I shot Melody in her home for Cure magazine 2018 Cancer special. I wanted to show her as she is, a lovely warm spirted mum. Her home was very homely and inviting so photographing her in this environment was perfect. There was lots of generous daylight bouncing around from a nearby conservatory so using daylight added to the natural feel. I used a 50mm Lens here to give lots of space to the portraits.
Melody Ransome didn’t know she had choriocarcinoma until 2 1/2 years after giving birth to her son. She was 39 years old. By then, the tumors had metastasized to her liver, lungs, kidney, pancreas and brain. In retrospect, she recalls the warning signs of a persistent cough and a swollen abdomen.
Still, the doctors at Charing Cross Hospital in London, where Ransome lives, were undaunted. “They showed me the seven-centimeter tumor in my uterus and said, ‘We know what this is, and we can treat it,’” she recalls. After chemotherapy, Ransome went into remission, but she suffered two relapses over the next two years. The cancer progressed through five different chemotherapy regimens, two stem cell transplants and the removal of one-fifth of her left lung.
That’s when her oncologist tried Keytruda (pembrolizumab), an immunotherapy agent known as a monoclonal antibody that helps the body’s own immune system attack and kill cancer cells. An experimental treatment for choriocarcinoma, Keytruda is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat several other cancers, such as advanced melanoma, advanced non-small cell lung cancer and classical Hodgkin lymphoma. After the second infusion, Ransome’s HCG level had dropped by 50 percent.
“That was the moment I knew it was going to work,” she says. “In two months, I was in remission and have been ever since.” That was more than two years ago. While Ransome didn’t experience serious side effects from Keytruda, she still deals with side effects of EMA-CO, including tinnitus and neuropathy. Doctors continue to monitor her HCG through monthly urine samples and see her for annual checkups.
When a woman is diagnosed with GTN, odds are she doesn’t have a girlfriend, sister or aunt who’s been through it. “‘Choriocarcinoma,’ ‘placental trophoblastic disease’ — these were words I’d never heard before,” Ransome says.