New Radiation Instructions for Eye Plaque Patients 2018
Based on published guidelines from United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), The New York Eye Cancer Center and its affiliate New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mt. Sinai have agreed that patients undergoing low energy (iodine-125 or palladium-103) eye plaque radiation therapy for intraocular melanoma are allowed to proceed with their lives as usual.
Before this change, eye plaque patients were required to almost quarantine themselves. They had to remain at home, maintain a distance of 6-feet from others, and no pregnant women or children were allowed to visit.
With the new changes, patients can use public transportation. We ended most of the radiation exposure precautions and restrictions (i.e. you may go to the park, restaurants, grocery stores…etc.). However, it is recommended that patients stay at home as much as possible and that they do not engage in activities that could dislodge the implant and/or seeds. As before, the patient’s body fluids, clothing, and utensils ARE NOT radioactive and can be handled by others safely. We ask that the patient sleep alone and in a separate room away from anyone under the age of eighteen.
Dr. Finger says it’s about time: “With the radiation implants I use, eye cancer patients typically receive only a small fraction of the radiation given to patients undergoing implant radiation for other cancers, where patients are sent home on the day of implant.”
Though a few rules remain, they new radiation instructions are not nearly as strict. Free at last, patients can feel the sunlight, do their own shopping, and enjoy the company of their loved ones.
Retinoblastoma (RB) is the most common eye cancer in children, affecting approximately 8,000 of them each year. In developed countries like the United States, the survival rate reaches beyond an astounding 96%, with early diagnosis and treatment being key to saving a patient’s life and sight. However, this incidence rate is higher in developing countries, where most of the children succumb to metastatic retinoblastoma. In areas where children and families have no means of travel to treatment centers far away from them, these afflicted children often endure their disease untreated until there is very little hope for them left. Because no child or family should have to suffer these losses, especially due to the simple inability to reach proper care, The Eye Cancer Foundation has launched the 2020 Campaign, a campaign dedicated to training ophthalmic oncologists to serve in underprivileged countries.
One such underprivileged area is India, a country populated by over 1.32 billion people and counting, where 1,500 of the global 8,000 retinoblastoma cases are diagnosed every year. However, the reality persists that many cases of retinoblastoma go undetected or unreported in India, and awareness for the disease is abysmally low in rural areas. Motivated by India’s need to increase awareness and treatment for this disease, The Eye Cancer Foundation has sponsored fellowships for three doctors from India to train with Dr. Paul T. Finger at The New York Eye Cancer Center over the last year alone — Dr. Sonal S. Chaugule, Dr. Abhilasha Maheshwari, and Dr. Puneet Jain.
After the successful completion of her NYECC-ECF fellowship in Summer 2017, Dr. Chaugule returned to her native Maharashtra, India. She currently employs her expertise in retinoblastoma care by consulting at HV Desai Eye Hospital, a critical center for eye cancer patients in Pune, India. Her continued efforts to raise awareness in this vastly unrecognized disease have led to her medical advice being featured across Indian news media. According to Dr. Chaugule in The Indian Express, “Awareness about retinoblastoma is low and early detection is crucial to give the best chance of saving the child’s life, eye, and vision. Early detection and proper treatment will ensure 95% of the children diagnosed with RB are saved from death, 90% have their eye intact and 85% have their vision protected.
Unfortunately, in India, a child is taken to an eye specialist only when there is any notable problem, which makes treatment of RB at a later stage much harder,” she said.
Dr. Chaugule suggests that systemized screening of the eye for any abnormality in infants and toddlers should be made mandatory. Additionally, it is crucial that all doctors and healthcare professionals, whether they be eye cancer specialists or not, ought to be deeply sensitized to this disease’s magnitude.
In response to India’s growing need for retinoblastoma care, The Iksha Foundation, a non-governmental organization based in Benglauru, has accelerated their programs to raise awareness for the disease so that children may be diagnosed early enough to save their livees. Founder and trustee at the Iksha Foundation, Thanmaya Bekkalale, says, “We only know the reported cases of retinoblastoma — there are numerous cases that go unreported. The need of the hour is to spread individual and societal awareness about retinoblastoma and promote early detection as it is documented that every day, four children are born with eye cancer in India, and one of them is facing death as a result of diagnosis at an advanced stage, or not diagnosed at all.”
To raise awareness, May 13th through 19th were observed as World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week. The Iksha Foundation will hold awareness programs, ensuring that their various stakeholders will understand that early diagnosis is crucial to saving the lives of children throughout India.
