As the title says this blog is one man’s effort to make sense out of his journey fighting melanoma. I have enjoyed reading some of my fellow melanoma warriors’ blogs and thought it might be an interesting way to share what this journey has been like for me. If you find this interesting great, if not that’s great also. Selfishly this is more about me getting this out and moving on from being a cancer patient to being a cancer survivor.

Let’s clear up a few things. Yes, I know how to use spell check and no I don’t always use it. I majored in accounting, not english. I have always been a below average writer, which is why I find the therapeutic value of doing this surprising. I think for this blog to make any sense you pretty much have to go to the archive and start from the beginning which is titled “Life Is Good”

I am not a doctor or medial professional of any type. My blog is not endorsed by any medical professional or facility mentioned in it. Every decision I have made about my care was done after careful consultation with my medical team. Decisions I have made were right for me but should not in any instance be considered right for anybody else. I don't recommend taking medical advice from an accountant.

Key West

Key West

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What The Heck Is Interferon

Interferon is a word that did not exist in my vocabulary until I was diagnosed with this disease.  I had been doing some research on what treatments were available and was scared to discover that this and surgery was pretty much it.  The tricky part about melanoma is that although you have surgery to remove the tumor and any traces of melanoma from your body, it is most likely still in your system somewhere waiting for the opportunity to attach itself and grow into another tumor.  For somebody at my stage Interferon is pretty much the option.  There are lots of promising trials for different types of treatments but for various reasons I didn’t qualify for any of them.  I wasn’t sick enough, was too sick, tumor was in wrong spot, I had dark skin……  Whatever!    I had spent hours and hours researching interferon and was very torn about doing this treatment.  The facts are not very encouraging.   The Kirkwood study showed that in about 30% of the cases interferon delayed the reoccurrence of melanoma by just less than a year.  When the study was first done they thought it actually prevented reoccurrence in some cases but as time has gone by that has proven to be a very small number and the data really doesn’t support this claim.  Now here comes another one of the oddities about Melanoma.  Once again people who took interferon on average don’t live any longer than people who don’t.  There are a lot of possible explanations for this but you have to wonder why you would subject yourself to this treatment if it’s not going to extend your life.  In most cases it’s a 12 month commitment with the first month being administered via an IV 5 days a week, then you self administer at home the next 11 months three days a week by giving yourself shots.   Basically as I understand it your immune system goes nuts trying to get you healthy again and hopefully kills any remaining melanoma in your system.  The side effects are brutal.  Basically it’s like having the flu every day times 5 for the first month, then just the normal flu after that and feeling like you just finished a marathon.  I discussed this with my Oncologist, and met with Dr. Doolittle (not making that up) at the University Of Kansas Cancer center for a second opinion.  Dr. Davidner was very indifferent about it.  He said my case was not clear cut at all.  At this point he knows me well and that I had researched this extensively and he actually suggested I get a second opinion.  At the KU Cancer center Dr. Doolittle was much more decisive.  He felt strongly that I needed to do this treatment and warned me that with my proposed schedule I would never make it 12 months but that there was some benefit even if I just did the first month of high dosage.  I thought he was crazy and just didn’t know how tuff and stubborn I was.  He said that since my job is very cognitive that it would be very difficult to do 12 months.  I left his office and gave myself a deadline to make a decision by.  I headed to the airport from his office for another flight to Jersey and before I had landed I had decided that I was going to do this treatment.  In the end I just wanted to feel like I was trying everything I could.  I felt to not try and go into “Observation” mode was giving up and showed weakness on my part. I thought of my family and how to not at least try this was letting them down.  I thought of my children and especially my granddaughter.  I owed it to myself and to them to try.  Are those good reasons?  I don’t know.  I have tried to make all my decisions during this based on scientific fact and data and not emotion.  I think in the end this was an emotional decision.  So on January 17th me and the NG headed to the Kansas City Cancer Center “Infusion Suite” and I took my first treatment.