Survivor Stories

Martha Adair

I guess my story starts about 7 years ago in September of 2003. I, like everyone else, had a mole, but I let it go for about 6 years before doing anything about it. I went to my dermatologist and had the mole removed, and it was sent in to get results. A week or so later, it came back as melanoma. I had surgery a few weeks later and had to have skin grafting because it was close to a bone on my lower leg, very close to my shin bone. I used crutches for about 5 days, mainly because of the skin grafting. I got results that nothing spread.

Fast forward to 2010. I noticed a lump on my thigh that wasn’t going away. I went to my doctor who looked at it and said not to worry about it, that it was really nothing. I had a dermatologist appt a week or so later; when I showed him my lump, he didn’t want to do anything to it and sent me to a surgeon . She had a feeling it was something and it should not be in my leg. She scheduled me for surgery and removed it. Two weeks later, the results came back and it showed it was cancer. For a while it was undetermined what type of cancer. It was questionable whether it was sarcoma or melanoma. I was then scheduled for a major surgery at a large teaching hospital in Chicago. I spent 5 days there. I took a few weeks to recover and returned to work.

In April, I saw my oncologist and she scheduled me to have a PET scan. I had the scan done and found out that there was more cancer showing up — Stage lllA or B. This time it was deep in my pelvic area. She gave me two options. One was Interleukin 2; the other was a fairly new FDA-approved drug but was not really covered by insurance at that point or took a while for them to decide and was also very costly. Each treatment was $30,000.00.

Long story short, within a few days of deciding which treatment, Yervoy (Ippi for short) got approved so that insurance would pay for it. This was an immune therapy. The Yervoy drug was an experimental drug but has great success. Yervoy had very mild to no side effects for me, although it can give colitis side effects, which can be bad if not taken care of. Mine were slight, depending on the foods I ate. I noticed that the foods with preservatives in them bothered me the most. Interleukin 2 has extremely bad side effects, with a hospital stay of 2 weeks. I had four treatments of Yervoy, with very few side effects. About the same time that week, my sister started chemo for early stage breast cancer. She is just about done with radiation now and has gotten through great. Oh, did I mention that we are twins? I finished it up in July and had a scan that showed that my tumor has shrunk about half the size it was. My doctor was a bit surprised to see it has worked that fast. She has hopes it will continue to shrink.

I go back for a CT scan the beginning of December and then will have a PET scan in January/February. So far so good.