Friday, February 12, 2016

Patient #1: Getting the green light for chemo

167 days. That's how long it will be from first checking into the hospital with flu-like symptoms and when I start the most intense, and important, treatment for Stage 4 Melanoma.

Patient #1: Getting the green light for chemo


167 days.  That’s how long it will be fromfirst checking into the hospitalwith flu-like symptoms and when I start the most intense, and important, treatment for Stage 4 Melanoma.  For you moms out there, I am almost in the third trimester – many surely remember the feelings of anxiety mixed with excitement as “the date” got closer.  So, yes, getting the green light this past week was an exhale moment.  It is go time.

This year has already been about go-go-go, less than a week in.  I experienced the life of a sports reporter for a few hours at the Outback Bowl in Tampa on January 1st.   Knights Sports Productions, a radio and television sports production company based in Tampa, brought me to Raymond James Stadium to shoot a segment prior to the game. Our team watched the game in the press box and, for the final five minutes, from the field.   If you saw the game highlights (a last-second South Carolina win over Michigan), you saw us standing under the goalpost as the Gamecocks scored the winning touchdown.  Pretty cool! And anote to the Eagles front office- you want to finish 0-16 next year and draft Jadeveon Clowney. Trust me on this one.

Alas, all good things come to an end, so the following day I got a port placed in me.  It is a “permanent” IV; inserted for the next month so they don’t need to keep sticking me with needles.  Presented as a small procedure, it wiped me out for nearly a full day, and certainly was not pain-free.I don’t know what I was expecting, but placing a tube into your chest vein the size of a Big Gulp straw is not the same as a routine blood draw.

Part of what every patient should understand is that medicine is an inexact science at best.  Little things can slip through cracks – my recent episode with thrush in my throat at the end of our Disney trip is the perfect example.  It turned out to be easily treatable with oral antifungal mouthwash, but it really gave us a scare.  The reason I got it?  I didn’t eat probiotic yogurt for a few days.  Doctor’s orders were “eat Activa yogurt,” but the nuance of “be sure you have X amount of yogurt or probiotics pills every day, since you will be prone to fungal infections because you are taking antibiotics” was never clear.  It is hard to lay fault on anyone; the point is, for even the smallest of things, taking ownership of your health and care is critical.

More coverage
Patient #1: The cancer diet
Living with a colostomy
Does sugar feed cancer?
For Patient #1's wife, Melanoma is a thief
Top 10 silver linings of having stage 4 melanoma
Patient #1: Man shares Stage 4 cancer battle

So, now we have exhaled, and seven days of chemotherapy treatment begins Monday, January 7th – with the first night being inpatient.  The anticipation that expectant parents or newlyweds have as their big date approaches is the same feeling here.  Maybe the excitement is replaced by fear and uncertainty, and the hours of labor or ceremony changed to days of medical ups and downs, but the reward will be similar.  One day, Jen and I will talk about the time I beat cancer in the same reverent tones reserved for our wedding and childrens’ births.  And the smiles and happy tears will flow just the same.  See ya from Moffitt on Tuesday.

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About this blog
T.J. Sharpe is sharing his fight against Stage 4 Melanoma. A South Jersey native and Bishop Eustace graduate, he currently lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his wife Jennifer and children Josie and Tommy. He was Patient #1 in a clinical trial at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa as the first person worldwide to use this sequence of treatments to fight melanoma, and is currently in a second clinical trial at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale receiving Merck’s anti-PD-1 drug Lambrolizumab

The Patient #1 blog will update the progress of T.J.'s fight against cancer, and also touch on many cancer-related topics.

Follow T.J. on Twitter and Facebook.

Charlotte Sutton Health and Science Editor, Philadelphia Inquirer
Tom Avril Inquirer Staff Writer, heart health and general science
Stacey Burling Inquirer Staff Writer, neuroscience and aging
Marie McCullough Inquirer Staff Writer, cancer and women's health
Don Sapatkin Inquirer Staff Writer, public health
David Becker, M.D. Board certified cardiologist, Chestnut Hill Temple Cardiology
Michael R. Cohen, R.Ph. President, Institute for Safe Medication Practices
Daniel R. Hoffman, Ph.D. President, Pharmaceutical Business Research Associates
Hooman Noorchashm, M.D., Ph.D. Cardiothoracic surgeon in the Philadelphia area
Amy J. Reed, M.D., Ph.D. Anesthesiologist and Surgical Intensivist in the Philadelphia Area
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