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Alan Kaufman


Alan’s Story

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

After additional Linac radiation to my lung in the summer of 2019, I completed my nivolumab treatments in late January 2020.

I feel great, and am training for my 30th New York City Marathon-My 6th since my cancer diagnosis.  My doctors and I continue to stay in “surveillance mode,” which means brain MRIs every 6 months and chest/body CT scans every 4 months.  I try to walk 40 miles a week and paint or draw every day.

I share my story through essays, paintings, and cartoons on and I feel that by doing so, it helps  inspire and encourage others struggling with a cancer diagnosis.

Every New Day is a gift!

I imagine a future where I can celebrate my remission without fear of recurrence. -Alan Kaufman, Immunotherapy Patient

Questions 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 two neurosurgeries and radiation treatments.

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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