Meet the Patients Featured in the UofL vs. Notre Dame “Marching Together” Halftime Show

Meet the Patients Featured in the UofL vs. Notre Dame “Marching Together” Halftime Show
Erica Buntin

Name: Erica Buntin

Diagnosis: Melanoma

Favorite Song: “Accidentally in Love” by The Counting Crows

Erica Buntin was in the prime of her life – she was a newlywed and in school to become a nurse practitioner when she was diagnosed with melanoma in 2015 at the age of 25.

“It was on the bottom of my foot,” Erica said. “It wasn’t the usual black or brown – it was bright red and purple.”

Doctors told Erica they would have to do a surgery they hadn’t done in 30 years. They took skin off the bottom of her heel and replaced it with skin from her thigh. Erica couldn’t walk for six months while still being in school.

After her surgeries, Erica went through six months of chemotherapy, but three months later she was diagnosed again with stage 3 melanoma. It had gone from her foot to her knee to her hip.

Erica spent the next six months on a clinical trial of KEYTRUDA® (an immunotherapy drug) and T-VEC (an oncolytic virus that works by infecting and killing tumor cells).

“I was very blessed that UofL [Health] does this because the only other options to get this were in Texas and North Carolina,” she said. “I was able to get the treatment I needed close to home and my family could be part of the journey.”

Because Erica participated in this clinical trial, she is one of the patients that helped get this treatment FDA approved so that other melanoma patients can now get this treatment.

Unfortunately, two months before graduating from nurse practitioner school, Erica still wasn’t feeling well.

“They found it [cancer] in my lungs and told me I had 10 months to live, which was close to five years ago now,” she said. “I started two new medicines and have been on [them] twice a day ever since. I’m beating the record for these clinical trials because a lot of patients are only on these medicines for five years. But I’m holding strong and I’m clear.”

Erica said she was at the top of her game just before being diagnosed with cancer. Her cancer diagnosis completely humbled her because it caused her to see how life could change so quickly.

“It’s changed the way my husband and I live life…we choose to be happy,” Erica said. “Cancer has changed our lives drastically. We didn’t see our lives going this way. It’s changed the way we work and how we have a family, but we’re not letting cancer control that.”

Erica and her husband are making a family their own way – through foster care. Two little boys have joined their family through foster care over the past year.

Michael Griffin

Name: Michael Griffin

Diagnosis: Lung Cancer

Favorite Song: “The Next Episode” by Dr. Dre

Michael Griffin was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017 when he lived in Bowling Green, Ky. He received chemotherapy at a local treatment center, but when it didn’t work, his sister suggested he come to UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center. Michael actually made the decision to move to Louisville to be closer to Brown Cancer Center and the treatment he needed.

“By a miracle I’m still here six years later,” he said. “At one time I didn’t think I was going to make it, but after I went through the immunotherapy treatment, it worked. I’m proud to be here.”

Michael said he used to be a party guy, but his life changed when he received his cancer diagnosis.

“I thought I was going to be a goner,” he said. “But since the treatment I’m taking now, it’s changed my life completely.”

Michael said he is glad he came to Louisville when he did.

“I have a strong belief in God and my doctors,” he said. “I’m more thankful than anything.”

Ray Edwards

Name: Ray Edwards

Diagnosis: Multiple Myeloma

Favorite Song: “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” by Elton John

Ray Edwards was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, in February 2019. He went through two stem cell transplants through the UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center – Blood Cancers, Cellular Therapeutics and Transplant Program, one of only two adult stem cell transplant programs in Kentucky.

Ray is now on a newer drug and says he’s not cured, but the cancer is treatable.

“Cancer is an eye-opening experience,” Ray said. “It’s not what happens to you in life, but what you do about it. You can make a difference to other people…I get through it with my family, friends, church family and the Lord.”

Ray also said he is thankful for his family at UofL Health.

“Dr. Hegazi’s team is always there to help,” he said. “Every week that I go for treatment, they step up and they’re always there smiling. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would be.”

For the past 40 years, UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center has been a leading face of world-renowned academic research and cancer care. As a result, we help patients face cancer with new hope throughout Kentuckiana and around the globe. Call 502-562-HOPE (4673) to learn more and make an appointment.

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Article by: UofL Health

UofL Health is a fully integrated regional academic health system with eight hospitals, four medical centers, Brown Cancer Center, Eye Institute, nearly 200 physician practice locations, and more than 1,000 providers in Louisville and the surrounding counties, including southern Indiana. Additional access to UofL Health is provided through a partnership with Carroll County Memorial Hospital. With more than 13,000 team members – physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and other highly-skilled health care professionals, UofL Health is focused on one mission: to transform the health of communities we serve through compassionate, innovative, patient-centered care.

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