Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jimmy Carter, Melanoma, and me...

Given that those of you who have followed this blog for more than ten minutes would certainly agree that I am a weird adult, you will not be surprised to learn that I was a strange child.  Born in 1964, I talked early and a lot (so I'm told).  I had a simultaneous aversion and attraction to things that were "suzzy"! (No one says I spoke with good pronunciation!) So much so, that my dear Granny made me a decoupage picture of kittens that I still have.  I could memorize poems and songs easily.  I wanted to please.  And I remember perfectly clearly three events that touched my heart and made me see just how big the world really was from a very small town in south Alabama.

I have to believe that my desire to help the children pictured in a National Geographic magazine showing the devastating effects of famine in Africa led me to the career path of pediatric nursing of which I have been a part since 1984.  I spent so much time looking sadly at the pictures that my family finally hid the magazine.

In 1972, when I was in the 5th grade, I remember explaining to my classmates the story of Watergate.  It was my first glimpse into the pompous hubris of the powerful and the absolute stupidity of being taped or filmed, knowing that there is a record that can eventually be replayed - clearly showing the truth - yet denying that very truth publicly.  I still cannot believe the great numbers of folks who have not learned this lesson as we watch such ridiculousness play out daily.

But, in 1978, through the efforts of the Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and American President Jimmy Carter, a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel was achieved.  I watched the talks and interviews with rapt attention on the evening news shows.  THIS was what men could do when their hearts were in the right place, political opinion was deemed less important than what was best for real people, and power was used constructively!  I have adored Jimmy Carter ever since.  His lack of willingness to "play" the system may have made him something less than an impressive president.  But his intelligence, his work ethic, his sense of right and justice and willingness to speak out....have made him an amazing human who has made an incredible difference in this world.  Post presidency he has continued to be a leader in pushing for world peace with diplomatic work in Korea, Israel and Palestine with the achievement of the Geneva Accord, Africa, and Vietnam.  The Carter Center, a non-profit he founded in 1982 with his wife and Emory University, has made an incredible difference in the lives of people across the globe.  His reputation allowed him to develop and institute the process of election observation to help ensure free and fair elections in countries world wide.  The Center supports those working to safeguard human rights.  The positive steps Carter's Center has made in the health of millions is unbelievable.  The near eradication of the Guinea Worm, through simple education and water filtration, is nothing less than heroic. (Here's a link to show just how yucky Guinea Worm infestation can be:  Dracunculiasis - Guinea Worm Infestation ) In 1986 there were more than 3.5 million cases annually across 20 countries in Asia and Africa.  In 2013, there were only 148 cases in 4 countries. Here is a clip of Carter being interviewed by John Stewart about that very thing, noting that by 2015 Guinea worm cases were down to 126:  Jimmy Carter on The Daily Show in 2015   I love that some of his greatest successes were born out of the simplest, common sense techniques:  Jimmy Carter talks Guinea Worm filters and latrine building to stop trachoma

What a man.  So incredibly brilliant, funny, determined, and humble.  And now....he has Stage IV melanoma.  Apparently since his melanoma diagnosis in early August with a liver biopsy and an MRI showing additional brain mets, he has started anti-PD1 (Keytruda) and is to have SRS to brain mets very soon at Emory in Atlanta.  Good moves, sir!  If fighting melanoma is something you must do, after all the other things you have done...this is exactly how I would go about it.  Anti-PD1 has some of the best results going (topped only by the ipi/nivo combo...but that brings increased side effects as well) and when dealing with brain mets, combining immunotherapy WITH radiation gives better results than either therapy alone.  In fact, in the case of ipi, "Patients treated with SRS during or before ipi had better overall survival and less regional recurrence." Here's a link to data regarding the combo:  Radiation for melanoma: better when combined with immunotherapy

You are in my heart, President Carter.  You have led the way for so many.  Perhaps, some of us melanoma ratties have led the way for you.  I wish you well. - c

1 comment:

  1. Well said Celest...we can only hope some of are younger generations can follow in his footsteps!