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First, a little bit of history. From the early 1950’s to the mid-1960’s, I grew up on a lake in Connecticut – swimming, boating, and fishing; usually with no shirt and never a hat.

Summer 1968: with the U.S. Navy on Northern and Southern Search And Rescue stations in the Gulf of Tonkin, more sunburn.

Summer 1970: honeymoon in Acapulco; sunburn so bad it was hard to sit for several days.

Sunscreen? Never heard of it. (Anyone over 60 remember adding iodine to baby oil to promote a tan?)

Fast forward to 1998, during a visit to my eye doctor, and he asks about a funny-looking mole on my cheek and suggests I have it checked. In December, I have a Wide Local Excision and a Sentinel Node Biopsy. Melanoma is confirmed, margins and nodes are clear. A regimen of annual checkups and chest x-rays were started.

Mid-2009, I have a persistent cough that is unsuccessfully treated with antibiotics. Even though there was a negative chest x-ray and CT scan eight months earlier, my doctor orders a chest x-ray, CT scan, and refers me to a local oncologist. I have two lung needle biopsies and a PET scan; diagnosis – metastatic melanoma in my lungs.

I am referred to a melanoma specialist at a leading Connecticut hospital. We discuss very limited options and settle on a strong chemotherapy. Over the course of a month, I spend two weeks in the hospital getting treatment. After a month, they take scans to see if I am a responder; I am not.

There are no viable treatment options for me in Connecticut and when I ask, I’m told I probably have another eight months until end of life. BUT, there is a trial that might still have room in the trial for me. He makes a telephone call, I make a telephone call, and within a few days, my wife and I are sitting in the office of the person who will turn out to be my current oncologist.

At this point, I am having pain in my chest, great difficulty breathing, and can hardly complete a sentence without stopping to cough. I need to have lung surgery for a larger biopsy sample and I need to have several days of screening tests.

In another three weeks (six weeks since trial start) I have my first scans to check progress and another appointment with my doctor to review progress. I can still remember many of the details of that morning.

The summer solstice just passed. I was around for my granddaughter’s birth and I’m looking forward to the future.

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