I had my first experience with melanoma in 2006 when I had an ugly mole removed from my back, the diagnosis was Stage III with no lymph node involvement. The doctor cut out the margins and declared me cancer free. Little did I know that with melanoma there's no such thing as cancer free. In Nov of 2011, I went to the emergency room for abdominal pain and they found a 14 cm tumor in my abdomen which was causing me to bleed internally. Over the next 2 months I had about 6 blood transfusions while the doctors did test after test and finally diagnosed it as a stage IV melanoma. I was immediately admitted to the NIH in Bethesda and they did surgery, removed all but 4 cm of the tumor and then enrolled me in thier TIL therapy clinical trial. I failed to respond to the TIL therapy and did successive treatments of Yervoy and Zelboraf, both of which I had response to but inevitably the tumor began to grow again. I was then accepted into a PD-1 trial and have now been stable for 10 months with only minor side effects.
The last few years have been a rollercoaster for my family, my wife has been incredible and my 2 boys know that dad is still sick but still fighting. We remain hopeful that PD-1 will continue to work and I'll be around in 20-30 years from now. I've seen lots of other melanoma patients succumb to the disease but have been witness to some great miracles also. Prayers to all the melanoma warriors out there.