Diagnosis & Treatment

Medical Center
USC - Los Angeles, CA
Dr. Charles Liu (neurosurgery at USC), Dr. Jeffrey Hagen (thoracic surgery at USC, now in Charlottle, NC)
Dr. Mike Wong (medical oncology at USC, now at MD Anderson in Houston, TX), Dr. James Hu (medical oncology - USC), Dr. Eric Chang (radiation oncology - USC)
Clinical Trials
Not a clinical trial, but I participated in a research project via Foundation Medicine
Medical Treatment
Gamma knife
Details of Treatment
3 years total. 22 months of immunotherapy meds, 10 rounds of gamma knife, 2 craniotomies, lung lobectomy, wide excision of subcutaneous lesion, 4 months of targeted therapy drug.
Medication During Treatment
Yervoy (immunotherapy May-July 2013), Trametinib (targeted therapy June-Aug 2014, Sept-Nov 2014), Keytruda (immunotherapy Nov 2014 - July 2016).
Alternative Therapies During Treatment
No alcohol
I learned to have a heightened awareness and appreciation of "the little things." I have much better communication with others, and far more empathy. Most importantly, I have realized the value of my time and saying "no."
Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Multiple Vitamin, occasional addition of magnesium.
WHAt helped me during treatment
Lavender (fresh or essential oil), Hot to Go reusable heat packs, and a comfortable living room recliner!
Favorite Quote
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou
Advice for Others
There will be ups and downs. This journey is not linear, so hold on to hope, even on the darkest days. You are not a statistic - you are an individual with your very own unique set of physical and biological responses. Don't put so much stock in numbers.

My Story

I will never again think “it can’t happen to me”. At 44 years old, I had it all. I was a mom, a wife, a morning radio DJ, a radio station promotions director, a runner and an avid cyclist in the best shape of my life! I never saw the "life flip" coming.

My bicycle was ready for the usual 22 miles of “mental break ride” at lunch the day I had a seizure while on air. It was a Friday. April 12, 2013 at 8:15 am. An ambulance ride to the ER and a few hours of searching/scanning revealed “at least 3 tumors” in my brain, along with three more in my lungs. My life had changed in an unforeseen moment. I had stage IV cancer, and if I wanted to remain alive, there was no time to waste. Even with 20/20 hindsight of my condition, I still cannot point to any definite signs that my body and brain were being overtaken by melanoma. I was diagnosed that April with Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma.

Unfortunately, our family history with cancers had resulted in the death of three of our parents between 2006 and early 2013. On the silver lining side, this had given my husband some incredible experience as a patient advocate. With my diagnosis, he knew we needed to step up the game and get experts on board. He took me to USC in Los Angeles within 4 days for a neurosurgical consultation. Eleven days after my initial ER visit, I was already at USC Keck (University of Southern California) undergoing brain surgery.

That first craniotomy was followed three weeks later with gamma knife radiation to treat the tumors that remained in my head. Another four days passed, and we began immunotherapy (Yervoy) at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center to treat the tumors that had been growing in my lungs. The first batch of immunotherapy (Yervoy) was completed in late July 2013, followed by another round of gamma knife brain radiation in late September to treat 2 new brain tumor - and that is only the beginning of a loooong story.

Fast forward ten years since that fateful day in April 2013, and I’m still here! Still learning and forever watchful. There is no “cure” for melanoma. Active treatment has wrapped up, but check ups with medical oncology still occur in annual intervals, the VERY IMPORTANT brain MRIs, check ups with radiation oncology, and dermatology checks are every 5-6 months. We’ve come to know the doctors, nurses, and staff of USC Norris and USC Keck quite well. My medical team smiles with me, laughs with me, and fights right alongside me. All total so far, I’ve undergone 2 craniotomies, had a lobe of lung removed, resection of a lump on my back, 10 rounds of gamma knife brain radiation (37 tumors zapped!), 4 months of what we laughingly refer to as “Mike’s Magic Pill”, and nearly 2 years of immunotherapy infusions.

Nothing is the normal that it was a decade ago. We now have “cancer’s normal”… and it really isn’t all bad. This journey hasn't always been a roll through the park, but I know that pain is temporary, and I have been shown that good can come from horrible things.

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