Introduction

The "Hotel Melanoma" moniker is a metaphor for living with my particular brand of cancer. Except for those lucky few of us deemed "cured", all we cancer survivors are guests of one of the many, many branded hotels in the "Hotel Carcinoma" chain. We can check out any time we like, but we can never leave. Meanwhile, let's be livin' it up; and please support cancer education, prevention, and treatment research.



Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Braiser's Ledge

A new research study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that most cancers are primarily caused by bad luck rather than poor lifestyle choices or defective DNA-- biological bad luck in the form of random mistakes in cell division which are completely outside of our control. But don’t throw away your sunscreen and SPF duds because this study also found that basal cell skin cancer (the researchers apparently didn't include melanoma as one of the 31 types of cancer covered in the study) doesn’t fall into the ‘just bad luck’ category and is instead linked to sun exposure.

There’s no doubt that my diagnosis of Stage IIIc melanoma at age 50 wasn’t just the result of random mistakes in cell division and that my years of unprotected fun (and work) in the sun were a contributing factor. The price of my foolish braising was sixteen cycles of in-patient biochemotherapy treatments, which one of my nurses described to my wife as dosing me to the ledge of death while treating the severely toxic side effects so that I didn’t fall over the cliff. Which I very nearly did in a couple of Code Blue events during treatment.

Wishing I knew back then what I know all too well know, I’ll sign off with a lyrical “Dear 16-year-old Me” message, to the tune of AC/DC’s “The Razor’s Edge”…



There's frying on the left
And parching on the right
Don't cook up in the sky
You're gonna die of fright
Here comes the braiser’s ledge

You're living on the ledge
Don't know wrong from light
Mel’s breathing down your neck
You're running out of lives
And here comes the braiser’s ledge
Here comes the braiser’s ledge
The braiser’s ledge

Braiser’s ledge, to praise the red
Braiser’s ledge, to sun in beds
To praise the red

Here comes the braiser’s ledge
Here comes the braiser’s ledge
Well here skin comes to cut to shreds
The braiser’s ledge

The braiser’s ledge [it's the braiser's ledge]
Gotta braiser’s ledge [well, the braiser’s ledge]
You'll be cut to shreds [that you'll be cut to shreds]
By the scalpel’s edge [gotta razor's edge]
Gotta razor’s edge [by the scalpel's edge]

Monday, December 29, 2014

Blessedly Boring



Melanoma is an arbitrary and capricious bastard that kills one person every hour in The United States. But I’m apparently not going to be one of its casualties. And I don’t quite know what to make of that.

Eleven years out of biochemotherapy treatments- the primary ingredient of which was a boatload of Interleukin-2 in the convenient twenty-four hour bag- I’m a blessedly boring patient. Purely precautionary scans in April showed no evidence of metastatic disease. And over the past weeks and months I’ve begun, for the first time in over a decade, to contemplate the prospect of growing old.

Like, should I apply for Social Security benefits when I first become eligible to receive them in 2015 and “get it while I can”? Or should I wait until my “full retirement age” or beyond in hopes of receiving a bigger monthly check for a couple of decades or so? Should I “age in place” or move to one of those ‘Geezer Village’ patio home communities? What would it cost to install a stair lift to ferry me to my second floor master bedroom? Would it be possible to engineer a snow blower attachment for my motorized wheel chair? These are questions that it’s quite nice to have.

I’ve often wondered whether there’s something ‘special’ about my immune system or the DNA of my melanoma cells that would explain why IL-2 seems to have worked so very well for me but not at all for too many others. If so, I very much wish I could reduce it to a tasty liquid extract to be served at every Happy Hour at The Hotel Melanoma Lobby Bar.

Wishing all my melahomies a very medically boring 2015, and hoping the New Year will bring more treatment breakthroughs, I’ll sign off with another ode to melanoma to the tune of U2’s New Year’s Day…



All is quiet on New Year's Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to scream at you, flee from you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year's Day
On New Year's Day

I am free from you again
I will flee from you again

Plunder of blood red fry
A crowd has gathered, black with pride
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspapers says, says

Say it's true, it's true
We can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

I, I will begin again
I, I will begin again

Oh, maybe the time is right
Oh, maybe tonight

I am free from you again
I will flee from you again

And so we are told this is the Golden Age
Bad moles are the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to scream at you, scream at you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year's Day
On New Year's Day
On New Year's Day

Friday, December 12, 2014

'Tis the Season



You know, there’s just nothing that says “Happy Holidays” like a predawn road trip on a cold mid-December morning for a full-body skin check at my favorite cancer center. But I’ve got to get this medical stuff done before 2015 when my deductible will skyrocket, thank you so very much Mr. President. My skin checks in 2015 may have to consist of posting a series of intimate selfies and mole mug shots on the American Academy of Dermatology’s Facebook page and requesting comments. If anything needs biopsying , I think I could get Palmer’s vet to do the cutting, equally well and at a far lower cost.

