I am a 39 year old male living in Singapore. I was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma in September 2013 and had plaque radiotherapy in the Cleveland Clinic in the US. In July 2014, during a routine ultrasound scan, a lesion was seen in my liver. As there was only a solitary lesion, I had it ablated, whereupon a biopsy showed it to be a metastatic melanoma tumor.
In November 2014, a CT Scan showed there to be multiple lesions all over my liver, which meant that they could no longer be ablated. I was started on the immunotherapy drug Ipilimumab but when my next scan took place in February 2015, it was seen that the disease had progressed. I was then moved to another new drug, Keytruda, which had been very successful in treating metastatic skin melanoma but when I did my scans in June 2015, it was shown that the disease had once again progressed, this time quite significantly.
When my local oncologist suggested that I move back to conventional chemotherapy, I thought that if I was going to be on chemotherapy, then I should explore the Delcath treatment, which I had read about while doing research on my condition. I quickly sent an email to the Spire Hospital in Southampton and was surprised at how fast the response was. Within a matter of weeks, I had flown over to Southampton to meet with the treatment team, which included Dr Stedman, Dr Ottensmeier and Dr Gupta. I was immediately struck by their warmth and friendliness and was convinced that this modality of treatment would be my best shot at fighting the disease.
On 14 July 2015, I had my first Delcath treatment. I was surprised that I was up and about within the next few days, and then flew back to Singapore within the week. I managed to go back to work within another week and spent the next two months travelling around the region during the weekend, trying to get as much out of life as possible.
In September 2015, I had my second treatment. That in itself was some sort of a milestone, as Dr Ottensmeier had said that if the treatment did not work, chances are I would die by September. The scan I took after the treatment confirmed that the disease was at least stable and once again, I flew back happy. This time round, however, my blood counts dropped precipitously and I had to be warded and given transfusions in Singapore. It was very comforting however, that I was able to email Dr Ottensmeier every day to seek his advice about the situation. His reassuring and humorous emails convinced me that the situation was temporary and indeed it was. I was able to go back to work again.
I had my third treatment in December 2015. It passed without incident and I returned to Singapore and went back to work. When Claire Little, Dr Stedman’s secretary, asked me to write a testimonial about my treatment, she asked me to also include some pictures of the places that I had been during my holidays.
Well, this first one is a hill leading to the Batu Caves in Malaysia, which I climbed shortly after I had recovered from my low blood counts in October 2015. I took it to show I was up and about.
The next is something taken in China on Christmas day at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang, Yunnan, 4680m above sea level… I hope it tells a suitable story (I didn’t climb it, I took a cable car up and I limped and panted and almost didn’t make it up the 180m to the summit but still….).
I don’t know what will happen next. Of course I am worried about what the future holds. But I am alive, I am travelling and I will drive to work tomorrow. I do sometimes wonder for how long this will be. I hope it will be for a long time yet. For this hope, which I cherish with all my heart, I have the doctors and all the staff at Spire Hospital to thank.