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About to start Interferon

Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2009

My husband is to start Interferon on July 13, 2009. He is 67-but is excellent health except for the melanoma stage 3.
He will be going to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for the first 5xweekly shots, then he will give them himself at home 3xweekly. He has had the wide incision and only the sentinal lymph node was cancerous. The other 26 nodes he had removed later were clear.
He is not used to being ill. He is a farmer, and is on a traveling senior softball league. so I know he is strong enough physically, but would you suggest he start off taking antidepression medications. I'm afraid he'll want to quit treatment, but the reoccurance rate is so high, I really need some way to help him stay on Interferon. Its the only treatment offered for his cancer. Thanks and God bless..

hollyberry's picture
Posts: 176
Joined: Nov 2008

Dear Speedy,
If your husband is o.k. with anti-depressants, it may help him through the Hell they call Interferon. Nothing seemed to make me feel any better. I could not continue after 7 sessions of I.V. interferon and don't regret stopping.
It is a tough drug to take and some get too sick to continue; I could not finish due to nausea, vomiting and dehydration. The doctors may not have anything else to offer right now and hopefully he won't need any further follow-up If he does, however, go to a cancer center that specializes in melanoma or a teaching hospital that is offering clinical trials. They have kept me alive for 20 months on clinical trials and I haven't given up yet.
You and your family are in my prayers. Best of luck to you.


Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2009

I am praying that we made the correct decision on taking he Interferon, and that he will be able to take the necessary amounts. Our doctor is the Medical Director of Melanoma at Johns Hospital, which is one of the countrys leading teaching and cancer centers. The doctor also offered a clincal trial to my husband, but we felt we should try the Interferon first.
I'm glad you are doing well and I pray you'll continue in God' grace to overcome all the things you are having to bear at this time.
Thanks for your replay and prayers,

Posts: 2
Joined: Mar 2009

I am gearing up to start interferon June 29, 2009. I am 28 years old and was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma in January of 2009. So far I have had two surgeries - first to remove the tumor and sentinel nodes. Both sentinel nodes came back positive for cancer. Had all of my left axillary nodes removed (70 total - 32 had cancer). I just finished up 5 weeks of radiation therapy last Thursday. Have to be honest though... nothing scares me more than the upcoming year of interferon. The treatment side effects have been minimal up to this point and I've been dealing with all of this really well, but I am terrified of how I may feel while undergoing interferon. I will do what everyone else seems to be doing here... 4 weeks of high dose infusion and 11 months of self-injection.

I watched my stepdad go through many courses of interferon for his hepatitis C several years back and the side effects were horrible. I so badly want to make it through this phase of the treatment so that I have the best shot at decreasing my chances of recurrence. However, I am terrified of how the interferon is going to make me feel... especially because of my history of depression and anxiety. I am already taking two different anti-depressants, but my depression has been severe in the past and it concerns me. I'm not looking forward to a year of feeling rundown and sick. I would really appreciate some support from those who have been there... especially anyone who is doing this that also has a history of depression. Thanks and you are all in my thoughts and prayers...

Zod66's picture
Posts: 28
Joined: May 2008

But it is going to, well, suck.
I was 39 and in excellent health when I started my year long ordeal. Taking an aspirin for me was and still is a big deal. I would assume the oncologist has already warned ya'll the treatments may affect moods. My wife kept a close watch on me and during my third week into the high dose month she told the doctor I was having some obvious mood swings and he proceeded to tell me some bs story about why I should be on anti-depressants and I fell for it LOL. I took them until about two months after my last shot. It made my wifes life easier so it was all good.
Keep doses of things like anti-naseau medicine as low as possible to reduce dehydration and constipation. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. I cannot stress that enough. That will be the hardest long term challenge.
Regular blood work will keep an eye on his liver functions. The most common thing I've seen to stop treatments is liver failure and outright quitting.
To help with the side effects ask about Demerol. I took it after each major treatment and when I would get home from work and take the shot I would take a Demerol tablet. Some drugs are just "good". My wife and daughter had many laughs with me when I would take this get really relaxed .
And there are definitely opposing views on Interferon. There are many survivors who have taken it and there are probably just as many who have not. My view was I'm going to do whatever it takes to survive cancer. I can't prove the Interferon treatments I went through saved me or kept me from having a recurrence during that time or in the past 3yrs since I completed the treatements but no one can prove it didn't either.

