Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Patient #1: I went 3 rounds with Jose Yervoy

Well, it's downhill from here - at least that's how it feels. It won't be that easy, for sure. I still have one remaining treatment -Yervoy dose four. Dose three was this past Wednesday, and went off without a hitch. Dose four is scheduled for February 20th, and then, like Porky Pig says, "That's all, Folks!"

Patient #1: I went 3 rounds with Jose Yervoy

Well, it’s downhill from here – at least that’s how it feels. It won’t be that easy, for sure.  I still have one remaining treatment -Yervoy dose four. Dose three was this past Wednesday, and went off without a hitch. Dose four is scheduled for February 20th, and then, like Porky Pig says, “That’s all, Folks!

It’s not quite all, though, folks.   First, the Yervoy has side effects, so there are plenty of things left that COULD happen – and this is outside the normal side effects like fatigue.  Second, I am still sort of recovering from the Chemo/TIL/IL2, so cumulatively I am still “down” and recovering in general.

Side note – the whole losing hair with chemo thing kicked in, which I thought would be irrelevant for someone whose crown hasn’t seen significant turf since Al Gore and Dubya were winning primaries. I didn’t anticipate sporadic goatee hairs falling out, making facial hair comical and leading to being clean shaven for only the second time in 11 years.  It was less “massive hair loss” and more “small, random facial hair loss, along with no hair growing back in.”  Which means all the hair that got removed (aka violently pulled off) from various sticky pads and patches at Moffitt the last few weeks has yet to return.  The chest hair is a patchwork of bald spots; the only good thing is I haven’t shaved in over a week. 

The final note, and the one that ties all this together, is that my scans have been scheduled – one at the end of February, and the second and more important one in mid-April.  This determines if/how well the treatment worked, and where we go next.  Having these scheduled, and getting the third dose of Yervoy, really ushered in the feeling of finality.  The last several months have felt like our lives have been suspended in time.  Even as things go on around us, our life was so abnormal it seemed like we just sort of froze real life.

More coverage
 
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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

Today, we head back to Fort Lauderdale for good; back to family and friends and our home, and also preschool for Josie and work for Jen and all of the normal things it takes to keep a household running.  We will be back to the Tampa area again, hopefully to hear good news, but today, we hit a different milestone.  We finished a long, difficult stretch that we will hopefully look back on fondly.  I know, sounds silly, right?  I mean, in describing the experience of the last couple of months, “fond” isn’t one of the words that initially jump out at you.

Years from now, though, this part of our journey will be remembered for the many small blessings between the big challenges.  Watching my son and nephew go from infants to little boys ready to crawl and always smiling.  Seeing my daughter and niece grow closer together spending days on end at the park or playing in the backyard together. Jen and I became godparents to Luke.  Having family spend holidays with us – bringing together three different families over three generations for Thanksgiving was an unforgettable holiday experience (National Lampoon’s should really have filmed it).  And lots and lots of other small, but important, memories built in the time in between. 

All of us have major life milestones – birthdays, graduations, weddings, children, career advancements, etc – that we can easily remember and describe linearly.  It is the time between those big moments, though, that our lives are really built.  Relationship seeds are planted, nurtured, and blossom.  Achievements, in whatever form, build from days, weeks, and years of hard work and dedication.  Families are created and developed into a unit not just with the big calendar dates, but the thousands of little memories in between.  

When the Sharpe family looks back at the end of 2012 and start of 2013, the calendar will say Daddy had surgeries and treatments and spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office. What Jen and T.J. and Josie and Tommy will remember (well, maybe not Tommy) will be all those non-Moffitt times where we, as a family, took whatever challenge God gave us and made it into the best thing we could for all of us.  Regardless of how this turns out, the last three months have been wonderful for our family and the love we have received and have shared.  And that is really what it is all about, folks.

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.

T.J. Sharpe
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