In January 2016, my wife, Melissa, was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a form of soft tissue cancer. Given the disease's rarity, we sought opinions from three hospitals. After deciding that MD Anderson was best for her, we met with Dr. Dejka Araujo, associate professor of Sarcoma Medical Oncology, who told us, "I have a plan for you." I can't begin to express how meaningful those words are.
We made a commitment to Dr. Araujo and MD Anderson to defeat this disease. During Melissa's chemotherapy, we commuted every 10 days to Houston, staying for a week and then returning home. We've walked through Hobby Airport more than 50 times in the past 12 months.
Dr. Araujo stuck with us, and we stuck with the plan. In May 2016, Melissa completed six rounds of chemotherapy. In June, we were told there was a new immunotherapy clinical trial for synovial sarcoma, one of the first breaks in treating sarcoma in almost 30 years, and that Melissa was eligible. In August, we went back to MD Anderson for her apheresis. We waited for her T cells to be ready, and they were reinfused on Dec. 5.
Melissa is the first sarcoma patient at MD Anderson to participate in this trial. Typically, synovial sarcoma is found in the joints. Melissa's is in the pleural lining of her right lung. They say she is only one of 200 known cases in the world.
Dr. Araujo is giving us hope that we can win. We've made a choice that fear will not change the way we live. Melissa's goal is to beat sarcoma and be on a billboard showing the world that she is winning, that cancer can't get you down and something can be done.
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