Jeffrey R. Pilcicki, 32, of King of Prussia, a financial analyst who bravely fought melanoma and thought he had it beaten, only to face a recurrence, died Saturday, Jan. 20, at his home of complications from the cancer.
"His year-long fight was marked by substantial side effects and great challenges, which he tackled with profound fortitude and strength," said his wife, Sara Karpinski.
Born in Norristown, he was the son of Karen Jones Pilcicki and Robert Pilcicki. He graduated from Upper Merion High School and earned a bachelor's degree in history from Villanova University, and a master's degree in education from Cabrini College.
Starting in 2011, Mr. Pilcicki was a teaching assistant at Perkiomen Valley High School, where he worked with students who needed tutoring and extra attention, but his salary didn't pay the bills.
So, in 2013, he changed careers and became an analyst at Coventry First, a Fort Washington company that purchases life insurance policies from holders who are seeking an alternative to surrendering them.
Mr. Pilcicki had been diagnosed with stage 3 malignant melanoma for the first time in 2005. He underwent multiple surgeries to remove the cancer and was given treatment to eradicate any cells that might have been left behind.
"For 11 years, we thought he was cancer-free," said his sister Laura Roman.
In December 2016, the cancer returned in the form of stage 4 advanced melanoma. Mr. Pilcicki began a new immunotherapy regimen at Penn Medicine and had side effects that "hit him pretty hard," his sister posted online.
One caused him to need emergency surgery. "He's recovered well from the surgery and will start his treatment up again next week," she posted in May 2017.
Throughout the battle, Mr. Pilcicki had the support of his family, friends, and even strangers.
His wife took a leave of absence from her job as a park ranger at Independence National Historical Park to care for him full-time. His mother and sister kept the public informed by posting online updates about his medical condition.
The public pitched in to help pay the medical bills. A GoFundMe page created May 4, 2017, raised $18,244 in just 12 days from 283 donors. The goal was $15,000.
Mr. Pilcicki expressed his thanks online. "The response has been astounding so far. I don't feel that I deserve it, but people are insisting on helping me out, so I certainly appreciate it," he wrote on May 16, 2017.
He stayed very positive about the course of his disease, partly because he was buoyed by his love of rock concerts and could look forward to them at the end of a hard week.
"Even if this current medicine struggles to kill it all, there's something around the corner that'll save my life. I'm pretty confident in that," he posted. "And one final note… Umphrey's McGee ON FRIDAY. Yesssss."
Mr. Pilcicki was a longtime fan of rock groups such as the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, and Umphrey's McGee. He attended hundreds of Dave Matthews Band concerts and dozens of Phish concerts, where he met many of his best friends.
Mr. Pilcicki also was an enthusiastic sports fan and followed all the Philadelphia teams. "He trusted the process before most would, and never wavered in thinking that one of the Philly sports teams would get another championship one day," his sister said.
The Eagles had invited him to Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings for the NFL Conference championship. He declined the offer because his health was failing. An Eagles player then sent him a video, which arrived the week before the playoff game.
"It made you feel good that they took the time to cheer him up a little bit," his sister said. Mr. Pilcicki died the day before the game.
Mr. Pilcicki will be remembered for his dry sense of humor and his love of animals, especially his dog, Buster.
In addition to his wife, mother, sister, and father, he is survived by his maternal grandparents, Jeremiah and Elizabeth Jones; and a nephew and niece.
A visitation starting at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 29, will be followed by an 11 a.m. memorial meeting for worship at the Radnor Friends Meeting, 610 Conestoga Rd., Villanova. Burial will be private.
Donations may be made to the Melanoma Research Program – Penn Medicine via