At age 28, John was a hard-working professional building a bright future in his home state of Kentucky. Between planning his wedding and working hundred-plus–hour weeks as a venture capitalist, he always had something to do. Like the race horses called “mudders” that shine brightest when the track gets messy, John had never been one to pass up a challenge.
But he couldn’t have predicted the biggest challenge he’d have to face to date: being diagnosed 7 years ago with stage 4B classical Hodgkin lymphoma.
When I was diagnosed, I wish I knew a lot of things that I know now.- John
“I thought that I generally had things figured out. I went to school and got a job, figured I’d start saving for retirement and get married and have 2.5 kids. I thought it was all going to be a smooth ride. And then the cancer diagnosis jostles you a bit,” said John.
“It makes you have to rethink things and figure them out.”
As the only son of a devoted single mother, John’s fight against cancer was as much for her as himself. “She’s my only immediate family. She’s a wonderful lady. I work hard every day because I want to make sure she’s taken care of and to leave something behind for her, and I try to live in her spirit.”
So after he was diagnosed, John booked appointments with the best oncology team he could find.
Over the next few years, John’s battle with cancer would have a profound impact on his life.
“I wish that I knew how big of a toll that the diagnosis and all the care was going to take on my loved ones and the people around me.”
“I was married for five years, and got divorced a couple years ago. We’re still good friends, but it was clear that the treatment and all the uncertainty and the turbulence of me being sick all the time took a toll. I wish I had known more upfront to counteract that.”
Cancer allows the people who really care about you to step up.- John
But he also found extraordinary support from his friends, family, and medical team.
“My best friend Sean is an incredible source of support. He uprooted himself, moved to another city with me, and took care of me for almost a year as I underwent treatment.
“And I’ve been really lucky to have a great clinical team helping me out, and that’s not just the oncologists and the researchers, but it’s also the nurses—they’ve honestly kind of become part of my family. They’re all really special to me. So you could say I’ve got good people behind me.”
Life’s always going to have challenges. Embrace the mess.- John
During this time John underwent a variety of treatments, and eventually his search led to a clinical trial.
“I’m a mudder, and I think when you go through life, you’re always going to have struggles. Whether it’s cancer or something else, just trying to have a clean trip and be in a happy place all the time is not necessarily practical.
“But if you can, enjoy the struggle, enjoy the slop, share the experience with cool and interesting people, people you care about, people that care about you. Learn a lot. Have a good amount of laughs along the way.”
Enjoy the trip, even if it’s sloppy.- John
KEYTRUDA is a prescription medicine used to treat a kind of cancer called classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL). KEYTRUDA may be used for cHL in adults and children when you have tried a treatment and it did not work or when your cHL has returned after you received 3 or more types of treatment.
KEYTRUDA is a medicine that may treat certain cancers by working with your immune system. KEYTRUDA can cause your immune system to attack normal organs and tissues in any area of your body and can affect the way they work. These problems can sometimes become severe or life-threatening and can lead to death. These problems may happen any time during treatment or even after your treatment has ended.
Call or see your doctor right away if you develop any symptoms of the following problems or these symptoms get worse:
Lung problems (pneumonitis). Symptoms of pneumonitis may include shortness of breath, chest pain, or new or worse cough.
Intestinal problems (colitis) that can lead to tears or holes in your intestine. Signs and symptoms of colitis may include diarrhea or more bowel movements than usual; stools that are black, tarry, sticky, or have blood or mucus; or severe stomach-area (abdomen) pain or tenderness.
Liver problems, including hepatitis. Signs and symptoms of liver problems may include yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes, nausea or vomiting, pain on the right side of your stomach area (abdomen), dark urine, or bleeding or bruising more easily than normal.
