In 2010, 15-year-old Zach Zeiler from Ida, Michigan, went to the doctor to get answers for why he was profusely sweating. What he received was news that would forever change him, according to the viral post on IJReview, respectfully re-posted here for LinkedIn’s #FixIt Challenge on Cancer.
My lovely sister, Sherry, is also making her comeback from stage 4 melanoma cancer, so extremely rare in blacks. Thanks to her doctors in Cincinnati’s Christ Hospital, who told her that she would not survive thirty days without receiving this drug right now, ahead of its public distribution now set for months away, Sherry is taking the very last clinical trial batch available in the country of the Keytruda (pembrolizumab) PD-1 treatment for melanoma cancer, recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on September 4, 2014, as reported in the New York Times. Photo: Sherry & Me, Chicago Booth Graduation Day 2004
As defined recently in the New York Times: “The Food and Drug Administration approved the first of an eagerly awaited new class of cancer drugs that unleashes the body’s immune system to fight tumors.
The drug, which Merck will sell under the name Keytruda, was approved for patients with advanced melanoma who have exhausted other therapies.
Cancer researchers have been almost giddy in the last couple of years about the potential of drugs like Keytruda, which seem to solve a century-old mystery of how cancerous cells manage to evade the body’s immune system.
The answer is that tumors activate brakes on the immune system, preventing it from attacking them. Keytruda is the first drug approved that inhibits the action of one of those brakes, a protein known as PD-1, or programmed death receptor 1.”
“This is really opening up a whole new avenue of effective therapies previously not available,” said Dr. Louis M. Weiner, director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington and a spokesman for the American Association for Cancer Research. “It allows us to see a time when we can treat many dreaded cancers without resorting to cytotoxic chemotherapy.”
Photo Credit: Merck, Associated Press.
The New York Times further added, “inhibitors of PD-1, researchers say, activate an immune response more specific to the tumor than Yervoy does [which Sherry has taken the full treatment at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Atlanta, Georgia], which reduces the risk of side effects. Keytruda’s label warns that it can cause immune system reactions that can damage the lungs, colon, liver, kidney and other organs. However, that warning is not inside a black box, the strongest level of caution.”
Melanoma cancer patients must undergo a full treatment of Yervoy first to be qualified to undergo the Keytruda (pembrolizumab) PD-1 treatment for melanoma cancer. I was serving as a care-giver for Sherry during her Yervoy treatments at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
“Melanoma was known in the past to be susceptible to being subdued by the immune system. So, it is not surprising that the immunotherapy drugs have first been approved for that disease,” reports the New York Times.
About 76,000 Americans will get melanoma this year and 9,700 will die from it, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Experts say a major cause of the disease is exposure to the sun.
“But researchers say it is somewhat surprising that the PD-1 drugs also seem to show signs of working for some patients with lung cancer. There are also preliminary signs of effectiveness against bladder, gastric and some other types of cancer,” The New York Times says.
I have been my sister’s caregiver this past year, including our journey since last Christmas through the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Atlanta, Georgia. Sherry is currently receiving her Keytruda (pembrolizumab) PD-1 clinical trial treatment at Cincinnati’s Christ Hospital. She is feeling great after her second of six treatments. We will know how her treatment goes after doctors run their battery of test upon her sixth treatment. We remain so hopeful in this wonderful miracle life-saving drug to fix cancer.
Photo: My sisters, Brenda (left), and Sherry (Middle) and Me (on the biggest day, Ohio State-Michigan Game (1980), and the most inspirational moment of my life, leading The Ohio State University Marching Band).
I love my sister for her incredible determination to beat cancer. She has the enormous courage we both share and inherited by our loving mother, Jean Wilson, where Sherry currently resides in our mother’s spare room in Cincinnati. She is receiving around the clock family care-giving. Whereby, specific to the Keytruda (pembrolizumab) PD-1 treatments, Sherry has to eat food every two hours to beat the hungry cancer tumors that eat all her food first before the much needed food nourishment can feed her body.
The Keytruda (pembrolizumab) PD-1 treatment for melanoma cancer significantly retards, perhaps even halts, this hungry tumor process during Sherry’s cancer comeback journey, like the most inspirational teen, Zach!
Let’s Fix It Now, Sherry and Zach! You both inspire me and others to “turn up the volume on our lives!”
Zach was suddenly thrown into the fight of his life – he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Hodgkin’s disease is a type of cancer that affects a person’s lymphatic system and wears down his immune system, primarily due to a rapid growth in cells that spread throughout the victim’s body.
After Zach found out about his cancer he said:
“It was the first time I ever saw my father cry.”
Once he started treatment, Zach’s weight quickly plummeted. He dropped to as low as 100 pounds, along with losing all his hair.
Fortunately for Zach, his girlfriend Tara Hurley was there to support him through his difficult journey to recovery.
His mother Joanna, a children’s day care worker, said: “I’ll never forget the look in her eyes when we drove to her house and told her the diagnosis… I pulled her in close and put her head on my shoulder. She was absolutely devastated.”
Being the fighter that he is, Zach began rigorously working out for a minimum two hours a day to release his frustration during his treatment. Even after his radiation sessions, Zach was diligently working on his physique.
Now 20-year-old Zach is in remission and is still furiously working out.
Since Zach lost all that weight during his treatment, he has put on 75 pounds and as you can tell, most of that is muscle. Zach eats around 4,250 calories a day and exercises along with his girlfriend, who has stuck by his side the entire time.
Zach also hosts his own YouTube channel dedicated to fitness, which has garnered over 11 million views, helping both sick and healthy people. He also has plans to expand. Zach explains:
“I am in pursuit of developing my own online personal training website, where I can work one on one with individuals to help them reach their goals…
“I plan to continue on building my body not only for the physical aspect, but to ensure that I live a healthy life.”
Zach has come a long way from since he was diagnosed four years ago.
It is not only through his physical appearance, although that has drastically changed, but also through his mindset that he lives his life today.
Instead of taking his newfound health for granted, Zach has created a way to help others through his YouTube channel – and that is something that will inspire people for years to come.
Photo credit: Daily Mail / Barcroft Media
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