Andrew “Andy” Taggart Caress
Andrew “Andy” Taggart Caress grew up in Glendale, Ohio, a small,
closely-knit village just north of Cincinnati. Guided by his parents,
and encouraged by his older sister, Courtney, and older brother, Robbie,
he played every sport imaginable, and excelled at swimming and tennis.
Andy volunteered every summer as a ball boy at the ATP tennis tournament
in Mason, Ohio, and eventually became a hitting partner there with two
of the women pros. As a senior at Princeton High School, Andy was a
member of the 2003 Ohio State Championship tennis team, coached by his
Andy was close to his family, including many aunts, uncles and
cousins. He had a very special relationship with his grandfather, Harry,
known to all of Andy’s friends as “Grandpa”, who was Andy’s biggest
(and loudest!) fan. The beaches and tennis courts of South Carolina
called to Andy, and he traveled to Coastal Carolina University. He
played four years of varsity tennis under the leadership of two
inspiring coaches, and added his great teammates and college friends to
his already large group of amazing friends from grade school, high
school, and tennis. His European teammates provided an opportunity to
travel to England, France and Spain. Andy graduated magna cum laude with
a degree in history in the spring of 2007. He decided to travel again,
this time to Colorado, accompanied by his beloved dog, Boomer.
Earlier ski trips to Colorado led to Andy applying for a job at the
Tennis Center in Steamboat Springs, and he grabbed the opportunity to
become a teaching pro there, with the ski slopes beckoning within
walking distance! Andy was in his element in Colorado, and he took
advantage of all it had to offer. Skiing, hiking, biking, canoeing,
rafting, volleyball, softball, of course tennis, and making friends of
all ages in the process. He and a roommate started a successful
dodgeball league. Life was good. Andy finished near the top of his age
group in a mini triathlon in August, 2008, with open lake swimming
followed by biking and a run. He was in the best physical shape of his
life – incredibly fit and strong!
In October, 2008, Andy became concerned about a mole on the back of
his neck and went to a dermatologist. The biopsy indicated that the mole
was melanoma, a disease that Andy and his family knew next to nothing
about. Then Andy started on a 22 month journey to try to beat back “the
Beast”, as he called it. He started with surgeries to remove the mole
and the lymph nodes in his neck in Cincinnati, then continued his
treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. There he worked with
an incredible medical team, headed by world renowned melanoma
specialist, Dr. Patrick Hwu. Andy and his close friend started a web
page, andycaress.com, where Andy
chronicled his journey, and friends could send him messages. To date,
there have been over 36,000 visitors to that site!
Andy bravely endured more surgeries on his neck, the insertion of a
rod to strengthen his femur, countless rounds of radiation, and weeks
upon weeks of debilitating bio-chemo therapy. He remained positive and
confident that he would win his fight. He became friends with other
young adults who were also battling melanoma, and referred to them and
himself as “Melanoma Warriors.”
For an all too brief period of time in the first four months of
2010, Andy’s body responded miraculously to a new drug. With help from
Denver friends, he moved into an apartment there, started working, and
resumed his tennis, biking, hiking,skiing, working out and volleyball.
But by the end of April, melanoma returned with a vengeance. Rather than
being devastated, Andy summoned his courageous spirit and fought back.
While in Houston for brain radiation throughout the month of May, he
started Mela-KNOW-More, and launched its website,vowing to spread
awareness and to advocate prevention. One of his proudest moments was in
June, 2010, when he presented a check from his organization to Dr. Hwu
for melanoma research.
Andy traveled back to Glendale, where he kept in touch with his many
friends and family members, and continued to stay focused on getting
well and getting his message out. Sadly, Andy met an opponent he could
not beat, and died peacefully at Hospice on Aug. 4, 2010, just 8 days
before his 25th birthday.
Mela-KNOW-More is now the Andy Caress Melanoma Foundation, whose
volunteer members are dedicated to continuing to pursue the mission of
this amazingly strong young man.