Wish me luck. Until next time, here’s the Hotel Melanoma rendition of AC/DC’s “Mistress for Christmas”…



Tingle spells, tingle spells
Tingle all the day
I just can't wait till Christmas time
When I get moles checked on Friday

Easy come, easy go
Have a good time with Doctor Mole
Snippin' up high, snippin' down low
Glove'm and bleed'm, on with the show

Olay

Listen, I like signing forms in minimal dress
Money to spend with deductible mess
Get a date with the surgeon in dread
Gonna be in heaven with green as my meds

Said "Yeah"
He got it, I want it
They got it, I can't have it
But I want it, it don't matter
She got it, but I can't get it
I want a skin check for Christmas
I want a skin check for Christmas
I got it
Haha yeah
I want a skin check for Christmas
Gown On

Easy come, easy go
Snippin' high, snippin' low yeah

Alright
He got it, I want it
They got it, I can't have it
I want it, don't matter
She got it, and I can't get it -
Skin check (he got it, and I want it) Christmas
They got it, I can't have it
Skin check (I want it, it don't matter) for Christmas
She got it, and I can't get it
Skin check for Christmas

You know what I'm talkin' about
Skin check for Christmas
You better shut the door, you better shut the door
Skin check for Christmas
I want the surgeon with thread with tokes as my meds

Skin check for Christmas
I can feel you cutting down my old back
I lost some hide in your chamber sonny and didn’t yell

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lawyers, Drugs and Money



I don’t know about you, but I’ve been seeing a slew of cheesy cable TV ads from plaintiff’s lawyers who are soliciting lawsuit clients who’ve taken Viagra and subsequently been diagnosed with melanoma. (Not that they’re talking to me, I might add.) So what’s going on here and why aren’t we seeing a similar volume of ads aimed at melanoma patients who’ve used tanning beds?

A study published this past summer found that Viagra may increase a man’s risk for melanoma. To be precise, the study found that 4.3 of every 1000 men who didn’t take Viagra developed melanoma, compared to 8.6 of every 1000 men who did take Viagra. The study does not prove that Viagra causes melanoma—it only shows a statistical correlation between men who take Viagra and men who develop melanoma, a correlation that may be attributable to some yet-to-be-determined factor common to both Viagra users and melanoma patients.

Compare this single study to the much-larger body of scientific evidence cited in The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer linking UV radiation exposure to an increased risk of skin cancer. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified indoor tanning devices as Class I human carcinogens on the basis of strong evidence linking indoor tanning to increased risk of skin cancer. So why aren’t plaintiff’s lawyers showing a similar degree of zeal for soliciting clients for tanning bed lawsuits?

I strongly suspect the answer is a simple one: relatively easy money. Viagra is manufactured by Pfizer, a deep-pocketed defendant which reported net profits in 2013 of $22 billion. Big Pharma has a track record of paying out large sums of money in pre-trial settlements when confronted with thousands of claims that a drug caused injury, even when those claims are based on less-than-conclusive scientific evidence. Compare the financial lure to a plaintiff’s lawyer of a Viagra lawsuit against Pfizer to that of a melanoma patient who years ago frequented a variety of tanning beds that were made my several different manufacturers and operated by several different tanning salon owners which, relative to Pfizer, aren’t deep-pocketed defendants and may not even still be in business.

But I certainly haven’t given up hope and optimism that the indoor tanning industry will, sooner or later, find itself the target of a large volume of personal injury claims from thousands of former customers who contracted melanoma, lawsuits that may shrink or even sink this carcinogen-peddling industry. There are personal injury lawyers out there who appear to have a strong interest in representing melanoma patients who were injured by tanning beds. Just don’t hold your breath while waiting to see those lawyers advertising for clients on cable TV.

Until next time, here’s The Hotel Melanoma take on Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money”…



They did roam for the plaintiffs
The way they always do
How was I to know
C was in the
Drug pill blue?

He was gagging on Viagra
He took a little risk
It’s lawyers, drugs and money
They'll get him out of this, hyeah

I'm the innocent fried tanner
Somehow I got stuck
Between a blog
And a hard case
And I'm down on my luck
Yes I'm down on my luck
Well I'm down on my luck

I'm hiding in long burkas
I'm a desperate man
It’s lawyers, drugs and money
The shit just hit the fan

All right
It’s lawyers, drugs and money
Huh!
Uh...
It’s lawyers, drugs and money
Uhh!
It’s lawyers, drugs and money
Hyah!
It’s lawyers, drugs and money
Ooh!
Yeah!
Yeah
Yeah...
Uh!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wrinkled Man



No pontificating today, just The Hotel Melanoma rendition of Bad Company’s “Simple Man”…



I am just a wrinkled man, working
On the tanned, oh it ain't easy
I am just a wrinkled man, ‘smirking’
With my scans, oh believe me

Demon is the only thing means
A damn to me, oh you can't bake it
Demon is the only wrong, brings
A song for me, oh we're gonna take it

I am just a wrinkled man, trying
To beat C, oh it ain't easy
I am just a wrinkled man, trying to
Beat C, oh believe me

Demon is the only thing means
A damn to me, oh you can't bake it
Demon is the only wrong, brings
A song for me, oh we're gonna take it

I am just a wrinkled man, working
On the tanned, oh it ain't easy
I'm just a wrinkled man, ‘smirking’
With my scans, oh baby, believe me

I'm just a wrinkled man, yeah, yeah
Demon is the only thing means
A damn to me, I'm just a wrinkled man, yeah