Thursday, July 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The results are in for Patient #1

OK the news everyone is waiting for – I got the port out today. Whew.

The results are in for Patient #1

OK the news everyone is waiting for – I got the port out today.  Whew. 

Oh yea, that other thing. Results were “confusing” to one of the world’s leading melanoma specialists.  I am glad I still have the ability to baffle even the brightest among us.  Regardless, we didn’t get positive news.  Bad news first – three of the five tumors grew in size; there have been several new tumors identified.  The initial radiologists summary was this: “Overall progression of cancer compared to prior examination, though some lesions are stable.”

That leads us to the good news.  The biggest of the five tumors shrank minimally, as did one other tumor. The existing tumor growth was much less than if left untreated – none grew more than 10 percent in 2+ months since my last scans.  Typically cancer cells double every three months, so the advancement has at least been minimal.  The confusing part was kind of good too – while the initial feeling we got was very negative, it was just preliminary findings.  And even that was preliminary; the cutaneous department meets once a week to review cases (with a specialized radiologist) so the picture is still cloudy.  Cloudy plus negative certainly isn’t the report we were hoping for, but hey, weathermen are off all the time. 

So what does this mean?  Well, it’s certainly not GOOD.  I will know more next Wednesday after the meeting of the minds.  The confusing part, I think, is that we expected we would see either slight progress or no growth; or, there would be no response.  Having minimal growth on some tumors, coupled with slight response on others, and throwing new lesions into the mix is putting this into the proverbial grey area.  Overall, it wasn’t the positive results we were looking for, but I suppose that is why it is called a “trial’.

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The one thing I don’t want to hear is “I’m sorry.”  The fight isn’t over yet; besides, no one reading this did anything wrong so there’s no need to apologize.  Jen already asked what to say to express how she is feeling, and I don’t have a good answer, but this isn’t the end of anything.  It is just another step forward and while disappointed in the lack of progress, today of all days is one that reminds me to be resolute in the face of adversity.

See, today is March 1st – birthdays of my grandfather, Tom Sharpe, and my great uncle, Matt Pacana.  To a grade-school T.J., they were authority figures with a soft side – Uncle Mattie even took me to my first Flyers games back in the 80’s Spectrum heyday.  I grew up hearing how tough they had been “back in the day”, but it wasn’t until I understood their small role in American history that I fully grasped how strong they were. 

My grandfather lied about his age to get INTO the Navy and fight in the Pacific during World War II; see how many examples you can find of that from the last generation or two.  At one point, he had Jackie Cooper – an actor most noted for roles in “Our Gang”, the “Superman” movies, and being the youngest ever nominee for the Academy Award’s Best Lead Actor – reporting directly to him.  (Technically, this made him Superman’s boss’ boss. Cool.) 

Uncle Mattie, who passed away a few years ago, earned a Purple Heart for being wounded in combat - on the beaches of Normandy.  He passed down a Nazi flag that he brought home from that beach, signed by his entire battalion, to my Dad.  I have a bit of a battle going on here, but thinking about what those guys did – voluntarily, as teenagers – it’s hard to even compare things like “strength” and “courage.”  Yes, today was rough, but can it even compare to the South Pacific in 1944 or crossing the English Channel on June 6th, 1944? 

Cancer picked a bad day to give us the news that it has upped the stakes.

T.J. Sharpe
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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. Reach T.J. at Patient1@tjsharpe.com.

T.J. Sharpe
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