Monday, September 24, 2012

AIM at Melanoma - Walk for a Cure - Houston 2012

Thank you all for your help.  Between Sadie, myself, my cousin Randi, and my best friend Dana, we were able to raise over $3500 for AIM!!!  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

The walk was amazing!  Judy Sager and all of her crew did an amazing job putting the walk together.  We all did the free skin screening (I have a couple of small areas I need to get cut off, but just to be safe.)  There were lots of booths giving out free snacks, drinks, sunscreen, sunglasses, SPF chapstick, etc.  The energy was awesome! 

While I was there, I ran into Dr. Hwu, one of the melanoma oncologists.  We discussed Steve's current treatment plan and discussed him possibly participating in the TIL program in about 6 months (more on that later).  We ran into staff from Dr. Kim's office (Urvi and Brenda).

All in all it was a great evening!  Thanks again to those who donated and also Randi, Dana, and Cheris for participating in raising funds!  You ALL rock!!!

 My best friend, Dana.  'Pale is the new tan'
Sadie's chalk art. 
 Sadie photobombing Randi!
 Dana and Taylor
Sadie and Taylor
 This will displayed on the melanoma floor.
Sadie and Dr. Hwu
 Me and my baby girl
Sadie Rae 

Team 'Steven Martin'

Friday, September 21, 2012

Moon Shots #EndCancer

Because I have been blogging for MD Anderson, Steven and I were lucky enough to be invited to the press conference and announcement of their new "Moonshots" program.  This was very exciting for both of us.  Of course as soon as we were invited (about 2 1/2 weeks in advance) I started googling and trying to find all I could about the Moonshots program.  (Who has ever known me to be patient?)  The little bit of information I could find excited me to no end!

Today was the day of the press conference.  It was very exciting.  There were cameras there.  There were doctors there.  There were fellow bloggers there.  There were other cancer patients there.  The energy and excitement in the room was amazing.  There are no words that could describe the energy in the room.  As I type that, I already want to take that back.  There is ONE word that can describe the energy. Hopeful.  Everyone is filled with hope.  What I found out about the program is that the President of MD Anderson, Dr. DePinho is launching a "Moonshots" program.  Through this program he picked several cancers Breast, Ovarian (RIP Jill), Leukemia AML/MDS/CLL, Lung, Prostate and Melanoma to "dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths."

MD Anderson has over 3 billion dollars that is readily available to jump start this program.  Dr. DePinho compares his vision of that of John F Kennedy's vision to put a man on the moon.  We had the science to do it and instead of talking about it, we just needed to get it done.  And we did.  So, I am full of hope.  I hope that the program is everything Dr. DePinho dreams of.  Cancer research has significantly declined over the years due to lack of funding.  Let's hope MD Anderson gets research back on the right track and stops melanoma (as well as these other cancers and eventually ALL cancers) in it's tracks.

Read more about the moonshots program at

After the press conference, Steve was interviewed by the communications staff.  They wanted some video feedback of his thoughts about the program.  He and some other fellow cancer patients also had a small photo shoot.  They are going to be using these photos to create banners and posters.  Who knows where they will be?  Billboards?  Websites?  Waiting Areas?  Hanging throughout MD Anderson?  I am sad that my husband has to BE a face of cancer, but so very proud of him for stepping up and BEING a face of cancer.  

After the press conference, interview and photo shoot, Steve had some stuff to do at the main campus.  We headed over and got his labs drawn, he had an EKG to be sure his heart is healthy enough to start the Zelboraf next week, and we picked up his Zelboraf prescription.  Interestingly enough, a research nurse called him while we were there and was able to meet up with us between appointments.  He is joining a research study.  The study is based on molecular testing.  Due to this being a study, everything pertaining to this will be free of charge.  He will have labs drawn and they will compare the genes in the blood with the tumor biopsy they already have on file.  They will then do genetic testing to look for mutations in cancer related genes.  He will be "enrolled" in this study for 20 years.  They are looking for 5000 people and have gotten about 600 so far.  So, they have a ways to go to get to 5000 participants.  This information will be very valuable.  This testing will look at over 400 mutations.  We know Steve has the BRAF 601 mutation, but it is possible that there are other mutations that they don't even know to look for.  That is the purpose of this study.  To check these mutations, compare them in patients with the same type of cancer, etc so that Dr's will know what types of mutations to test for and so scientists know what types of mutations they need to target their drugs against.  All of this is so very interesting to me.  I am seriously contemplating going back to school so that I can join one of these teams!!

