the outlier


how do i express my unmitigated joy at another clean scan?

who am i, now that i’m no longer a cancer patient?

my oncologist said we could start using the R word. too soon for the C word.

remission. close enough to a cure, for now.

yesterday was my last appointment with my oncology team. it was bittersweet.

they’ve taken such good care of me at NYU. how do you say thank you to someone who has saved your life? and does so, over and over again, for thousands of people? and of course this same team has to deal with losing their patients, just the same, over and over again.

i made them a painting – many of you have likely seen it on facebook. i’m writing on the go but will post it when i have a chance.

it’s nowhere near enough.

my doc recently went to her weekly melanoma meeting. a researcher complained that their data curve on the GSK1120212 clinical trial was thrown off by a single outlier; someone had survived far beyond the average. the researcher was frustrated that her data wasn’t cooperating.

i am that outlier.

it’s easy to look at my experience and say, yeah, melanoma research has moved forward in dramatic fashion over the last few years. more and more people are surviving their terminal diagnoses. and while that’s true, there are still thousands upon thousands of patients who don’t respond to treatment. melanoma is one of the most aggressive, fast-moving cancers, and though i’ve said it many times, it bears repeating that EIGHT PERCENT of those diagnosed with stage IV melanoma survive as long as i have.

that is an awfully small number.

after my survival and our winning the newlywed game (along with the annual drawing for free tickets to the book of mormon), i should really be playing the lottery.

on top of another round of great news, we talked with my doctor about our chances of having children. you may remember that i banked my sperm before starting treatment – many of you generously helped me pay the continuing rent for space in the freezer. i thought it was highly likely we would need to use the sample, particularly after radiation to my groin and years of intensive systemic treatment.

but we were told that chances are good that we’ll be able to have kids naturally.


i’ll still get tested before we start trying – and it might make sense to go through the new (interferon-free) treatment regimen to wipe out my hepatitis C before trying – but it’s miraculous to consider, after all my body has endured and all that kathryn and i (and all of you, really) have gone through, that we can start thinking about our future, and our family.

i say again: amazing.

2 Responses to “the outlier”

  1. Tamara in MN says:

    Oh Jonah! Wonderful news. Goodness, those words don’t come even remotely close to expressing the joy I feel from your post. Eight percent….And thinking of creating a family. My heart swells with hope and faith and happiness and gratitude. Yay for you!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Jonah, this post makes me so happy.

    Life, life! It’s a beauty.