I have been in Houston, Texas since last Tuesday the 17th to be evaluated at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. I have met with some of the best doctors in the world when it comes to Melanoma. After a few days of tests, second opinions, discussions and lots of information, my doctors and I have finally decided on the best treatment plan for me.
My oncologist, Dr. Patrick Hwu and the team of doctors here have decided that chemotherapy treatment is the best move to make at this point. They believe that even though melanoma has not shown up on scans in other organs in my body, they are treating me as a systemic melanoma patient. They are worried that even though nothing has shown up on scans, that there may be microscopic melanoma in other areas of my body, They believe, and so do I, that treating my cancer now with chemotherapy is better and more pro-active than waiting to see if it comes back.
I will be given high dose IL-2 (Interleukin-2). It is very similar to substances produced by cells in the body that helps the immune system fight infections and certain cancer growths. So essentially, I will be given drugs to help my body fight the cancer. This is a very intense and aggressive form of treatment. Tonight I will be admitted into the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) here at MD Anderson and will remain in the ICU for a week getting doses every eight hours. The side effects can be severe, much more so than the interferon treatments I did last month, as it is one of the toughest forms of cancer treatment. This is why I must be in the ICU the whole week. After five days of treatment, before I can be discharged I will spend a couple days in another part of the hospital shedding the water weight I will have gained due to fluid retention during treatment. Most patients gain 20-30 lbs.
The regimen will be: one week in the hospital and two weeks of recovery out of the hospital. I will do two rounds (6 weeks) and then have more scans and tests done to see if the treatments have either stopped the growth of the tumor or, hopefully, have shrunk it. At first it was hard to understand why it was best to postpone surgery and leave the tumor in my neck, but the chemo has to be measured against the tumor to know if it is in fact working. My doctors also explained to me that right now, the tumor is not the most threatening issue. The most important thing is trying to eliminate melanoma that may be elsewhere in my body microscopically. I will do a minimum of four rounds (12 weeks) of treatments. If the treatment does not stop or shrink the melanoma in my neck, then surgery will be the next step. This is the most pro-active and aggressive that we can be at this point.
Today, I had a catheter inserted into a vein in my arm and runs all the way to my chest, near my heart. This is how I will receive the drugs and medications during treatment.
This whole process has been frustrating and confusing at times – there is not a certain path or protocol of treatment, which is unsettling. Oncologists’ opinions greatly differ on what treatment plans are the best. However, after being presented with just about all of them, I feel we have made the best decision.
I know I have a battle ahead of me, but I am ready. My attitude this whole time has been “whatever it takes” and I am ready to take down this cancer, or as my friend and fellow melanoma warrior, Karie calls it, “The Beast.”
Thanks to my brother and to Sarah for taking care of Boomer while I’m in Texas. Sarah, I am going to do everything I can to make it to your big day.
Thanks to all for your support and especially my parents who have been by my side every step of the way.