Kantar Health Blog

Watching the sunset with weeks to live

by Richard Martin | Sep 29, 2011
Richard Martin

Recently a friend of mine on queue at a beach ice cream shop struck up a conversation with a teenager waiting in front of him. As they talked about flavors and the weather my friend asked the young man where he was from and how they were enjoying their holiday. He said it was a good holiday, pointing out a woman standing in the distance in knee deep water staring into the sunset. It was his mother who they expected to die of skin cancer - metastatic melanoma - in a matter of weeks. She had never been to the sea and wanted to see it before she passed. My friend was made numb by the words and was amazed at the strength and composure of the young man standing before him.

That story came back to me in an instant on the recent approval of Zelboraf® (vemurafenib, Roche/Genentech). Zelboraf joined Yervoy® (ipilimumab, Bristol-Myers Squibb), approved earlier this year for the treatment of malignant melanoma. Their mechanisms of action are vastly different as are their methods of administration, dosing schedules and other important features. The technical aspects of these therapies aren't my point though.

My thoughts run more to the human drama of these treatments. As I read the information on life extension made possible by these therapies I thought of that young man and his mother. Had she been on one of these recently approved products already, which perhaps made the trip to the beach possible? If not, could they have made it possible for her to not only watch a sunset at sea with her family this summer but also see her son graduate from high school a year from now? We'll never know, but with the approval of Zelboraf® there is more hope now than before for people with late stage melanoma. It is a wonderful industry we are a part of, one that brings hope, comfort and a better quality of life to millions.

As my friend told me about watching that young man carry an ice cream cone to his mother I couldn't help but think about the things we often take for granted in our lives; our family, our friends, our jobs which so many less fortunate than us would love to have, or our own health. Why is it so easy to get wrapped up in unimportant things and miss the beauty of a sunset with a loved one or the good fortune we have in this very moment? Respecting the strength of that young man and his mother I, for one, am determined to do better. 

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