An immunotherapy clinical trial stabilized my disease

If you break your leg, you’re not going to go to a heart surgeon. So if you have cancer, why wouldn’t you go to a world-renowned cancer hospital? MD Anderson is the best place on the planet for treating cancer. That’s why I went there first when I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at age 55 in September 2016. My lung cancer was already so advanced that Dr. Bonnie Glisson told me at the very beginning that I couldn’t be cured. But I could absolutely be treated. And that’s all I needed to hear. Because if you give me a little piece of positive, I’m going to run with it. My lung cancer diagnosis My first lung cancer symptom was severe back pain. I thought I’d pulled a muscle, so I went to my regular doctor. He took an X-ray, but didn’t notice anything unusual. He prescribed muscle relaxers and an over-the-counter pain medicine. When the pain didn’t go away and started getting worse, I decided maybe it was an ulcer. I have a history of stomach problems, so I went to see my gastroenterologist. She did a CT scan and discovered a mass on my left adrenal gland. Nobody ever goes to the doctor and says, “My adrenal gland hurts.” So, most of the time, a tumor in that area comes from someplace else. In my case, it was a large lesion on my right lung. I had stage IV adenocarcinoma, a type of lung cancer. Why I sought lung cancer treatment at MD Anderson I’m originally from Houston, so I knew about MD Anderson’s reputation....

Staying positive in the face of uncertainty

Before I was diagnosed with stage III melanoma in August 2017, I used sunscreen the way I think a lot of people do: I applied it once whenever I went to the pool or beach, and then I’d sweat it all off and end up getting burned. I also played hundreds of rounds of golf over the years, but never once thought about applying sunscreen. I’m a pretty outdoorsy guy and I grew up playing sports. So, it’s hard for me to limit my time outside. But the scar from my surgery is on my right forearm, and I can’t take a swing now without thinking about what I’m doing to stay cancer-free. So I wear a lot of hats and long-sleeve T-shirts. I apply sunscreen most days. And when I play golf, I reapply sunscreen before the round and at the turn. The importance of regular skin exams I’ve always tended to be pretty freckly, so I’ve gotten regular skin exams since I was a kid. Growing up, my mom made the appointments for me. After college, I kind of let them lapse. Still, the mole that turned out to be melanoma hadn’t been there eight months before when I finally went in for my regular exam, so it must have grown and spread pretty rapidly. There really wasn’t much to it. And there’s not any one bad burn I can point to that might have caused it. Even my dermatologist wasn’t too concerned. But she shaved off part of it and sent it in for a biopsy. Deciding what to do after my melanoma diagnosis When my...