I am inspired by the stories I have read and thought that I should share. People that know me will tell you that I have an extremely positive attitude about everything. In June 2012, my son and I were on a mountain bike ride as we often do and I ran in to a tree and fell on my back. I laughed off the mistake until about 2 days later a large lump appeared in my armpit. It felt about the size of a golf ball or maybe an egg. I went to the doctor about 5 days later and he prescribed an antibiotic and then the lump seemed to wake up and I started experiencing pain. I was sent in for a CT Scan and was told that from the scan, lymphoma could not be ruled out so I was scheduled for a biopsy.
The surgeon told me that he would remove it. Once removed, he was encouraging that this did not look like cancer. When I returned for the results, he was very serious and explained that the pathology returned the results of metastatic malignant melanoma. I asked if that was worse than lymphoma because like so many people, I did not have a clue. He explained the situation further and I went through a barrage of tests(MRI's, PetScan, Dermatologist and Opthamologists visits to determine the origin). It was determined that the origin was of an unknown primary.
With the encouragement of my girlfriend, I made a decision to check out Duke Cancer Treatment Center. Duke is only an hour from where I live. I have to say that if not for my girlfriend I would not have learned as much about melanoma. She has been an absolute Angel from Heaven. She always asks a lot of good questions and she nursed me back to health after the two surgeries. In September 2012, I had several surgeries at the same time. One procedure was to do a lymph node dissection and 17 nodes were removed from under my arm. The other procedure involved an incision on the back of my leg to remove a suspicious lesion. The good news is that the suspicious lesion was not melanoma and the 17 nodes came back with no melanoma. I have been placed at stage IIIc.
What's next? I tried to participate in a clinical trial which is a three arm trial. The trial is trying to prove that Yervoy(IPI) has some form of preventative effect on post operative Stage III patients. You will be randomly selected from the 3 arms which are either Interferon, Yervoy 3-mg(low dose) or Yervoy 10-mg(high dose). I was praying that I would be selected for the Yervoy low dose or high dose but was selected for Interferon.
During the last few months, I have learned how important it is to savor every sweet moment. I became a grandfather during all of this to a beautiful little girl named Sophia. I need to be there for her. During this same timeframe, my mother suffered a heart attack and suffered a serious infection related to her gall bladder. We almost lost her but she is also a fighter and is back home watching football and enjoying life. My sons have been supportive and encouraging. Each one helps me in a different way.
I am amazed at how little we know about melanoma. I am amazed that there hasn't been more money spent on research. I am encouraged after finding MRF and reading about all of the brave patients and loved ones that support these brave patients. I look forward to sharing my journey in hope that it might help someone.
After doing interferon infusions the month of November 2012, I moved to the self injections. I received clear scans in January 2013 and in April 2013, I decided to stop interferon. The side-effects were pretty manageable but fatigue was terrible and I was getting no exercise and was starting to lose weight. After clear scans in April 2103, I consulted with my oncologist and decided to stop interferon. In January 2013, I changed my diet to the anti-cancer diet and started drinking Xango which is mangosteen. My energy level is now much better and my outlook remains positive and hopefully ready for any other challenges.