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 racehorses 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 cHL.
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 5 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
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. You can have more than one of these problems at the same time. These problems may happen any time during treatment or even after your treatment has ended.
Call or see your health care provider right away if you develop any signs or symptoms of the following problems or if they get worse. These are not all of the signs and symptoms of immune system problems that can happen with KEYTRUDA:
Lung problems: cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
Intestinal problems: diarrhea (loose stools) or more frequent 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: yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes; severe nausea or vomiting; pain on the right side of your stomach area (abdomen); dark urine (tea colored); or bleeding or bruising more easily than normal.
Hormone gland problems: headaches that will not go away or unusual headaches; eye sensitivity to light; eye problems; rapid heartbeat; increased sweating; extreme tiredness; weight gain or weight loss; feeling more hungry or thirsty than usual; urinating more often than usual; hair loss; feeling cold; constipation; your voice gets deeper; dizziness or fainting; changes in mood or behavior, such as decreased sex drive, irritability, or forgetfulness.
Kidney problems: decrease in the amount of your urine; blood in your urine; swelling of your ankles; loss of appetite.
Skin problems: rash; itching; skin blistering or peeling; painful sores or ulcers in your mouth or in your nose, throat, or genital area; fever or flu-like symptoms; swollen lymph nodes.
Problems can also happen in other organs and tissues. Signs and symptoms of these problems may include: chest pain; irregular heartbeat; shortness of breath; swelling of ankles; confusion; sleepiness; memory problems; changes in mood or behavior; stiff neck; balance problems; tingling or numbness of the arms or legs; double vision; blurry vision; sensitivity to light; eye pain; changes in eyesight; persistent or severe muscle pain or weakness; muscle cramps; low red blood cells; bruising.
Infusion reactions that can sometimes be severe or life-threatening. Signs and symptoms of infusion reactions may include chills or shaking, itching or rash, flushing, shortness of breath or wheezing, dizziness, feeling like passing out, fever, and back pain.
Rejection of a transplanted organ. Your health care provider should tell you what signs and symptoms you should report and they will monitor you, depending on the type of organ transplant that you have had.
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 serious and can lead to death. These complications may happen if you underwent transplantation either before or after being treated with KEYTRUDA. Your health care provider will monitor you for these complications.
Getting medical treatment right away may help keep these problems from becoming more serious. Your health care provider will check you for these problems during treatment with KEYTRUDA. They may treat you with corticosteroid or hormone replacement medicines. They may also need to delay or completely stop treatment with KEYTRUDA if you have severe side effects.
Before you receive KEYTRUDA, tell your health care provider if you have immune system problems such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus; have had an organ transplant or have had or plan to have a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant that uses donor stem cells (allogeneic); have had radiation treatment in your chest area; have a condition that affects your nervous system, such as myasthenia gravis or Guillain-Barré syndrome.
If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your health care provider. KEYTRUDA can harm your unborn baby. If you are able to become pregnant, you will be given a pregnancy test before you start treatment. Use effective birth control during treatment and for at least 4 months after your final dose of KEYTRUDA. Tell them right away if you think you may be pregnant or you become pregnant during treatment with KEYTRUDA.
Tell your health care provider if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. 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 health care provider 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; rash; diarrhea; fever; cough; decreased appetite; itching; shortness of breath; constipation; bones or joints and stomach-area (abdominal) pain; nausea; and low levels of thyroid hormone.
In children, when KEYTRUDA is used alone, fever, vomiting, upper respiratory tract infection, headache, and low levels of white blood cells and red blood cells (anemia) are more common than in adults.
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; mouth sores; headache; weight loss; stomach-area (abdominal) pain; joint and muscle pain; and trouble sleeping.
Common side effects of KEYTRUDA when given with chemotherapy and bevacizumab include tingling or numbness of the arms or legs; hair loss; low red blood cell count; feeling tired or weak; nausea; low white blood cell count; diarrhea; high blood pressure; decreased platelet count; constipation; joint aches; vomiting; urinary tract infection; rash; low levels of thyroid hormone; and decreased appetite.
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.
These are not all the possible side effects of KEYTRUDA. Talk to your health care provider for medical advice about side effects.