I am asking for support for the Melanoma Foundation of New England for several reasons. First, I want to support and honor my father who has survived two primary melanomas. Second, the same is true for many friends and co-workers who have survived the disease. Finally, I want to honor and support Jeff Glenn who is currently fighting the disease. Jeff is my running partners son in law and his story is remarkable:
Jeff Glenn, 30 years old, husband and father is currently battling Stage IV Melanoma.
The oldest of five children, his mother died of breast cancer when he was twelve years old. In 2008, nearly a year after getting married, Jeff was diagnosed with testicular cancer that required surgery and radiation. Jeff was then able to complete his master’s degree at USC. As a post grad, he was hired by the Center of Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta Georgia and moved there with his wife, Kathryn, to work in the division of cancer prevention control with a focus on global health.
After working with infertility specialists without success and attempting to adopt, a baby girl was miraculously born to Jeff and Kathryn in late 2011. Just two months after her birth, Jeff found an unusual spot on the back of his neck and was soon diagnosed with Stage IIIa malignant melanoma. The original tumor in his neck was excised along with a complete lymph node dissection of the area. This was followed by interferon treatment.
Life was healthy and happy for the following two years. Jeff traveled to several countries (Vietnam, Thailand, Guatemala, Brazil) with his cancer prevention work with the CDC. His focus was partnership development and project management.
March 2014, eleven days after learning Kathryn was expecting their second child (another miracle no one thought possible) and just learning he had been accepted to complete his doctorate degree at Harvard, Jeff noticed a new lump on his neck. He soon learned the melanoma had metastasized to his liver, rendering him stage IV. Jeff and Kathryn were quick to solicit the advice of several top melanoma specialists in the country and educate themselves on treatment and outcomes, including clinical trials. They chose to be involved with an Adoptive Cell Therapy (ACT) clinical trial being done at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Bethesda Maryland.
April 2014, Jeff was admitted to NCI for removal of a tumor to grow autologous tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). The following month he was readmitted to NCI for the ACT to find out just hours before starting treatment, it had to be cancelled due to tumors blocking his bile duct that could lead to a fatal infection. Disappointed, Jeff flew home the following day. He was started on BRAF and a MEK inhibitor to ‘hopefully’ –and temporarily-shrink the tumors.
Finally after successful tumor shrinkage, September 2014, Jeff was once again admitted to NCI for treatment. After 25 hospital days, he was released home. During his time at NCI he was able to receive his TILs and endured a rigorous protocol including high dose chemotherapy to create neutropenia plus several doses of Interleukin-2. He will learn over the next few months the success of this treatment.
Jeff is one of a kind. He is smart, including being able to converse in several languages and now a melanoma expert; a crazy guy who has great fun with his daughter and wife; a great story teller, who can make any story come to life; faithful and strong in his belief system; interested in others and helping those less fortunate; an overall outstanding individual. Because of the cancer, he was not able to start his program at Harvard this past July but a spot is being held for him and he will be moving his family to the Boston area this next year and looks forward to furthering his education and ability to serve others. Baby number two, a son, Phillip, was born in November. So much to live for!
Jeff and Kathryn have created a blog that not only tells his story but also provides education on melanoma and testicular cancer. www.sunshinegivesmecancer.blogspot.com
The Melanoma Foundation of New England's mission is to reduce the incidents of melanoma in the New England region through education, prevention and support. MFNE hosts a range of educational programs to spread awareness. These programs include Your Skin Is In, a program teaching high school and college students the dangers of tanning, and The Skinny on Skin, which teaches beauty professionals to recognize potential melanomas on the head, neck and scalp of their clients.
Team Running for Cover is running the 2015 Boston Marathon to raise funds to support MFNE's mission. All funds raised will be used to fund and expand these educational programs throughout the New England Area.