Read the article published in The Indian Express by Dr. Chaugule and her colleagues at HV Desai Eye Hospital here.
To stay up-to-date on the latest news in eye cancer, please keep our website, eyecancer.com, in your bookmarks.
In our previous blog, we unveiled Dr. Finger’s Results page, the first public database of its kind to report a doctor’s treatment outcomes. With the power of the world-wide-web at our fingertips, it is now easier than ever to browse for healthcare options. Search engines, with the simple press of a button, are able to provide patients with a virtually infinite list of specialists available to them locally, regionally, even internationally.
So, shouldn’t it be just as easy to know how successful these specialists are? How can patients choose the best doctor without knowing their past performance? These questions motivated the creation of Dr. Finger’s Results page, a launch that was met with glowing approval from across both patient and scientific communities. And now, this page is more comprehensive than ever!
Understanding the Report
Choroidal melanoma, iris-ciliary body melanoma, and squamous conjunctival malignancy are three of the most common conditions treated at The New York Eye Cancer Center. Once treated for these select diseases (whether through plaque radiation, chemotherapy, cryotherapy, and so on), patients are routinely seen at NYECC in follow-up visits, where they are monitored for any changes in tumor activity and quality of life.
Starting from December 1, 2017, each NYECC patient seen in these follow-up visits is anonymously entered in our Result’s page database — information that becomes immediately accessible on our website. These results are updated weekly, and with Dr. Finger’s practice spanning over 30 years, the database will continue to grow moving forward.
For each disease, we report on:
– Patients Entered: The number of patients included in these results, which grows with every week once patients are seen by Dr. Finger in follow-up.
– Visual Acuity: The average and median (most common) visual acuity, or eye chart test score, after finishing treatment.
– Local Tumor Destruction: The percentage of patients whose tumors are successfully eliminated through treatment.
– Initial Eye Removal: The percentage of patients who have undergone enucleation (eye removal) surgery prior to being treated by Dr. Finger at NYECC.
– Metastases: The percentage of patients whose tumors have spread to other organs after treatment.
– Average Follow Up: Number of years after treatment before additional treatments are required.
The data, located on our Results page and observable through an interactive table, reports on patients treated only by Dr. Finger. Patient data is strictly confidential, HIPPA-compliant and, once again, anonymous.
Our Results page has a new look! Rather than having to observe all reports at once, we have implemented a ‘choose your results’ feature. This cancer directory allows you to choose which of these three diseases you would like to observe. Choroidal Melanoma, Iris Ciliary Body Melanoma, Squamous Conjunctival Malignancy — each of these reports now has its own page and table. These pages will be a source of information specialized to each disease; the result is a streamlined, organized process for eye cancer patients across the world. Here is a shortcut to the directory you can find on our page:
The launch of our results page is the first step, and we encourage other centers to join us in this effort. The Eye Cancer Foundation will offer assistance to any center or solo practitioner in setting up a page akin to the new NYECC Results page.
Let’s hold ourselves accountable to our outcomes and empower patients to make their life-changing choice of eye cancer specialist based on visible results.
With 87,110 diagnoses estimated to be made in 2018 for U.S. Americans, skin cancer, particularly a melanoma, is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the United States. Ocular melanomas, however, remain uncommonly diagnosed, affecting just six in every one million people a year. Given the extreme rarity of ocular melanomas, doctors and researchers were shocked to find this disease found in highly concentrated numbers in two states. A total of 36 people — all graduates from Auburn University, Alabama — were diagnosed with ocular melanoma. From Huntersville, North Carolina, 18 patients were also found out to have the same disease.
Juleigh Green, Allison Allred, and Ashley McCrary had spent their years at Auburn University as close friends. And later on in their lives, each woman discovered they had the same rare disease. Juleigh Green was the first among her friends to be diagnosed. Just 27 at the time, Green was experiencing strange flashes of light obstructing her vision and consulted her ophthalmologist immediately. In an interview with CBS, Green explains her shock upon what they found:
“[My doctor] said, ‘There’s a mass there, there’s something there, I don’t know what it is, but it looks like it could be, you know, a tumor,’” Green said. “It’s like you had the breath knocked out of you, you know?”
Allison Allred, who also was experiencing flashes of light for 7 to 10 days, was the second of their friend circle to be diagnosed in 2001, at the age of 31. Her doctor had first believed that the flashes were due to a retinal detachment. According to Allred, her doctor had said: “Well, [the retina] is detached because there’s a 10 millitmeter melanoma sitting on it.”
