Chris White: An Unsettling Diagnosis

After successful treatment, Chris became engaged in cancer advocacy.

In the summer of 2018, I was diagnosed with anorectal mucosal melanoma. In the months leading up to my diagnosis, I thought I had a hemorrhoid. Then a lymph node grew in my groin. I received surgery on the lymph node, then the unsettling news sunk in when I received the pathology report. Only 14% of people with my diagnosis make it five years. If the disease has metastasized, they are given 16 months to live. My cancer had metastasized to my lymph nodes, lungs, liver, kidneys, and eventually my brain. I had multiple surgeries, immunotherapies, chemotherapies, and radiation treatments. After 18 months and running out of options, I was able to sign up for a clinical trial for TILs, tumor infiltrating lymphocytes.

I had the excision surgery and prior to going in for my lymphodepletion, my scan showed brain metastasis, which kicked me out of the trial. On an extremely tight timeline because the trial was closing, I had to re-stabilize the brain metastases or show a reduction to get back in. I was able to get five doses of targeted radiation to my left occipital lobe in four days, then was scanned on Christmas Eve of 2019. On January 3, I got the results that the brain metastases were stabilized, and they let me back into the trial. I did my chemo for lymphodepletion and then was given my TIL therapy on January 15, 2020, followed by six doses of IL-2. I was released from the hospital on January 20, 2020.

That was the last time I underwent any type of treatment, and I had a complete response in less than a year. The cancer was gone. That is the way this treatment works—if successful, it eradicates the cancer. I am so blessed for this clinical trial that saved my life. Over the past few years, I have become more engaged in advocacy work and I’m very engaged and sharing my experience full-time.

Whether you are a patient, survivor, caregiver or loved one touched by cancer, your story can have an enormous impact. You can provide hope and inspiration to someone recently diagnosed with cancer or a patient undergoing therapy.

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