Featured Survivor Story:
Elizabeth’s Battle Against Melanoma: How Clinical Trials Changed Her Life


By Mara Klecker

Elizabeth Rounseville hardly knew what melanoma was when she was diagnosed in 2018 after going to see a dermatologist for a mole that was bothering her. The doctor immediately warned her that the spot on her leg didn’t look good and called a week later with the diagnosis. He directed her to a surgeon, who discovered the cancer was in her lymph nodes.

“It was crazy from then on,” said Elizabeth, now 43 and living in Massachusetts. “It’s been a long, long journey.”

In the years since that first diagnosis, one constant has remained: Elizabeth’s trust in her doctors and determination to undergo the treatments offered to her, which have included clinical trials.

She’s tried several combinations of immunotherapy as well as an intratumoral injection. While participating in one clinical trial for an anti-angiogenic therapy combined with immunotherapy, Elizabeth’s blood pressure spiked so high that she was admitted to the ICU. She also experienced intense migraines and blood clots in her lungs.

Despite the side effects, she said she’s grateful for the treatments and credits the anti-angiogenic therapy trial for shrinking her tumors.

“I feel it almost killed me, but I think it was the bump I needed to get my melanoma headed in a better direction,” she said, adding that at one point after being in the ICU, her visiting nurses were ready to send her hospice care. “Had I not done all these trials, I really don’t think I’d be here today.”

After a year and a half of clear scans, Elizabeth’s melanoma came back in December 2022. She’s now undergoing immunotherapy treatments every three weeks but is no longer part of a clinical trial.

“I recommend trials to anybody,” she said. “I didn’t want to die. I had to take the risk to see if the outcome would be worth it.”

Signing the paperwork for the clinical trials was scary, Elizabeth said, but in addition to the faith she had in her medical team, she also knew she had the support of her family behind her. She even credits her marriage to her melanoma journey – Elizabeth and her now husband started dating after she was diagnosed in the spring of 2018. He was her coworker at the time and offered to help out with driving and even laundry after her first surgery when she was having trouble walking.

By that fall, the two were dating. By February, they were engaged, and by May 2019 – a year after her diagnosis – they were married.

“I don’t know what I would do without him and his family now,” Elizabeth said. “They are my biggest support system, and they’ve been through it all with me.”

Her latest scans still show lingering cancer, which “has been really tough to swallow,” she said.
“It was hard enough to have to go back into this after I got better,” she said. “Now I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have to do this even longer.’”

Still, Elizabeth said she’s determined to stay positive, especially for her family. And she’ll continue to try new treatment options if her doctor recommends them.

“I think that my life is way too short, so I want to be doing more things with my kids,” she said. “These are the moments I want to spend with them because I can’t guarantee time a year or two from now. I can only guarantee the time now.”