In late March of 2003, I was lying in a large, cavernous chemo room in Michigan. As 10 million units of interferon cursed into me, I could feel myself going into the abyss. Even though I was in this dream state, I can remember my oncologist whispering in my ear, ” Mark. why are you going all around the country looking for answers? There aren’t any. This interferon isn’t going to work, neither is Avastin, thalidimide, or even a clinical trial drug. Why can you accept the inevitable? You’ll be gone in the next three to four months.”
I couldn’t believe what he was saying to me. I was in shock and disbelief. I thought his job was to save my life! I said to myself. “What are all these doctors telling their patients?” The physician who was assigned to help save my life seemed ready to give up. I became madder than hell. Over time, I turned that anger into action. ( Later, I met a number of his patients who told me similar stories ) I never want to forget that moment. Why? Because it was a turning point for me. I never want any other patient to hear what I heard or feel what I felt like when that clinician gave me a death sentence. I know what it’s like to be in your shoes , given a grim prognosis and no hope.
Patients and their families need to understand that there is a new paradigm in medicine called “Personalized / Precision Medicine on the block.. This is based upon a number of things including the genetic makeup of your tumor and biopsy. Additionally, circulating tumor cells in your own bloodstream can be drawn and studied to assess their makeup , and help guide a treatment plan. Moreover anti-cancer nutrition, along with anti-inflammatory supplements may be added to address the “: Hallmarks of Cancer “ which is a seminal scientific paper outlining how malignancies start and spread.
When I was hit with stage 4 sarcoma, there was no handbook or road map on how to survive it. I have used almost two decades of research and personal insight to keep myself alive. The media loves to herald successful cancer patients as heroes . I am no hero, but i know what it takes to survive. I give my fellow patients, my friends and God all of the credit. They are my heroes and teachers. Without them I would not be alive.