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A Lafayette resident and patient of IU Health Dr. Theodore F. Logan is fighting melanoma and the side effects of her life-saving therapy.
Her long brown hair is now platinum blonde. Her skin – once sun-kissed – is now creamy white. The transformation is one of many changes that Lindsey Frazee has learned to accept.
There’s been weight loss, diabetes, blurred vision and colitis too – all side effects of the immunotherapy that is helping her body fight melanoma. The whole body therapy is Frazee’s hope of activating her immune system so that is can go to battle and destroy the melanoma cells. The side effects were so difficult for her that she suspended treatment for two years. She’s back at it now.
“Of all the side effects the vitiligo was the most interesting, the biggest change. It’s like I went from one look, one person to something completely different,” said Frazee, 27. Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) that give color to skin, hair and eyes, die off.
The transformation is especially an adjustment for Frazee given her path to adulthood. Born in Indiana, she moved to Florida at the age of five and spent her teen years soaking up the sun. When she later moved back to Indiana, she made regular visits to tanning salons to help her maintain her golden glow.
In March 2015 she was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma – a type of advanced Stage IV skin cancer that has spread to other parts of her body. The diagnosis didn’t come immediately. A nurse at a Lafayette hospital, Frazee first visited her family practitioner when she noticed a small blue lump near the crease of her right arm.
“They said it was a fatty deposit but six months down the road I developed more larger blue bumps on my chest They took a biopsy and it came back as Stage IV skin cancer,” said Frazee, who has been married to her Jefferson High School sweetheart, Robert for two years. They’ve been together for nine years.
“She was in nursing school when she was diagnosed and has never given up,” said Robert. “She has stayed strong and positive.” He remembers after one of her first treatments – 14 hours of cerebral radiation – Frazee wrapped her head in gauze and drove straight from treatment to one of her classes. Scans have identified twelve tumors in her brain and in practically every organ in her body. One of the largest – in her adrenal gland, is 12 centimeters.
“When the scans showed progression we started the immunotherapy. This time it’s been a little better. I can still work and that’s something I love,” said Frazee who works in a medical/surgical unit and hopes to work in oncology some day.
“I was in shock when I was first diagnosed. I didn’t expect this to happen to me,” said Frazee. “I was given about six months to live. I’m still here and we’re hoping that we can keep shrinking the tumor and I can keep going.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health. Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.