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Melanoma Awareness Month: In Memory of Jim Marks

Guest blog from Sibby Dawson, daughter of Jim Marks who passed away from stage IV melanoma in 2018:

sibby famMy father, Jim Marks, was first diagnosed with stage IV melanoma in January 2014 after discovering a lump under his armpit. They had removed a melanoma spot from his forearm a few years earlier, but at that time, all scans came back clear. His diagnosis was grim as the melanoma had metastasized throughout his body including in his brain, but his attitude and will were incredible. He remained strong and positive.

He underwent successful gamma knife radiation on the spots in his brain and was initially put on a regimen of immunotherapy drugs. The immunotherapy drugs were not working on my father’s cancer, so his oncologist got him enrolled in a two-year trial of the drug Keytruda at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, SC. The Keytruda went to work right away on his cancer and most of his spots shrank or disappeared completely – it was an amazing gift to all of us!

The side effects were minimal, so his quality of life remained good and he was able stay active and travel for those years. For some people in the trial the Keytruda did not work and their cancer progressed but for others, the Keytruda eradicated all their cancer and they went into remission. For most people in the trial including my father, the Keytruda got rid of most of the cancer but not all of it.

Eventually towards the end of the trial my father’s melanoma began to grow and spread once more. He endured more immunotherapy cocktails, more radiation, some surgeries and eventually even tried chemotherapy, but ultimately lost his brave battle with melanoma on August 2, 2018. My father was a valiant warrior and a true inspiration to many. Our family is extremely thankful for the Keytruda trial because we were able to spend a lot of time together in those four years between his diagnosis and his death.

I have been a participant in the Miles for Melanoma Denver 5k since it began in 2015, and a team captain since 2016. What started as a way to support my father as he was fighting melanoma has turned into a way to honor him now that he is gone. It has been a compelling and healing mission for me, and one that made my father so proud. I have seen what opportunities come from research and new drugs firsthand in that extra time with my dad. I believe strongly in the mission of the MRF and will continue to raise money for them in my father’s memory and for all those who continue to fight this insidious disease.

 

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