By Randall Banks
I was diagnosed with metastatic stage IV melanoma in 2003 after a lymph node resection in Wichita Falls, Texas.
At that stage in my life, I was very active on the job and off, and I always felt sure that I was 100 percent healthy. In a matter of moments, I felt confused and then scared after I did some research and realized how serious the situation was. At that point, I became very angry.
The anger, I'm guessing, worked for me in a good way. I was determined to work harder than ever before, to make money to support my family as best I could.
But after chemotherapy, I couldn't work at my physically demanding job as a mail carrier, and I retired.
Two years later, I learned the melanoma had spread to my left lung. I had two surgeries, and then took part in a T-cell therapy clinical trial at MD Anderson that felt like my greatest challenge at the time, mostly because of the chills and the shakes I got after the interleukin-2 infusions.
But I was determined to not let melanoma -- or any of my treatments -- beat me.
How I stayed active during T-cell treatment
I kept myself going so I could build myself back up and heal. That strategy has gotten me to where I am today, 10 years after I was first told I had metastatic melanoma.
It's been 4 years since I took part in that T-cell trial, and I've never felt better.
Tests showed that the tumors in my body started to shrink after I got the therapy. Today, I'm staying active and doing things that I always wanted to do.
I purchased a motorcycle, and I now go for a ride whenever I get down. It always takes me to a better place.
I've traveled on that motorcycle from coast to coast, and I've enjoyed making friends with all the wonderful people I've met on the road.
Life is what we make of it. I know that I am very lucky. I have my health, thanks to the treatments that I received at MD Anderson.
The care that I got from the doctors and nurses who took care of me during my T-cell treatment was great, to say the least. But getting through the side effects of that treatment turned out to be the most physically and emotionally demanding experience I'd ever had.
Again, I got through it by taking action. Every night, when there was no one in the hospital halls, I grabbed my medicine tree and went for a long walk. After I got home, I did the same thing. I still do.
Being true to myself has kept me alive
Besides my health, I have a very loving family, including three wonderful sons and two granddaughters. My family supports me in whatever I decide to do, and I enjoy our family activities.
But essentially, I believe that the way that I live my life -- by staying active every day and doing the things that are important to me -- is what has kept me alive and doing so well.
I have a philosophy that I live by: Do the little things that are the most important things. They are the things that make my day. Breathe in, breathe out. All the rest is just colored bubbles.