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A Mesothelioma Patient’s Life on Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy May Improve Mesothelioma

When a family member is on immunotherapy, it is so important that you keep them healthy. During immunotherapy, a patient receives a drug that stimulates his or her immune system, which in turn attacks the cancer that the drug is designed to kill. This usually gives a patient the best quality of life on a treatment. My dad will be on this drug for the rest of his life to keep fighting off mesothelioma, and to hopefully keep the cancer from growing or spreading.

Under the care of Dr. Evan Alley, of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, my father is receiving one of the newest treatments that is on trial. Being on this trial requires that he call in on a daily basis and tracks his health for the day with a cell phone given to him for just this purpose. When he calls in each night, he must be very detailed about his daily activities and his health throughout the day. This is to track if there are any side effects occurring with the drug so they can be documented. So far, there has been no major side effects my dad has noticed, besides maybe fatigue.

Since Dad has been on this mesothelioma treatment, his life has become very routine. He’s up before 8:000 am, does his morning errands or makes his phone calls, and then is home for the rest of the day relaxing. He usually needs a nap in the afternoon and his bedtime is around 9:00 pm. From observing him, it seems like he has very low energy even though I would imagine that boosting your immune system would give a person more energy. This could also be from his lack of strength just in general from having cancer. He needs a lot of rest to get through a day, but the more rest the better for your immune system.

Dad has figured out since his diagnosis how far he can push himself and what he can and can’t handle physically. Since his diagnosis in 2012, he has gotten to the point of knowing his limits and has now fallen into a comfortable routine. I would like him to take up some hobbies that he can do around the house, or even get out into the community. I can see that lately he seems down, maybe it’s the winter blues, but not feeling well on top of being stuck inside can really put a damper on your mood. He does complain of the cold air hurting his lungs, and he says that it is more difficult to breathe in the air during the winter.

Another very important aspect you have to keep in mind when a family member is on immunotherapy is not exposing them to any sicknesses. My mother works in a hospital and assists sick patients during her shifts, so she has to be very careful and use a lot of disinfectants when home with my dad. About a month ago my dad came down with a cold, and he had to come down to Philadelphia to get antibiotics that were okay to use with the type of treatment he was on.

It took him about a month to get over the little cold and cough that he had. With already having a cough normally, he had a very violent cough that put him at risk for other issues, such as breaking a rib, increasing his oxygen usage and just being out of breath in general all the time.

To me, my big tough father now seems fragile doing everyday activities. This is one major adjustment that we are all dealing with, but as a family we have all stepped up and made changes to best assist Dad and to keep him going as best possible.

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