William “Bill” Tone was a giant of a man who was loved by all who knew him. His daughter, Melissa, Hilarczyk recalls, “I laugh when I think about when I was a kid and all of my friends would say, ‘Wow, your dad is tall!’ He was 6 feet, four inches, but I never saw him like the giant my friends did.” Bill was an easy-going man who had a passion for the New York Giants football team, golf, grilling, food and reading. When Bill was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February, 2016, his family was astounded to see how quickly the illness ravaged their beloved gentle giant.
Born in Manhattan, NY, in 1958, Bill moved to New Jersey at the age of 17. He worked for Johnson & Johnson and Hess Oil prior to joining the Army. During his seven years of service, he traveled to Germany and Bosnia. Ultimately, he ended up in El Paso, TX, where he met his wife, Melissa’s step-mother, Jodi. The couple took jobs with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in Amarillo, TX, and Bill had a successful 14 year career in management with the TSA.
Bill Is Diagnosed with Cancer
In October, 2015, Bill had the first signs that something was amiss when seemingly out of the blue, he developed a blood clot in his leg. Over the next few weeks, Bill had a battery of scans and tests which revealed a tumor that had grown throughout one-third of his liver. A biopsy showed that the tumor was cancerous, but Bill’s doctor was not sure where the tumor had originated from.
In addition to the tumor in his liver, CT scans showed his lungs had nodules. Bill had a colonoscopy, which ruled out the diagnosis of colon cancer. Finally, in February, 2016, he had a PET scan. This particular test revealed that he had pancreatic cancer, which had spread to his liver, lungs and bones.
Bill’s diagnosis was a complete shock for his entire family. He had always been in great health and there was no family history of pancreatic cancer. While the Tone family tried to make sense of his illness, they knew they had to act quickly in deciding how to treat his illness.
Immediately after discovering the cancer, Bill’s oncologist recommended aggressive chemotherapy treatments. Every 14 days Bill received a chemotherapy combination of two different drugs. He went through six rounds of these difficult treatments. After the first four rounds, it appeared that his tumor marker levels were decreasing, a sign that the treatments were working. However, after his next two rounds, testing showed the chemo had stopped working and his cancer had spread.
At the beginning of July, 2016, Bill decided to stop his chemotherapy. Ravaged by weeks of aggressive treatments, he had lost an immense amount of weight. Bill passed away on August 26th, 2016, leaving behind his wife, Jodi, his children, Melissa and Lindsay Naccaratto, and his extended family.
Melissa Does Tough Mudder
Born and raised in New Jersey, Melissa played field hockey throughout high school. The married mother of two works for legal firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Manhattan, NY. A few years ago, Melissa joined Total Core Fitness in Sayerville, NJ. She developed friendships with a group of women who inspired her to test herself in various fitness races and events. She enjoys triathlons, boot camp classes, 5k runs, mud runs and color runs.
Melissa began participating in obstacle course events recently and became interested in completing a Tough Mudder. Her commitment to exercise has given her so much in life and she feels like it is important for her to model healthy behavior for her daughters, Alexia and Julia. Melissa explains, “I feel like I am in the best shape of my life and I want my daughters to know when you put your mind to accomplish something, it can be done. When they come to events and cheer me on, it pushes me to work harder and gets me thinking about what event I’m signing up for next!”
Melissa Joins Project Purple
While her dad was battling pancreatic cancer, Melissa knew she wanted to join in the fight against pancreatic cancer. “I was looking for an organization that felt as passionate about fighting pancreatic cancer as much as I was. When I contacted them I was truly touched. They asked for my dad’s information first to send him a care package. I knew right then and there I had found my group,” she explains.
Melissa formed a team to participate in the Tri-State Tough Mudder on October 8, 2016. She will be completing the event with her husband, Nick, and several friends. Melissa is pleased to be part of the Project Purple family. She finds comfort in being part of a team that knows exactly what she is going through. She says, “I have seen firsthand what this horrible beast does to someone in such a short period of time. No one should have to endure what they go through in a matter of days and weeks right after diagnosis.” She adds, “I couldn’t be more blessed to be a part of Project Purple.”