Posts: 8
Joined: Mar 2008

I also am a stage 4 melanoma survivor (I read you were in one of your other posts) Although I did not take Interferon, I did carboplatin and placitaxol and 3 other clinical trials. I am about to start my 4th clinical trial at a teaching hospital also. I have been battling this disease for almost 2 years and so far am doing pretty well. I was first diagnosed in 2003 and then my melanoma returned in 2007 with metastases to my hip with a large tumor. This has caused me to have pelvic fractures so I am in a wheelchair now. With pain meds I am able to keep going and try to keep a positive outlook.

I wish you all the best with your treatment.

(Your cat is adorable. I have a cat also named Chester.)

All the best.

Posts: 5
Joined: Jul 2009

How is your husband doing? My husband is scheduled to stay Interferon July 20, 2009. He is 39, and he has Stage III Melanoma. He had 3 positive sentinel lymph nodes. His other lymph nodes were clear. He just got his last drain out, and he has had a port put in for the Interferon. My husband is very healthy outside of this. He is a Police Officer, and he grew up on a farm so we know all about the demands of being a farmer. Our families still farm. I hope your husband is doing well.

yalleh's picture
Posts: 36
Joined: Jul 2009

First off I had to laugh at the "the Hell they call Interferon" I remember they gave me a list of side effects from interferon (about 20 different side effects) and I got all but one (I didn't lose my hair). Which was really the only one I didnt care about (I look good bald)

Second hang on tight those first 5 weeks can be a real "Hell" sort too speak. Make sure you talk to your doctors about the side effects they can give you drugs to help (I had a migrain headache that i really thought my head was going to explode).

Third and someone else gave this advice DRINK LOTS OF WATER. The drug stays in your body for 48 hrs so the treatment the next day will multiply the effects and so on. The more water you drink the faster you get the first stuff out.

Fourth you may not need antidepressants (I didnt until it went to stage 4 and I was on another treatment). I think the interferon is more of a test of mental fortitude then physical strength.

Finally it is not the only treatment offered, but it is the best shot at beating Melanoma before it gets to stage 4 and trust me you dont want it to get to stage 4 (very bad survival rates)... However saying that I have been stage 4 over 2 years and I'm still kicking so keep your chin up... the best thing this horrible thing has taught me is to enjoy every day!!! and I do!!

SORRY FINALLY FINALLY if your husband wants to quit treatment tell him to send me an email. I can help him through it. Its tough but he can do it.

Posts: 2
Joined: Nov 2008

I am a stage 3b level 4 melanoma survivor, diagnosed one year ago. It had spread to my groin sentinel node, so I had a complete groin lymph node dissection that was thankfully negative.
Recovery from surgery, however, was very lengthy and painful. I pray I made the right decision to not do interferon, it was a very tough decision, but the percentages just weren't great enough to take the risk it might help and "maybe" be sick for a year. I have a PET scan every 4 months and oncologist checks me thoroughly then. I try to live every day to the fullest and try to keep educating myself about this nasty cancer, my surgeon told me it goes where it wants to when it wants to. We must stay positive and fight like the dickens.
I was 65yo when diagnosed and also was very healthy and just retired! If I can help in any way, please feel free to contact me.


yalleh's picture
Posts: 36
Joined: Jul 2009

Dear DJ,
Interferon moves the odds of 5 yr survival from 50% without to 65% with Interferon. So although it doesn't seem like much I definately think its worth it.... HOWEVER knowing what I know now, I dont think I would take it on at the age of 65 either. Continue to live your life to the fullest and enjoy your retirement... and keep up the good fight.

PS your surgeon was correct It does have a mind of its own.

Posts: 16
Joined: Jun 2009

I hope that things went well with the start of the Interferon treatments. I start the high-does treatments on Monday. My doctor already put me on an anti-depressant this week to get it into my system. That was a little hard to accept. I have never been on any medication regularly.

I asked the doctor if I would be able to continue working while taking the high-dose treatments. He said I should as long as I have a place to rest. I am lucky enough to have a job with an office at a university and I also teach one class. My wife wants to put a lazy boy in my office. I told I was already there. I am hoping to be able to manage the teaching.

All of the advice above is helpful, but it sure sounds like it could be very unpleasant. Not looking forward to having the flu for a year. I hope that is all it is.

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