Here are some photos from today's event:

Steven and I with the President of MD Anderson, Dr. DePinho
 Our front row VIP seats :)
Steve and I waiting for the press conference to start. 
Me and Judy Sager (from AIM at Melanoma)
 Me and Lucy, my FABULOUS communications contact!
Almost time to start....cameras rolling!
Dr. De.Pinho announcing the Moon Shots Program

 P.S.  I made the local news :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A new treatment

Some of you may know that Steve had to have his 3 month scans done early.  About a week ago we noticed he was having night sweats and becoming easily fatigued (more so than normal) and the original lymph node where we originally found the cancer had increased in size.  IT is still not as big as it originally was, but it has definitely increased in size from a few months ago.  I contacted MD Anderson and we went today to have his scans.  We were lucky that they read his scans so quickly.  His results were ready by the time we got in to see the doctor.  The good news is there are no new tumors in his body at all.  That is actually great news!!! The bad news is the lymph node tumor is increasing in size. 

The plan is to try and get Steve in for a biopsy sometime next week to be sure that the tumor has the same BRAF mutation as the adrenal tumor had.  Typically, if one tumor has the mutation, then all tumors will have the same mutation.  However, Dr. Kim would like to be sure.  However, Dr. Kim also does not want to wait a long time to get treatment started, so if Steve does not have a biopsy scheduled next week, he will start Zelboraf.  Zelboraf is one of the newer approved drugs approved by the FDA.  It was approved in August of 2011 and targets the BRAF mutation.  You can read more about Zelboraf here

Zelboraf is an oral medication.  A total of 8 pills taken per day.  He will take the pills for 8 weeks and then go back in for scans.  We did discuss the possibility of removing the lymph node by surgery in 6-8 months if Steve stays clear of any other tumors.  The thinking on whether or not to do surgery on a Stage IV patient is basically that if you have melanoma in a lymph node and another organ in your body (the adrenal gland that was removed) that the melanoma has already entered your blood stream and there is a higher likelihood of new tumors popping up.  That is why Dr. Kim wants to wait 6-8 months to be sure no other tumors pop up before jumping into another surgery.

While this is a bit discouraging to us, we are staying optimistic.  It is fantastic that there are no new tumors.  Zelboraf is a great drug and should be able to knock this lymph tumor out.  There are some side effects to the medicine (not as harsh as the biochemo though).  Hopefully Steve will be able to continue to work in the office during this treatment and if not, at least work from home.

Tomorrow Steve has to have some additional lab work drawn and have an EKG to make sure his heart is still healthy enough for the Zelboraf.

Tomorrow is also a big day for us!!  We have been invited to a major press conference at MD Anderson starting at 10am.  MD Anderson will be announcing the 5 cancers they have chosen to focus their "Moon Shot" program on.  We are excited to be able to attend and excited that melanoma may be one of these cancers!

Endeavour early morning take off while we were waiting in traffic.
 Complimentary haircut at MD Anderson for all patients.  Steve was starting to get a little shaggy!
 Steve trying to get some work done in between scans and appointments.
Steve at lunch :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

MD Anderson Major Announcement

On Friday, September 21, Steve and I have been invited to attend a major announcement/press conference at MD Anderson.  We are very excited to hear what MD Anderson has up their sleeves ;) I will be sure to post about it just as soon as we know!!

Here are a few photos from our anniversary weekend in New Orleans!

 Happy Anniversary to us!!

At the Saints vs Redskins game in NOLA for our anniversary

 Jazz on Frenchmen Street 

Cafe Du Monde