Both Green and Allred opted for enucleation and have had their afflicted eye removed. However, Allred’s extremely aggressive and stubborn cancer has since recurred nine times in six separate places in her body. “Two days ago I found out that it’s come back to my brain,” Allred told CBS, “So, I’m actually gonna have radiation on my brain tomorrow.”
Ashley McCracy was the third friend, with her own diagnosis coming from observing unusual black spots along her iris. In an interview with CBS News correspondent Anna Werner, McCrary said:
“What’s crazy is literally standing there, I was like, ‘Well, I know two people who’ve had this cancer.”
“And did you understand then how strange that was?” asked Werner.
“No. No, I didn’t.”
All three women were treated at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. McCrary mentioned Green and Allred’s similar diagnosis to her oncologist at Kimmel Center, Dr. Marlana Orloff.
Orloff was baffled.
“Most people don’t know anyone with this disease,” Orloff said. “We said, ‘OK, these girls were in this location, they were all definitively diagnosed with this very rare cancer — what’s going on?”
A fourth Auburn alumna, Lori Lee, is also being treated at Kimmel Center. “This is a rare cancer, so it’s not like you can just go anywhere and have anybody know anything really about it,” Lee said. “Until we get more research into this, then we’re not gonna get anywhere. We’ve got to have it so that we can start linking all of them together to try and find a cause, and then one day, hopefully, a cure.”
Orloff and her fellow researchers and oncologists at Kimmel Center immediately began to investigate this bizarre case. Thus far, the Alabama Department of Health states that “it would be premature to determine that a cancer cluster exists in the area”. Officials at Auburn University hope that research will help illuminate the cause of this rare cancer appearing at such high concentrations in Alabama and North Carolina.
Each patient’s emotional response to this mystery cannot be understated. “That was very hard for me,” McCrary told CBS. “Growing up, the one thing that I liked about myself was my eyes.”
McCrary’s personal journey in dealing with her cancer diagnosis lead to the creation of the Auburn University Ocular Melanoma Page on Facebook, which has astoundingly discovered 36 more graduates afflicted with ocular melanoma. The Facebook Page offers itself as an effective support network for these graduates.
Kimmel Center researchers continue to look for answers to explain these phenomena both in Alabama and North Carolina.
Stay tuned for the latest updates on this case and others by keeping eyecancer.com in your bookmarks.
As you may have heard in our previous blog, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2017 Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana was attended by noteworthy fellowship alumni from the Eye Cancer Foundation, as well as founder and executive director of the ECF, Dr. Paul T. Finger. Held from November 11th to 14th, AAO took place the day following the 2017 AAOOP Annual Meeting, where oral presentations were given by ECF Fellows Dr. Sonal Chaugule and Dr. Abhilasha Maheshwari.
Dr. Chagule spoke on her research regarding the efficiency of intravitreal steroids to treat radiation side-effects, while Dr. Maheshwari spoke on a 12-year study of patients treated with slotted plaque radiation therapy. To read more on AOOP 2017 presentations from these ECF fellows, click here.
At AAO 2017, hosted at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Dr. Sonal Chaugule, Dr. Ekatrina Semenova, and Dr. Nicole Scripsema presented ECF-sponsored research conducted under the guidance of Dr. Paul T. Finger at the New York Eye Cancer Center and at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Dr. Sonal, pictured below along Dr. Finger, presented two studies, the first titled “Regression patterns of Iris Melanoma after Palladium-103 Plaque Brachytherapy”. This study takes into account 50 iris melanoma patients who were closely evaluated following plaque brachytherapy with Palladium-103 as treatment. The results of this study underscored Palladium-103 as effective treatment for iris melanoma. After incisive evaluation, patients showed decreases in tumor size, tumor pigmentation, and more. These findings are particularly important to iris melanoma patients, who endure a rare condition in the already-rare family of cancers (iris melanoma patients are only 2-3% of eye cancer cases). To read more on this paper and its implications, click here.
Dr. Chaugule’s second presentation concerned her paper most-recently published in the Indian Journal of Opthalmology. Titled “Primary Topical Chemotherapy for Giant Ocular Surface Squamous Neoplasia”, this paper examines and reports the outcomes of using topical chemotherapy eye drops (such as 5-Flurouracil and/or Interferon alpha-2b) to treat giant ocular surface squamous neoplasia. The paper was featured in a past blog post — to read more on the study, which evaluated 10 patients with stage T3 tumors, click here.
