Eric Niles

First post: Jan 20, 2022 Latest post: Sep 29, 2022
Welcome to Eric’s CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.

So this is Eric’s story:

In August of 2021, Eric went to a “routine” podiatry visit to look at a toenail that was loosening from the nail bed.  The podiatrist suggested that she biopsy the skin below the nail while telling Eric not to worry given how rare it would be to have such a cancer.  Subungual melanoma, a non-sun-related melanoma, accounts for only about 2% of all melanomas and often “hides” under toenail.  That is exactly what happened with Eric.  As the doctor said, Eric was “struck by lighting” on this one. Surgery was quickly scheduled to remove the big toe on Eric’s left foot, and despite having this amputation, Eric quickly healed and was relieved to be back to running in the hills. That amputation, however, was the least of his problems. Unfortunately, further testing indicated that the melanoma had already spread past some lymph nodes and into his liver.  

Stage IV metastatic melanoma.

By Sept 27th, we hunkered down as a family and Eric began an immunotherapy treatment that is considered something of a medical miracle - boosting the patients’ own immune system so it can go after the cancer alone and not kill other healthy cells. The plan was for him to go into the hospital every six weeks for a two hour infusion of the drug, Keytruda. 

Five weeks into his treatment, seeing that he was handling side effects fairly well, he was moved to a more aggressive combination of medicines called Yervoy and Opdivo.  We made this decision because Eric’s cancer is less susceptible to immunotherapy than other melanomas.  This treatment brought him through November with more intense side effects, including some pain in his chest and shoulder muscles that made certain daily activities, including sleep, more challenging.

Shortly after the third of four planned infusions in late December, Eric had new scans taken to gauge his progress.  On January 3rd we were told that his treatment had not been successful. And more stunning, we learned the melanoma in his liver has grown substantially and has moved into the lungs and his sternum.  

We were not expecting this result and have already and will continue to pivot as a family, as a couple and as individuals. Eric has taken a medical leave from his work at The Athenian School and Margaret is home full-time. The Athenian community and board of trustees have been amazingly supportive.  Cade and Hannah are both currently teaching - Cade is able to work from our home and Hannah is 25 minutes away in Oakland and visits regularly. SO we are together a lot and it's been humbling to say the least to be confronted with the gravity of the diagnoses AND the incredible positivity of his medical team.

Next up, we hope, is a clinical trial at UCSF that is specifically targeted to his cancer’s genetic makeup. For those of you in the medical field (which it turns out is quite a number of you!) the treatment is a drug targeted at his NRAS mutation combined with an MEK inhibitor.  Eric will do the testing this coming week (January 17) to determine his eligibility for the trial.  We are very hopeful that he will be accepted.  The lead doctor at UCSF has already met with us twice and seems like an incredible person and doctor.  UPDATE: Eric was accepted into the trial and will be on two four week cycles.

We will now be periodically spending time in the city (of San Francisco) for this next phase of treatment, staying overnight with friends who will feed us and tend to our spirits. We will otherwise be home in Danville spending time with our beautiful children and, hopefully, we will try to pick some close-by day or overnight trips as Eric’s mood and body allow. We are thinking of the ocean, the mountains and all places in between.

We will keep this site updated as things change. We are surrounded by concentric circles of larger and larger communities of care that stretch from next door to the northern border of India/Tibet at Jhamtse Gatsal Children’s Center where, we are told, Eric’s name is spoken daily in prayer.

Eric’s email is for the time being if you want him to see your message.
Margaret’s email is

Not knowing how CaringBridge works completely, please be patient as we will learn how to ask for what we need through this site. Love is all around us and what a privilege it is to know that now, in this way, from so many of you.

All the best,

Eric and Margaret, Hannah and Cade

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