Featured Survivor Story:
Melanoma Survivor Angela Evatt: Consider a Clinical Trial for Yourself


By Mara Klecker

Angela Evatt grew up in Louisiana, spending her summers outside in the sun, often by the pool. At the time, she gave little thought to the sunburns she received from days spent outside or the risks of using tanning beds, which she did as a young adult.

“My story really begins with my risk as a fair-skinned redhead,” Evatt said. “I never really got skin checks – no one told me about my risk.”

By the end of 2019, a large mole on Angela’s back grew painful and began to bleed. Evatt was visiting family in Louisiana for the holidays, but her husband pushed her not to wait to see a doctor.

With the help of her cousin, who is a physician, Angela secured a dermatology appointment in Louisiana.

“The dermatologist looked at it, promptly biopsied it, and told me, ‘It’s probably melanoma,’” Angela remembers. “I didn’t even know what that meant, but I knew it was serious.”

A few days later, shortly after Christmas in 2019, doctors confirmed that Angela did have melanoma.

When she returned to her home in Maryland, she struggled to get into see a dermatologist. As a healthy 42-year-old, she didn’t have a primary care doctor to refer her. Her cousin called around and found an oncologist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Angela was able to get an appointment.

She had surgery and a lymph node biopsy and found out her cancer was Stage III. Her oncologist began discussing her options and mentioned the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial for an mRNA vaccine combined with immunotherapy.

“It was all really quick and sort of a whirlwind,” Angela remembers. “The experience of being presented clinical trial options is pretty overwhelming.”

As someone who works in the healthcare field, she knew that clinical trials aren’t always effective treatments. But Angela was eager to learn more, and her husband, who is a research psychologist and works in academia, was supportive. He reminded her that a clinical trial would mean she’d be followed closely and go through a detailed treatment process.

“I’m the type of person who can process things if they are all laid out,” Angela said. “That was the really helpful thing about the clinical trial: it was very detailed and process-oriented, which I do well with when I’m stressed.”

From 2020 to 2021, Angela underwent immunotherapy and received an injection of the mRNA vaccine every three weeks.

She had to journal her side effects, which often included extreme fatigue and, occasionally, rashes on her arms.

The main burden of the trial, Angela said, was having to travel into Washington D.C. – typically a 30- to 40-minute drive each way – every three weeks. She couldn’t drive herself home so she frequently had to Uber into the city.

“The appointments were pretty much all-day affairs,” she said, adding that she was grateful to have a flexible work situation that allowed her that time and allowed her to work from home – something almost all her colleagues were doing at the time as well because of the pandemic.

That also felt isolating, Angela said. In those first few months of the pandemic, she didn’t see her immediate family except through Facetime. But she got into a regular schedule of checking in with friends and family.

“I didn’t know many others who went through cancer,” she said. She was only 44 at the time of her treatment and didn’t have many close people who personally understood the emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. When she went to the cancer center at Georgetown, the other patients were typically over the age of 60.

Still, she said she’s fortunate to have support from people who work in mental health fields, including her husband.

“I had a lot of support around me,” she said. “I tell people that going through cancer treatment and having cancer was life-changing. I would say that I’m a different person in terms of my life perspective – it’s given me that understanding of the uncertainty of what life might hold, even if you’re a healthy 44-year-old.”

Angela now focuses on taking each day as it comes, she said. She’s grateful for her health and the chance to participate in a clinical trial, though she admits she still worries about recurrence.

Her advice to those considering a clinical trial: Know your options, take your time in making a decision that feels right to you, and find a support system, including someone who can explain your treatment options to you during a time of extreme stress.

She finds herself thinking about all the other people who supported the clinical trial before she just, in her words, “showed up and gave them my arm.”

“It’s mindboggling to think of all the research that came before that point,” she said. “The kudos really go to the scientists, lab techs, and others who allowed me to be a part of the clinical trial.”


Learn more about clinical trials here.