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#OutOfTheShadows: James Hexter

Guest blog from James Hexter, a dedicated member of the New York City Miles for Melanoma community and a mucosal melanoma thriver:

Looking back on it, I am not sure I realized at the time how fortunate I was and am.

I remember coming home from my oral surgeon having just been told that I have cancer. Specifically, a rare form of melanoma called primary oral mucosal melanoma. Doing exactly what I should not have done, I turned to the internet to learn more only to find that the five-year survival rate, which is terrifyingly low.

Three days later I stood at the back door of our house. I looked out over the gathering of parents and small children as we celebrated my daughter’s fourth birthday. Soon, I would have surgery for my melanoma and I remember thinking very clearly “will I be here for my daughter’s next birthday?”

I am thrilled to say now 18 months later I am in remission and things could not have gone better. But the outcome could have been far different. These rare cancers are hard to catch and hard to treat because so little is known about them. I was fortunate to have mine caught early by a very talented and forward-thinking doctor and a stroke of luck. And I was also fortunate to find an incredible team of doctors who knew enough about what I was facing to guide my care. But most are not so lucky. Not enough is known about these cancers so they go undetected until too late and then there is no protocol or standard treatment.

If we can fund the research for these rare cancers, we can know much more about them to enable more early detection and more standard care with higher rates of cure.

I would be remiss not to thank my doctors – Dr. Francis Shin, Dr. Michele Bergen and Dr. Rich Carvajal and all of their team members. Without their incredible talents and caring, things could have been different.

james WP

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