Learn More About Kelly
In 1991 I found an abnormal lesion on my right calf. I had it surgically removed and got the result that it was melanoma. I had heard of melanoma but did not know much about it. Since I was in my early 20's at the time, I followed the doctor's instructions and never thought much more about it. I went to the oncologist for follow-up visits but gradually stopped going. I figured my melanoma was a thing of the past and never thought too much more about it other than avoiding sun exposure and tanning beds.
In July 2008, I felt a lump in my groin. After outpatient surgery, I was told that it was cancer, metastatic melanoma. My life changed forever that day. Within 24 hours I had a PET scan and an appointment scheduled with an oncologist. My PET scan came back showing activity in my right groin area, and I was advised to have a lymph node dissection followed by bio-immunotherapy. It was explained to me that there were not a lot of treatment options for melanoma. My oncologist told me that if new tumors were to arise while undergoing the therapy, it was a sign that the melanoma cells were resisting the treatment. The extensive surgery to remove the cluster of nodes was performed in August of 2008 where it was determined that several other lymph nodes were diseased.
After six weeks of recovery, I began a two year clinical trial. It was the only treatment available for my level of disease. It consisted of 2 chemotherapy-type drugs (Leukine and Interleukin 2 [IL2]) that I self- injected every day. The IL2 made me violently ill causing vomiting, fainting, rigors, chills and sleepless nights.
Five months into the protocol, I again felt a lump in my groin. A biopsy and PET scan showed that it was a recurrence of the Melanoma. That was not a good sign. I remembered the previous conversation with my oncologist about new tumors forming. I felt helpless and hopeless at that time. In March 2009, he again performed a major surgery to remove the tumor that had formed on my muscle which had been flipped into my groin/thigh area from my hip. He also went into my deep groin through my abdomen. Thankfully, the pathology report from that surgery came back as healthy other than the contained tumor that was removed from my muscle. That tumor was doused with high radiation and immediately frozen. They took my radiated tumor and turned it into a personalized vaccine for me. At the beginning of each cycle of treatment, I was injected with my own melanoma cell vaccine. The goal was to have my body recognize the melanoma cells as foreign and have my immune system fight off and kill any matching cells in my body. I have remained N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease) ever since.
My family and friends were very supportive through this tough time. With their help and a strong vision, Kelly’s Dream was formed to raise money to relieve the financial struggles of cancer patients (all types) while on their journey to wellness. We also are committed to raise money for melanoma research and awareness.
Since its inception, we have raised over $150,000 and helped a tremendous amount of patients. We have formed close relationships with Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, Cancer Support Foundation, several hospitals, and other private non-profit foundations. These relationships along with funding from Kelly’s Dream have allowed many struggling patients to have their financial needs met during their difficult times.
Kelly’s Dream would not exist without the great volunteer “Dream Team” who is behind the Foundation 100 percent. Our volunteers are a group of dedicated individuals that believe in the mission.
I always say that things happen for a reason. I feel blessed to have been chosen to live this journey. I wake up every day with a feeling of purpose and a continued drive to help more patients as they embark on their journey to wellness.