Tara was diagnosed with melanoma in 2015. Within a year of her diagnosis, the cancer progressed to stage 3, spreading to her neck, and shortly thereafter to stage 4, spreading to her brain. She was told she had a 25 percent chance of survival and five years to live.
Through her journey, she had 13 tumors in her neck and brain. She endured four surgeries in the first two years (including one brain surgery), each requiring long periods of recovery, and then a fifth surgery a year later. At one point Tara had four consecutive seizures so severe, her family was told she may not make it. She went into a coma for 24 hours.
At the onset of Tara's brain tumors, the immunotherapy pembrolizumab (Keytruda®
) received FDA approval for advanced melanoma. Tara was one of the early recipients of the newly approved drug. Her tumors responded to treatment and began to shrink after four months of treatment.
In 2019, for the first time, scans showed no tumors in Tara’s neck or brain, and no new occurrences. Tara has now been seizure-free for almost three years. She received pembrolizumab infusions for 36 months. She experienced fatigue, but no other side effects and acclimated to the immunotherapy as her treatments continued. She was stage 4 for three years, and is now tumor-free.
Tara has come away from her experience with a tremendous desire to give hope to other patients and help them advocate for themselves, as well as a renewed passion for dancing, writing, and contributing to her community in Kingston, NY and beyond. She founded The Integrative Complementary Cancer Support Group at the Reuner Oncology Cancer Support House in Kingston, NY, where she and the director of the center co-facilitate the group together. She is a Cancer Hope Coach and is writing a book on skills for coping through stage 4.