The following morning I am surrounded by my parents, sisters and Mark on the ward as my oncologist arrives; he has stern look on his face and I start to wonder how he does this everyday. He sits down and tells us what we are all aware of, my cancer is back; only now he also informs me that there is an enlarged lymph node on my lung, and one on my abdomen and as a result it is likely that this and the back pain is also linked to the melanoma found in my neck; it has spread. I didn't really react to this I just listened, I'd always known this was a possibility, but even hearing it still didn't quite hit home.
My mind felt numb as I looked out at the clouds in the sky.
Does this mean I am stage 4?
My oncologist says there is a new immunotherapy based treatment available that allows your immune system to fight the cancer, but the response rate is low at 20% he tells us he only has one in five patients respond and sometimes not even that; so his decision is to put me back on the same type of chemotherapy based drug as I was on for the clinical trial last year.
There are two brands of this type of drug, Vemurafenib which I was taking for a year, and seemingly kept the melanoma at bay and a second called Debrafenib. The manufacturer of Debrafenib was not managing supply and demand at the time so it was unavailable meaning I had to go back onto Vem, with much harsher side effects- and this time I had to go full doseage which before I couldn't cope with, in a hope to stop the melanoma quickly.
These drugs work quickly, with an 80-90% response rate you can see results in a matter of days, but the problem with the drug is that the cancer can become resistant to it and stop working at any point, so this is never going to be a long term solution and I'll only know if it's not working should the cancer not respond.
So home I go later that day, tired and drained with a bag of chemo drugs I thought I'd never see again and a scan and review in two weeks; where we could only hope we'd see the cancer has shrunk.
I feel angry this is happening to me and my family again.