Hormone gland problems (especially the thyroid, pituitary, adrenal glands, and pancreas). Signs and symptoms that your hormone glands are not working properly may include rapid heartbeat, weight loss or weight gain, increased sweating, feeling more hungry or thirsty, urinating more often than usual, hair loss, feeling cold, constipation, your voice gets deeper, muscle aches, feeling very weak, dizziness or fainting, or headaches that will not go away or unusual headache.
Kidney problems, including nephritis and kidney failure. Signs of kidney problems may include change in the amount or color of your urine.
Skin problems. Signs of skin problems may include rash, itching, blisters, peeling or skin sores, or painful sores or ulcers in your mouth or in your nose, throat, or genital area.
Problems in other organs. Signs and symptoms of these problems may include changes in eyesight; severe or persistent muscle or joint pains; severe muscle weakness; low red blood cells (anemia); swollen lymph nodes, rash or tender lumps on skin, cough, shortness of breath, vision changes, or eye pain (sarcoidosis); confusion, fever, muscle weakness, balance problems, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, memory problems, or seizures (encephalitis); and shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, feeling tired, or chest pain (myocarditis).
Infusion (IV) reactions that can sometimes be severe and life-threatening. Signs and symptoms of infusion reactions may include chills or shaking, shortness of breath or wheezing, itching or rash, flushing, dizziness, fever, or feeling like passing out.
Rejection of a transplanted organ. People who have had an organ transplant may have an increased risk of organ transplant rejection if they are treated with KEYTRUDA.
Complications, including graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), in people who have received a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant that uses donor stem cells (allogeneic). These complications can be severe and can lead to death. These complications may happen if you underwent transplantation either before or after being treated with KEYTRUDA. Your doctor will monitor you for the following signs and symptoms: skin rash, liver inflammation, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Getting medical treatment right away may help keep these problems from becoming more serious. Your doctor will check you for these problems during treatment with KEYTRUDA. Your doctor may treat you with corticosteroid or hormone replacement medicines. Your doctor may also need to delay or completely stop treatment with KEYTRUDA if you have severe side effects.
Before you receive KEYTRUDA, tell your doctor if you have immune system problems such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus; have had an organ transplant or plan to have or have had a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant that used donor stem cells (allogeneic); have lung or breathing problems; have liver problems; or have any other medical problems.
If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your doctor. KEYTRUDA can harm your unborn baby. If you are able to become pregnant, your doctor will give you a pregnancy test before you start treatment. Use effective birth control during treatment and for at least 4 months after the final dose of KEYTRUDA. Tell your doctor right away if you think you may be pregnant or you become pregnant during treatment with KEYTRUDA.
If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed, tell your doctor. It is not known if KEYTRUDA passes into your breast milk. Do not breastfeed during treatment with KEYTRUDA and for 4 months after your final dose of KEYTRUDA.
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Common side effects of KEYTRUDA when used alone include feeling tired; pain, including pain in muscles, bones, or joints and stomach area (abdominal) pain; decreased appetite; itching; diarrhea; nausea; rash; fever; cough; shortness of breath; and constipation.
Common side effects of KEYTRUDA when given with certain chemotherapy medicines include feeling tired or weak; nausea; constipation; diarrhea; decreased appetite; rash; vomiting; cough; trouble breathing; fever; hair loss; inflammation of the nerves that may cause pain, weakness, and paralysis in the arms and legs; swelling of the lining of the mouth, nose, eyes, throat, intestines, or vagina; and mouth sores.
Common side effects of KEYTRUDA when given with axitinib include diarrhea; feeling tired or weak; high blood pressure; liver problems; low levels of thyroid hormone; decreased appetite; blisters or rash on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet; nausea; mouth sores or swelling of the lining of the mouth, nose, eyes, throat, intestines, or vagina; hoarseness; rash; cough; and constipation.
In children, feeling tired, vomiting and stomach-area (abdominal) pain, and increased levels of liver enzymes and decreased levels of salt (sodium) in the blood are more common than in adults.
These are not all the possible side effects of KEYTRUDA. Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away. For more information, ask your doctor or pharmacist.