Friday, December 26, 2014

The transformation from patient to something bigger

Ever Google yourself? Back before Google got into tailoring your every online action, it was fun to see what popped up. Now, when a search reveals the unexpected, it is a bit refreshing. A month ago, I set up a Google news feed for melanoma, and have been reading and saving interesting links to potentially include here on the blog. Last week, the very last link in the feed was the Patient #1 interview with Catherine Poole.

The transformation from patient to something bigger

TJ and his brother Jason in the Inquirer newsroom on a recent visit.
TJ and his brother Jason in the Inquirer newsroom on a recent visit.

Ever Google yourself?  Back before Google got into tailoring your every online action, it was fun to see what popped up.  Now, when a search reveals the unexpected, it is a bit refreshing.  A month ago, I set up a Google news feed for melanoma, and have been reading and saving interesting links to potentially include here on the blog.  Last week, the very last link in the feed was the Patient #1 interview with Catherine Poole.

Between that and being a part of the MRA’s Scientific Conference last week, it finally REALLY sunk in.  I’ve started the transformation from patient to… well, something. Blogger? Media member? Survivor story? Advocate? Maybe a little bit of all the above, although I wonder if I am bringing down each of the aforementioned groups. I’m not really ANY of them, at least at the highest level. An advanced thank you to those who believe otherwise about “blogger,” but until this is more (and more often) about cancer and less about me, I’m not taking full credit just yet.  Same with “survivor story”… yet.

Still, being a footnote in the melanoma community and media world is equal parts amazing and humbling. Quite a few people came up and told me they read the blog during the conference, and I realize this medium is therapeutic for both me and others. A fellow patient relayed his story – reading this blog last summer, years after his initial diagnosis, and then finding out he was Stage IV soon afterwards. I get those kinds of emails more than I expect — people who relate to what I write, which itself is equal parts uplifting and disheartening.

So what does that mean for 2014, the Patient #1 blog, and T.J. Sharpe?  Well, the goal is to break some of these posts up into smaller bites; it is also to have more topical information regarding melanoma and cancer.  Don’t worry, you’ll still get a monthly dose of “Hey look, T.J. got another infusion,” but I’ll expand the scope to include more general health and cancer-related topics, more often (this sounds an awful lot like work, unfortunately).  So that takes care of the blogger part.

As for the rest, it is still being shaped into a tangible, actionable plan.  Obviously, keeping with my health regimen is still the highest priority.  With strength, healing, and the good fortune of this outlet, though, comes a responsibility to use it wisely and well. To paraphrase Jesus, Voltaire, and/or Spider-Man, “to whom much has been given, much will be required.” Wherever the opportunity presents itself, I look forward to being able to tell my story and encourage hope and healing in others (if you think my story is worth sharing, email me to work out the details!).   

There are quite a few organizations helping melanoma patients that will be featured in upcoming posts, and healthcare events already dot the calendar. As much as I can cover them, I look to share what I learn through blog posts and one-off Facebook posts and Tweets (see the sidebar for follower information). I will continue to keep the dialog going with the many that have reached out already; just be a bit patient, as emails and messages start to stack up.  There are plenty of opportunities to pay forward the knowledge, comfort, and good fortune I have been given.  

If 2012 was when everything ground to a halt, and 2013 was the year we began reversing the misfortune of metastatic melanoma, then 2014 aims to be the time I can look back and say, “This is when I really began helping others, just like so many have touched my life.”  Sounds like a great year to me.


T.J. Sharpe shares his fight against Stage 4 Melanoma in the Patient #1 blog. Read more »

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

T.J. Sharpe
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