Details from AAO do not stop here! Stay tuned for more exciting news on the work ECF Fellows make towards eye cancer research by keeping eyecancer.com in your bookmarks!
After several successful meetings throughout the close of 2017, The Ocular Tumor Support Group is back in session! Do you have feelings of loss, stress, anxiety, and/or depression? To be sure, these are all possible experiences people have as they begin to adjust and live with a cancer diagnosis — but why endure it alone? Psychologists have long-attested to the mental health benefits of group therapy, where there exists a nurturing environment to share and perhaps ease one’s stress. The path towards recovery is paved not only with physical well-being, but also emotional well-being. And so, The Eye Cancer Foundation sponsors periodic group therapy sessions for those patients in need of an emotional outlet for their pain.
Karen Campbell, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, will continue to facilitate these sessions. With her 24+ year experience working with medical patients, she offers a wealth of knowledge in how to handle stress, such as mental and physical exercises. Attendee’s of past Ocular Tumor Support Group sessions have expressed gratitude for her work and her enduring tips and advice that have helped them outside of every meeting.
These support sessions are open to all ocular tumor patients, regardless of where you receive your care and how far along in treatment you are. Whether you are currently undergoing treatment or are 10 years out of treatment, we welcome you!
The next meeting will take place within the next few months Friday at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, 310 East 14th Street in New York City. Stay tuned for the latest update on when that date will be.
If you are considering attending this session, or for more information, please contact Karen Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-229-9908.
Right alongside cancers of the breast and lung, skin cancer exists as a well-known cancer afflicting U.S. Americans. The history of cancer study has lead to the identification of over 200 types of the disease, and skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed of them, affecting more than 1 million Americans a year. Information on this type of cancer has been widely disseminated to the American public, from a fleet of dedicated websites, to news articles, and more, to the extent that most American adults realize that skin cancer can often arise from dangerous exposure to ultraviolet (UV) sunlight. But did you know that skin cancer and eye cancer, a lesser-known type of cancer, are closely linked? Indeed, skin cancer can negatively affect the eyes — take seventy-year-old John McPartland for example, who understood this well.
In 2001, McPartland, a lifetime lover of outdoor activity, noticed a freckle on his eyelid. Determined to find answers, he consulted with many doctors until finally meeting with Dr. Paul T. Finger, who diagnosed McPartland with conjunctival melanoma. A melanoma is a particular type of skin cancer; it affects nearly 70,000 people, and is found on the melanocyte cells of the skin. Melanocyte cells are responsible for the production of brown skin pigment — melanin, Because these pigment-producing cells are afflicted, melanomas commonly begin as pigmented, odd-looking freckles like McPartland’s. The conjunctiva is a delicate, clear membrane covering the inside of the eyelids and the white (sclera) of the eye. McPartland’s diagnosis was deadly.
“I just thought I should check it out and see if it is anything,” McPartland said, “and fortunately I did … As far as I’m concerned, [Dr. Finger] saved my life.”
About 2,400 patients are diagnosed with conjunctival melanoma every year, often in part due to the same UV light that causes skin damage. Those who work outdoors, play sports and/or frequent beaches are most vulnerable to eye cancer. Having light blue eyes and a fair complexion increases vulnerability, due to a lack of melanin (brown pigment) production that protects us from harmful sun exposure. Those who have a family or personal history of skin cancer are also vulnerable. For these people, Dr. Finger recommends that they “should have an eye exam, and then every six months thereafter.”
“Certain drugs also increase UV toxicity” Dr. Finger additionally cautions. “Patients who take chlorothiazides, sulfonamides, tetracycline, phenothiazins, psoralens, and allopurinol should be extra cautious about sunlight.”
A 2008 Fox News article highlights Dr. Finger’s experience with McPartland, along with his advice for optimizing eye health that he continues to recommend to his patients today. While the importance of wearing hats and using sunblock to protect the skin has long been stressed to the American public, Dr. Finger says people should approach this thinking to the eyes as well. The best way one can optimize eye health on their own? Using UV-blocking sunglasses!
“Think of sunglasses as sunblock for your eyes”, Dr. Finger says. He advises that sunglasses with 100% UV protection offer optimal prevention of sun damage to the eye.
Cancer is certainly a difficult reality to endure for many people, but there are ways one can help to protect themselves against the disease. By doing something as simple as wearing UV-blocking sunglass, you can take charge of your health today.
