Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Immunoversary!

I swear I have good intentions when it comes to blogging - I have plenty to say, that's for sure, just not so much time to say it! Anyway, I realized that today is one year since I started immunotherapy and thought I should commemorate that. I only found out the day before or day of which arm of the clinical trial I was randomized into, and I was SO stressed out about it. I didn't want to be a guinea pig for some new medicine (although it helped that it was already approved for use in later staged melanoma patients), and I didn't want to get the old standard of care that would probably make me sick for a year and has a very low success rate. The 3 options were interferon (standard of care), and high or low dose ipilimumab (new drug being compared to interferon). I wanted the high dose because I figured "more = better", and was a little disappointed when I got the low dose. Well, once again I have been reminded that what I want isn't always best for me because a lot of people on the high dose (almost 3x the amount of the low dose) have had complications and had to quit the clinical trial. While I have had 7 of 8 doses and have had no side effects except a little fatigue right after I get a treatment, which I can totally deal with! I've got one more to go and could still have some side effects, but I've made it almost all the way through with little disruption to my life.

Feeling very thankful for this last year, and I'm constantly reminded that God blesses us through the storms in life :)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Whose Fault Is It?

I carry a certain amount of guilt about having melanoma. I assume smokers who get lung cancer feel like they caused it by smoking, and I wonder if I caused my melanoma by being less careful than I should have been in the sun, and using tanning beds. I see a lot of people in "mela-land" blaming their cancer on tanning. In my case, I have family history AND I tanned, so I honestly don't know which one caused it. There are people who have no known history, and no tanning history, so sometimes I think it's just plain bad luck. None of us will ever truly know what factor caused our cancer, or if it was a combination of genetics, environment, and/or luck. I relate melanoma and lung cancer because they both have major links to the choice to smoke or tan, but people with different cancers probably also wonder if they could have done anything to prevent it.

I read a post on Facebook this morning from Aim at Melanoma about a lawsuit between a woman with melanoma and the tanning salon(s) she went to. The jury ruled in favor of the tanning salon, and according to the few comments that were already posted, this made some people angry. It just reminded me that we live in a society of blame shifting. This woman tanned in tanning beds, allegedly after her dermatologist talked to her about the dangers of tanning, and continued tanning even after being diagnosed with melanoma, a day before her excision was planned, and again 3 days before her stitches were going to be removed. And then attempted to sue that tanning salon and several others. You can read the summary here if you want the entire story. Granted, the summary is written from the vantage point of the defendant's attorney, but it seems pretty clear to me that this woman ignored the risks of tanning, like so many of us have, but then wanted someone else to take responsibility. 

In my opinion, we have to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions - as hard as that can be. If someone is negligent and that causes us harm, then yes, they should be held responsible for their part. But I think most of us feel that it's unreasonable to sue cigarette companies over lung cancer, McDonald's over heart disease or coffee burns, or a brewery for a drunk driving accident, and this is no different. And I also think frivolous lawsuits like this one take away from the seriousness of the regulations needed in the tanning industry. A lot of states are working to pass laws to prohibit or restrict minors' use of tanning beds, and I think that's important, way more important than trying to play a blame game.

In related news, I have a half marathon this weekend, which was my choice, and I'm probably going to complain endlessly and maybe sue the race promoters because I'll definitely be in some pain afterwards ;)