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James "Cy" Young: Living Life to the Fullest After Melanoma

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“Fox Chase saved my life, and they’ve given me many more years to live.”

— James "Cy" Young

I’m a proudly retired Nationwide Insurance agent with a large family of four daughters and 12 grandchildren. I have lived in Lansdale, PA, my whole life, and I’m lucky enough to have all of my kids and grandkids living within 10 minutes of my home. On top of that, I’m an active guy, and I don’t let things knock me down.

Unfortunately, at 76 years old, I am no stranger to cancer. Twenty-two years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent radiation treatment. Then, 15 years ago, I had a few melanomas treated before having 30 lymph nodes removed (and finding out one was cancerous).

After that experience, my wife was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and was treated at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Her physicians were up front about her prognosis and took wonderful care of her. They were able to give her more time with her family before the disease took her life.

Because of my history with cancer, I take my health very seriously. So, when my significant other noticed blood coming from an area on my back two years ago, I made an appointment with my doctor to have it checked out. When my primary care doctor saw it, he said it didn’t look good and recommended that I see a specialist. At that point, I decided to go to Fox Chase. Because of my late wife’s experience there, I knew I would receive the best care.

A Plan of Action

At Fox Chase, I met with Dr. Jeffrey Farma who took a biopsy of the area on my back. While the biopsy results showed no signs of cancer, he wanted to be thorough and performed further testing. I’m so glad he did, because a CT scan revealed lesions on my kidney and lung.

After this discovery, Dr. Farma recommended that I meet with Dr. Anthony Olszanski, a medical oncologist specializing in melanoma. He told me I had two treatment options, and together, we decided to go with OPDIVO.

OPDIVO is an immunotherapy used to treat many types of cancer, including melanoma. When I started the treatment, I had to go to Fox Chase every month. Dr Olszanski predicted I would be on therapy for about two years. After just one year, I had no evidence of disease!

I did experience some side effects from the medication, one of which was extreme itching. One day, on my way to treatment, I just didn’t feel right—I was experiencing malaise, decreased appetite, and fatigue, and almost passed out. When I got to Fox Chase, my nurse knew something was wrong right away, and Dr. Olszanski worked to figure out what was going on. It turned out that I had adrenal insufficiency. He had me see Dr. Christian Koch, an endocrinologist at Fox Chase, and now I am being treated for that as well. For the most part, my itching is under control. I’m thankful that my doctors at Fox Chase were on top of it and knew what to do. With medication, I am able to minimize the side effects of the OPDIVO treatment and live with them.

Reflecting on Success

These days, I live without pain and I feel great. My 76th birthday celebration had to be postponed because of COVID-19, but I look forward to celebrating in the future with my family and friends when we can. Now, I visit Fox Chase every three months to check in with my care team and get follow-up CT scans. Dr. Olszanski is the best, and I never mind having to go back!

Fox Chase not only saved my life, but they also prolonged my life. My mantra is, if one person hears my story, goes to Fox Chase, and has the same success I had, I will feel great about it. I’ll even drive them there myself!

Learn more about melanoma treatment at Fox Chase.

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