Stay tuned for more stories at eyecancer.com by keeping our website in your bookmarks!
At the close of 2017, The Eye Cancer Foundation promised its supporters to continue the momentum of the tremendous strides made throughout the year, and indeed it has with yet another Eye Cancer Foundation Ophthalmic Oncology Fellowship thus completed. Meet the ECF’s latest Fellowship alumnus: Abhilasha.
Abhilasha Maheshwari, MBBS, hails from the bustling northern city of Chandigarh, India, and took a special interest in the treatment of eye cancers early on in her career as a medical student. It was from there that she further ventured into the speciality by training under the world-renowned eye cancer specialist and member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Eye Cancer Foundation, Dr. Santosh Hanovar at Centre For Sight in Hyderabad, India. For many South Asians, Centre For Sight is vital, due to the unfortunately low amount of treatment centers readily accessible to eye cancer patients within the geographic area. Dr. Hanovar, always eager to progress the eye cancer speciality, had put forth Dr. Maheshwari as a candidate to be further trained in ophthalmic oncology by Dr. Paul T. Finger at the New York Eye Cancer Center and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. She was accepted for the program, and arrived for her six month fellowship in August 2017.
Apart from embracing the colorful experience of living in an entirely new city, Dr. Maheshwari has aided in a number of Dr. Finger’s groundbreaking projects during her time as an Eye Cancer Foundation Fellow. January 20, 2018 saw the publication of a paper worked on by Dr. Finger and Dr. Maheshwari, which presents a 12-year study of 52 patients with uvueal melanoma treated with low energy photon, slotted eye plaque Palladium-103 radiation therapy. The paper was successfully published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology and presented orally at the November 2017 American Association of Ophthalmic Oncologists and Pathologists (AAOOP) Annual Meeting held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Additionally, Dr. Maheshwari became the first ECF-ICO Fellow to participate in the DRO Initiative, a program used by the NYECC to report patient outcomes on the web in a patient-accessible format. Her work included anonymously recording these patients into the program for their disease, treatment, visual acuity, tumor stage and height, and more. She has since handed her instructional work to the next NYECC Fellow, and the DRO Initiative continues with outstanding success. To learn more about DRO, click here.
Where is she now? At the end of her fellowship, Dr. Maheshwari returned to India, where she has recently taken up a hospital job and aims to improve patient life, hoping to one day have all of South Asia (which includes Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka) no longer be an underserved area in the treatment of eye cancer. The ECF plans to keep its supporters updated on all progress made by our alumni, so stay tuned!
To learn more about ECF-ICO Fellowships, including how to apply for one, click here.
The New York Eye Cancer Center and the Eye Cancer Foundation were quite actively represented at the 2017 American Association of Ophthalmic Oncologists and Pathologists (AAOOP) Annual Meeting. The meeting was held on Friday, November 10, 2017 at the Hampton Inn & Suites Convention Center, located in the vibrant city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and was attended by Dr. Paul Finger as well as notable ECF-ICO Fellowship alumni, Dr. Sonal Chaugule, Dr. Ekatrina Semenova, and Dr. Abhilasha Maheshwari.
Now, what are ITA, RM, and Bevacizumab? Often, patients undergoing eye plaque radiation in order to treat their cancerous tumor can be subject to vision-impairing radiation side-effects, or radiation maculopathy (RM), as a result of treatment. Intravitreal anti-VEGF therapy (which is otherwise commonly used to treat macular degeneration) such as Bevacizumab (Avastin), Lucentis, and Eyelea, are used to prolong the effects of radiation maculopathy. Itravitreal triamcinolone acetate (ITA) is a steroid used in conjunction with this anti-VEGF therapy to treat swelling that occurs in the affected eye, called macular edema.
The paper aims to evaluate the effects of using ITA for the treatment of RM in patients with choroidal melanoma after plaque radiotherapy. Eight choroidal melanoma patients undergoing this treatment were studied, having ITA treatment at 4-16 week intervals in addition to continued injections of Avastin. Results found that after starting ITA, vision was stable or improved for patients, leading to the conclusion that ITA can be used as a supplement to decrease macular edema (swelling) and preserve vision in choroidal melanoma patients with RM.
