Golf professional Randy Jones’ melanoma story

In 2011, golf professional Randy Jones had a satisfying career and a
loving wife with three kids. Life was good.

But a series of seemingly unrelated events eventually brought him to
MD Anderson.

“I really believe in fate and divine intervention moments,” Randy
says. “To this day, the whole thing still kind of gives me chills.”

Magazine article prompts dermatologist visit

The journey began with Randy’s wife, Mackie, urging him to see a dermatologist.

“I’m a fair-skinned guy with a lot of freckles,” he says. “It’s my
job to be outside, but I’d never been to a dermatologist in my life.”

After the birth of their third child, Randy spied an article on melanoma while flipping through a parenting
magazine. He began reading the story, which was about a mother of two
young children whose husband suddenly passed away from skin cancer.

“Something about it just hit home, so I called my wife and got the
name of her dermatologist,” Randy says.

Randy’s melanoma diagnosis

The dermatologist told Randy his skin looked great, but did shave
biopsies on two or three moles just to be safe. He also performed a
punch biopsy on a fourth mole that looked abnormal.

“I thought, ‘Alright. I’m finally doing my due diligence. This
should get my wife off my back,’” Randy says.

Only the punch biopsy turned out to be melanoma.

“Man, I really didn’t know what to do,” Randy says. “I think
‘cancer’ must be the scariest word in the English language. I got the shakes.”

Second opinion brings Randy to MD Anderson

Randy was referred to a surgical oncologist, who removed the mole
and a sentinel lymph node to be on the safe side.

But the lymph node tested positive for cancer, too. Randy was
referred to another doctor for additional surgery, but he didn’t feel
comfortable with that physician. His wife encouraged him to seek a
second opinion at MD Anderson.

A family decision

At MD Anderson, Jeffrey
Gershenwald, M.D.
, performed a groin dissection, removing 22
additional lymph nodes. Only one showed evidence of cancer, and it was microscopic.

“We decided as a family, with my pastor’s help, not to take the interferon I was offered after surgery,” Randy
says. “People who take it can feel really sick, and if the melanoma
returned, I wanted to have a good quality of life with my wife and
kids now.”

Gershenwald kept a sharp eye on Randy, with regular checkups every
three months. Those were gradually bumped back to four-month
intervals, then five and six. At his January 2015 checkup, Gershenwald
said he could move to an every-12-month schedule if his scans came
back clear.

Then Randy got home and noticed blood in his urine. The melanoma had
metastasized to his right kidney.

“That’s what I consider a divine intervention moment,” Randy says.
“Stage IV melanoma doesn’t usually give you a symptom until it’s too
late. But I peed blood.”

Paying it forward

Three days later, Randy was back at MD
Anderson
. Under the care of Adi Diab, M.D., a tumor in his kidney was
removed and Randy started an eight-week clinical trial combining chemo
and an immunotherapy called Ipilimumab. When an additional tumor was found on
his brain, he switched to Taflinar. A few months later, Mekinist was added. Randy took those drugs until
February 2016, then stopped them and began an IV immunotherapy called Keytruda, which he’s still on. He also had
cryoablation, which froze another tumor near his kidney, and gamma knife radiation applied to the brain tumor.

Today, Randy shows no evidence of disease. But because of his
experience, he encourages fellow golf pros to use sunscreen daily and
to get their skin checked regularly.

“I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to have to go through what I have,”
he says. “If I can save even one life, it will be worth it.”