Sunday, March 29, 2015

Patient #1: Ringing the bell to end chemo

Today is the big day. Navy SEAL-like t-cells are "storming the beach" sometime in the afternoon. As Eddie Vedder said at the start of the Spectrum's last concert, "This is it."

Patient #1: Ringing the bell to end chemo

Today is the big day. Navy SEAL-like t-cells are “storming the beach” sometime in the afternoon.  We don't have the exact time; apparently, I am on a need to know basis, and, well, I don’t need to know yet.  Chemotherapy has knocked out my immune system, and I am physically ready to tackle the part of the trial that determines my treatment outcome and, basically, the remainder of my life. As Eddie Vedder said at the start of the Spectrum’s last concert, “This is it.”

The week of chemo was relatively event-free.  Fatigue and a bit of appetite loss were the only real side effects.  I completed inpatient chemo with only bloating as the worst effect– bathroom use was frequent, as 10 pounds of saline solution and Meznax IV water weight has to go somewhere. 

For the rest of the week, daily trips to the infusion center at Moffitt supplied me with Fludarabine, a leukemia chemotherapy that will finish off the existing white blood cells.  From there, it is TIL infusion Monday, and IL2 beginning Tuesday at 6am.  By the weekend, I should be recovering while watching the Flyers and Pens drop the puck – thanks NHL for giving me hockey back and putting the Flyers on national TV Saturday and Sunday! Until then, I will be in and out of coherency, but am hoping to have updates during the IL2 and immediately afterwards.

As of Monday afternoon, I had a 0.16 k/uLWBC count, meaning I have near-zero white blood cells left. Keep your sick kids away from me for the next few days.

There is a bell at Moffitt’s infusion center that patients ring to signify completion of their full chemotherapy treatment. The ringing is usually accompanied by fellow patients, nurses, and support personnel cheering and clapping. Being a Sunday morning, there were only a handful of people in the center to hear Patient #1 ring the bell at the end my chemo, so my cheering section of one very happy wife provided all the applause.

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

Not having the recognition was OK, though.  Ringing that bell meant the wait was over.   It was time to finally – five months after the initial diagnosis – reach the core of my treatment.  Insert your favorite sports/battle/challenge metaphor here; I’m going with Rocky and Apollo boxing alone at the end of Rocky III. No more surgeries, tests, X-rays, blood draws, needles, pills, conjecture, speculation, and crossing of fingers. Now it’s go time. The fourth quarter. Showtime. The final round. And I have never been more ready for something. It’s time to ring the bell, melanoma.

Ding… Ding…

T.J. Sharpe
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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