Update #3 Colorado Bound (7/29/16)

Haaay Fraands,

It’s 5:30AM and I’m way too excited to be sitting on a plane for the next 5 hours. I’m at the airport sitting next to some guy with NEON orange hair and a coffee the size of my upper body. I’m waiting to board my flight to Colorado – I have my cleats packed because I have been APPROVED TO PLAY ULTIMATE WITH NO RESTRICTIONS THIS WEEKEND!!! I have to admit, even I am surprised how quickly I have been able to bounce back after surgery. I had surgery last friday (1 week ago) and by Monday I was approved to jog, which went great by the way (see pics below).  I have been doubling up on sports bras and binding my boobs with an ace-bandage the old-fashioned way in order to give more support and provide compression for the stitches under my arm and on my back. On my run on Monday, the ace-bandage came loose while Lege and I were on our way back across the Mass Ave bridge. It started to unravel so we stopped and tried to put me back together. This resulted in a lot of confused and nervous stares but luckily we’ve never really cared what people think about us 🙂 I have been following my sports bra/binding protocol for that last two days and have  been able to practice and play frisbee pain free! As long as I spend the time carefully warming up my right arm, I haven’t had any issues.


Now that I’ve tricked you all into reading about frisbee/my lady lumps for the past 2 minutes I’m going to actually discuss cancer updates. I have a follow-up appointment this coming Tuesday with my Surgeon, Dr. Cusack. There he will explain the results of my pathology report to me and hopefully take out all ~36 stitches.


If the pathology report has clear margins (no cancer cells extending to the edges of the tissue) then we can continue to move forward with applying to the clinical trial.

[Sicence alert] – They have to send my tissue to a central lab in California and there needs to be enough of it to make a certain number of slides required for entry into the study. They will also test the tissue for PD-L1 expression (programmed death ligand 1), which is an immune-related bio marker that may be expressed on the tumor cells of my tissue. Regardless of the outcome of the PD-L1 test, I am still allowed to continue on to the clinical trial.*** If my tissue tests positive for PD-L1 and I am randomly assigned to the experimental arm [Keytruda (pembroluzimab)], this probably means that Keytruda will be more effective in killing my cancer cells (but we don’t know for sure because that’s one of the reasons it’s being studied!).  PD-L1 essentially allows my cancer to hide from my immune system, so it doesn’t know to attack it. The drug keytruda is an anti- PD-L1, also called a check-point inhibitor, and it will alert/charge my immune system to recognize the cancer cells and then swiftly destroy Melanie. There have been a number of articles in the NYT’s recently talking about the promise and drawbacks of immunotherapy for Melanoma and other Cancer’s that don’e respond well to chemotherapy. Check them out here!

Again, I won’t know which drug I will get (see post 1 for more info) until 3-5 days before I start the trial. We are hoping to start treatment the week of August 22nd after I finish my summer term finals and have 3 weeks of “vacation.”

For those of you interested in my parents reactions/perspective related to the surgery and me playing in the tournament this weekend well here is a snippet of an e-mail momschwam sent out:

Momschwam: Yesterday, Elana had surgery on the two melanoma sites. They excised more tissue around each hoping to ensure that no cancer is left behind. In a week we should get the pathology report. She is feeling good, and is able to control her pain with Tylenol. When Elana’s surgeon reported to us on the surgery, he came in laughing, stating that she was emphatic he use nylon stitching ( as opposed to a more cosmetic process) which he explained would leave scarring, but was very strong and should hold so she can join her team ( Brute Squad) in the Colorado Cup next weekend. That’s correct, she expects to play next weekend. Dr. Cuisick quizzed her on what she needs to do should she bleed. She passed the test, and off she will go. What a character. As a mother, of course I’d appreciate it if she gave herself a little time to heal, but honestly, her father and I are amazed by her, and support her choices. We know she draws a lot of strength from her teammates, who by the way have created a T-shirt in her honor.

I’ll be posting my next update likely after my appointment Tuesday.

Thank you all so much for your continued support. My family and I have been so overwhelmed (in the best way) by the outpouring of love and support. You all make such a difference. For now I’ll be battling the dry heat and rare air, Colorado has to share.

Much love,

Schwambomb/Schwam/Elana

P. S.

If you are interested in following my team, Brute Squad at the tournament this weekend you can follow our Twitter @100percentBS.

***EDIT/UPDATE:
On 7/29 I originally published this post with a mistake saying that if my tissues didn’t test positive for PD-L1 then I wouldn’t be eligible for the clinical trial. This is false and I have since corrected it 8/1/16. Big thanks to my dad for catching the error and reminding me of good news!

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4 thoughts on “Update #3 Colorado Bound (7/29/16)

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