something that would make a difference, by raising awareness about melanoma and giving hope to families like ours.
Todd was an avid golfer, so naturally I decided on an event where everyone could take part in one of the activities that Todd loved most. In September 2007, we held the first annual Todd Nagel Open, an event that not only celebrates Todd’s life but also funds a research grant in his name. Year after year, the response from family, friends and colleagues has been absolutely overwhelming; as of 2019, the outing has raised more than $250,000 to support melanoma research and educational programs.
Hope and Progress
Even though he’s no longer by my side, Todd lives on in our hearts. And every year, he still brings people together for an event that is raising awareness and fueling real progress.
Thanks to pioneering research and education from organizations like The Skin Cancer Foundation, there is more awareness and early detection, along with vastly more effective treatment options. I see firsthand the remarkable results produced by breakthrough immunotherapies, giving people with advanced skin cancer even more options, more hope and more time than ever before to spend with people they love.
Hope and continued progress are something I want for every family battling skin cancer. In my heart, I know that this is something Todd would want, too.