My wife convinced me to have a spot on my back checked. The skin specialist said it needed to be cut out and biopsy results came back for a melanoma.
I was referred to the Melanoma Institute in Sydney where I had a series of dye injections, CT and MRI scans and ultrasound. These showed the melanoma had spread to at least 2 lymph nodes. The next day, I had surgery to remove the melanoma and a number of lymph nodes.
Because the pathology results showed that I still had a small positive margin, the surgeon referred me to a medical oncologist. She put me on a clinical trial for the immunotherapy drug nivolumab. I had to have an infusion every 2 weeks for 12 months. I was able to have the nivolumab infusions and follow-up scans every 3 months in my regional town.
After 6 months of immunotherapy and feeling happy with the results of the first scans, the results of my second MRI and CT scans hit me like a high-speed train. They showed tumours in my brain, liver, kidney and spleen. The oncologist suggested I continue with nivolumab and also try ipilimumab every 3 weeks for 3 months. I also saw a radiation oncologist, who suggested stereotactic radiosurgery. The medical oncologist explained all the side effects and warned me that I would probably experience a few.
The immunotherapy and the stereotactic radiosurgery left me with several side effects. These included rashes, mouth ulcers, headaches and loss of appetite, and more severe ones such as joint pain and a type of arthritis called spondyloarthritis. My doctor has been able to fix most of my side effects.
A year later, the MRI and CT scans are all clear. I think I’m almost back to my old self, but I get anxious the week of the scans until I get the results. I wouldn’t have made it this far without the medical staff and the support of my wife.
I think I’m almost back to my old self, but I get anxious the week of the scans until I get the results. I wouldn’t have made it this far without the medical staff and the support of my wife.Steve
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