Alan KaufmanMelanoma |  Diagnosed 2017

Be Strong! Be Brave! Fight and Win! AND Every new day is a gift!

Alan's Story

I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic melanoma in June 2017. I had 5 brain tumors and one tumor in my lung. I underwent a pair of brain surgeries to remove 2 of the tumors, followed up by Gamma Knife and Linac radiation. I began immunotherapy in July 2017, initially with ipilimumab (Yervoy) and nivolumab (Opdivo) then nivolumab-only that September.

I am continuing to receive treatment, feel great, and completed my 25th NYC Marathon in November 2018, my first as a cancer patient. My doctors and I continue to address the tumor in my lung. PET and CT scans indicate it has remained unchanged in size for the last 15 months. I share my story via essays and cartoons on Facebook, and feel it is important to help inspire and encourage others struggling with a cancer diagnosis.

Question and Answers

How and when did you first learn you had cancer?

On June 15, 2017 the left side of my body suddenly stopped working. I could not write my name. I went to the local ER thinking it was a stroke. Scans of my body revealed several masses in my brain and in my lungs. I spent the next 18 days in the hospital undergoing brain surgeries and recovery.

How did you learn about immunotherapy and why did you decide to do it?

My oncology team at the Monter Cancer Treatment Center advised me that this was really the only way to treat my cancer. Traditional chemotherapy does not work on metastatic melanoma.

What was treatment like? Did you have any side effects?

My doctors and nurses were kind and patient. I suffered with anxiety, dizziness, and severe itching. My treatment sessions were scheduled every 2 weeks, always on a Tuesday.

How did immunotherapy compare to other treatments you may have received, if any?

Immunotherapy was superior to the 2 neurosurgeries and a radiation treaments.

Are there things that surprise you about the cancer experience?

Yes. Aside from residual dizziness and imbalance from the brain surgeries, I generally feel quite good. I walk between 40-45 miles each week, and am trying to begin running again. I am living the best life I possibly can and training for my 26th NYC Marathon.

What would you want another patient to know about immunotherapy or about participating in a clinical trial?

Immunotherapy isn't horrible. It is saving my life.

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*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

Patient education information supported by a charitable donation from Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.
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