Survivor Stories

Mark Williams

My story started 3 1/2 years ago, September 2007. We had just dropped our oldest daughter off at the airport for trip to Europe for 3 months of school in France. The following week I noticed a lump in my collarbone area. My primary care doctor saw me right away and said it needed to be CAT scanned, did that within a week and she called saying I needed to see a ENT right away.

I meet with the ENT, who scheduled a biopsy that week. He waited a week (the longest week of my life) to tell me it was Malignant Metastatic Melanoma. He said no one survives. He referred me to an oncologist who had a PET scan done and on my 50th birthday (3 1/2 weeks from when I first felt the lump) he informed me I had 14 tumors (9 on my lungs and 5 in chest cavity, including one pressing against my esophagus (5cmx5cm) saying sorry, but he couldn’t help me. BUT, luckily he sent me to see Dr. Brendan Curti @ Portland Providence Cancer Center – what a blessing.

After agreeing to see me on his day off, he informed me about Pro-Lukien II (IL-2). He was and is always upbeat! After explaining some other options for clinical trials, I decided on IL-2. He was very upfront about the intensity of these treatments. I have lifted weights and ran for years and now maybe there would be a pay-off.

Ironically, the hospital I received my IL-2 at is on the same street I grew up on! My first cycle went pretty good, … except for having a heart malfunction and ripping out my IJ line. But, because of the great nurses and staff, they stabilized me. I was able to take 8 doses, all along the nurses and doctors kept encouraging me, reminding me it’s not if you can take all 14 doses, it’s the IL-2 revving up your t-cells.

I came back 2 weeks later and took 10 doses. Then I had the month wait. Had a very nice Christmas, as my oldest daughter had come back from Europe and I took my whole family to San Francisco for a Bowl game. When it came time for the scan again Dr. Curti stepped up and came in on his day off – December 31st – to tell me the GOOD news that my tumors had shrunk by over 50%!!!!.

So, I got to go back and receive two more cycles (18 doses over the 2 weeks). Waited that month again and was told it looked like the tumors may be dead!. 2 more weeks of IL-2 (11 doses).

Had 6 months of clean scans. Then, in December 2008 was told I had a hot node in my scan and they wanted to do surgery. They removed 50 lymph nodes and only one came back as melanoma, the rest were negative (the surgeon was completely surprised he thought there would be 10-20).

Dr. Curti had said all along that this was just a blimp on the radar screen. I had 25 rounds of radiation (targeted therapy). That was 2 years ago! I have had clean scans since. Have only had minor side effects. I did physical therapy and acupuncture to relieve pain from surgery and radiation, also earlier for the IL-2, that has mostly disappeared.

My family has been my rock through all of this. The best part of all of this to me is how compassionate the doctors and staff have been, from Dr. Curti and his team to the people who cleaned my hospital room. I am blessed.