Hello. My name is Rob Stauffer.
My melanoma journey began in May 2015 with a skin check of my right ear by my wife and follow up visit to my general physician. The Stage 1B positive test from the shave biopsy resulted in the surgical resection of my right ear, negative sentinel lymph node biopsy and plastic surgery of my ear and cartilage. I felt blessed in that the prognosis looked great and I had no significant cauliflower ear. After my surgery I had my skin checked by a dermatologist quarterly, annually by my general physician, and monthly by myself and my partner. I immediately returned to work and continued to enjoy my passions of being in the mountains hiking and fishing, and travelling in the outdoors with adjustments in sun prevention measures, such as living the five sun safety rules. Life continued as it had in the past – normal.
In the summer of 2018, I started to experience some minor vision and speech issues which were monitored by my general physician for a few months. These issues continued and in November I was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma of the brain and lung. I was treated surgically, with a craniotomy and gamma knife, at the University of Alberta Hospital. I then had immunotherapy treatment at the Cross Cancer Institute with Opdivo (nivo) and Yervoy (ipi). The decision to be treated with nivo and ipi saved my life. However, I did have some bad side effects and the treatment was briefly shut down. My immune system was full throttle, and I was afflicted with hepatitis, pneumonitis, and edema. On the bright side, this meant that my immune system was working. I was able to recover with some steroid treatment which reduced the impact, but still allowed the immunotherapy to address the cancer. I was still working at this point. The immunotherapy program started up again and after a month, I continued with just nivo. However, a few months later I had some further side effects and my treatment needed to be paused again. I was also ill, so working was impossible. Since then, I have had no further immunotherapy treatment, but no increase in my tumours. I have since started on another journey of my “re-invention.” I feel fortunate to have been treated by such wonderful doctors and to be alive. When I reflect back now, I really did not understand the many possibilities available for treating my cancer. I have learned that each person is unique and not everyone takes the same route.
My journey to address some of the secondary effects of my medical treatments continues. As a rural Alberta resident continuing my medical, health, and healing journey, I am interested in participating in support groups to learn other people’s experiences, to assist where possible in improving others’ health outcomes and experiences and to focus on my health, healing and enjoying life.
I am glad to share with you my experience in any way that I can, and to assist you in your journey.