Dr. Abhilasha Maheshwari had separately presented ECF-supported research — a 12-year study evaluating patients with slotted, low energy photon eye plaque radiation therapy. The purpose? To measure the efficacy of this treatment for eye cancer patients, especially those who have tumors located near, touching, or surrounding the optic disc (a critical area that allows for vision) were treated. Forty six patients of these eye cancer patients were treated with eye plaque radiation therapy, using seeds of the chemical isotope Palladium-103 to radiate the affected eye. Over the next 12 years, these patients were monitored for any changes to tumor thickness, visual acuity, and whether or not the cancer had reoccured or metastasized. Results found that the local control rate (i.e, total tumor destruction) was 95.6%, and lead to the conclusion that Slotted Eye Plaque Radiation Therapy is indeed an efficient method of treatment for eye cancer patients. To read the paper, published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, click here.
But the AAO updates do not end here! Stay tuned for upcoming information on even more presentations at AAO 2017 by ECF alumni.
As part of an ongoing initiative from the Eye Cancer Foundation, The ECF accepts submissions where patients share their personal story through diagnosis and treatment. Of course, the ECF is always accepting submissions for Patient Stories and would love to hear from you. Below is the first publication, sent in by a patient by the name of Maureen.
In December 1994, I went to see my optometrist, Dr. Quist, at Pildes in New York. I was going to Boston for New Year’s and my contacts were bothering me. Well, Dr. Quist pointed out that I had not had a good exam in a while and she wanted to do one. I said sure.
As she studied my left eye, she took a bit more time than she did with the right eye. Afterward, she wrote out a note, put it in a sealed envelope, and said that I should see my ophthalmologist. That was the beginning.
Upon consulting my ophthalmologist, Dr. Muldoon, I discovered that the little freckle Dr. Quist luckily saw was a possible cancerous condition which would have to be monitored. In May 1995, I went for what I thought would be another routine visit with Dr. Muldoon. It was not routine. After the exam, he asked his receptionist to see if Dr. Finger was in the hospital that day. He was, and I was sent down to his office at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. It was only when I saw the words Melanoma Study beside the door that I actually realized: Ah. Not just cancer, but melanoma.
In the blink of an eye, so to speak, life changed. I was immediately sent for the first of ever-so-many fluorescein injections and pictures, ultrasounds — the works. Dr. Finger observed the nevus until November 1995 and then decided that treatment was needed. At the time of all this I was a volunteer at Sloan-Kettering and I knew how helpful it was to speak to patient-to-patient volunteers. Well, there weren’t any; the ailment was so rare. My medical doctor, who had practiced for years, had never heard of it and had to research it. While having experience seeing the courage of the cancer patients I worked with, and the research being done with all sorts of cancers, I myself was scared enough with my disease to determine that I would go with enucleation for treatment. The idea of the melanoma was very upsetting to me.
Dr. Finger set me up with an appointment at Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Institute, where they were doing the national study on ocular melanoma. My husband and I went to Baltimore for a consultation and I was grateful that I took the opportunity to participate in research. The doctor did the exam, discussed his findings and – what I remember most clearly – discussed prosthesis. The reality of removing the eye (which he was, in our opinion, recommending) was what I heard, and it was the dose of reality I needed.
In New York, my husband accompanied me to my next consultation with Dr. Finger. I had not involved him directly up until then – perhaps it was a way of not really acknowledging what was happening. But, Dr. Finger then launched into a description of Palladium-103, the isotope he planned to use to radiate the tumor, with hopefully a good chance at not affecting the surrounding tissue. My tumor was a choroidal melanoma.
I went for it. I was in the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary for 8 days – one day longer than estimated. While I was disappointed to have to stay even one day longer, in retrospect, the nursing care was much better than handling treatment on my own. From my room I had a view of the Empire State lit up for Christmas, and I still see that building out of my office window every day — with both eyes. I was released on December 13, 1995 – St. Lucy’s Day – Santa Lucia – the day celebrated as the festival of light.
I am fortunate to have had a good recovery and to have retained my eyesight. As I say, so far so good, and still, I go to each 6 month follow up with caution. I don’t think anyone would be arrogant enough to forget the trauma. I am grateful to this day to the two patients whom Dr. Finger put me in touch with, who spoke to me before treatment and shared their experiences. Only someone who has been there truly knows what the experience feels like. I have made two wonderful friends who took the road after I did.
Meeting with the fine, young doctors who are being trained through The Eye Cancer Foundation especially is truly inspiring. And I know that patients today have a wide support network with people who share so generously and bravely.
"Very well treated by Dr. Finger. He explained everything I needed to know about my issue with detail and attention, putting me at ease and giving me confidence to handle this problem for the rest of my life.”