Teacher facing down
By Kelly Feser Eells
Matilija Junior High School teacher
Jim McCune was diagnosed with ocular melanoma, a rare form of
cancer, three years ago - the year his son, Conor, was born and
his other son, Spencer, was 2 years old.
Other than experiencing some slight vision anomalies, McCune
was in excellent health and the diagnosis took family, friends
and colleagues somewhat by surprise.
But few were surprised by his attitude, or how quickly the popular
history teacher returned to work once treatment (which included
enucleation, or removal of the eye, and a year of interferon
therapy) had begun.
"Jim's an incredibly positive person," said Erin Adveeff,
McCune's sister-in-law and a former Ojai Unified School District
speech therapist. "And he's in a really positive frame of
mind right now," she added, explaining that, sadly, the
cancer has returned.
Last month, during a routine CAT scan, McCune's doctors discovered
a tumor in his liver. He was immediately scheduled for surgery
at UCLA, and though they had intended to operate, they "discovered
he had 50 to 60 tumors in his liver and that the degree of cancer
was too great" to do so.
And though one of the smaller tumors was removed (to see if vaccine
therapy might work), McCune's physicians were at a loss to provide
any other form of treatment.
Just last week, however, "Jim was accepted into a trial
program in Philadelphia," says Adveeff, acknowledging that,
while she had been doing a lot of crying in recent days, "we're
really happy to have something positive to focus on now."
The "we" includes sister Sarah, Jim's wife and a Mira
Monte Elementary School teacher; brother Matt Inman, an Ojai
Valley School teacher, and Inman's wife, Ann, a Nordhoff High
School teacher; and, of course, McCune himself.
Between Jim, "who is so well-liked at Matilija" and
the rest of the family, "we probably know at least half
the kids in the community," Adveeff smiles, indicating that
she hopes residents will join them in helping her brother-in-law
battle this deadly disease.
The Philadelphia program (which McCune began last weekend) has
been proven to significantly extend the lives of 50 to 60 percent
of the ocular metastasized melanoma patients enrolled. Overseen
by Dr. Takami Sato at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital,
"Some patients," Adveeff noted, "have gone on
to live seven years" after their diagnoses.
The treatment - immunembolization - is conducted monthly, over
a two-to three-day period.
After three months, "they'll take a (blood, bilirubin, etc.)
reading" to determine whether the tumors have responded
to treatment and/or the cancer has spread, "and he'll continue
the trial as long as the therapy is helpful."
Adveeff encourages everyone to "visit" McCune at the
family Web site, www.jimmccune.com. "We have some big things
in the works for Jim," she said, explaining that, not only
is the family planning several upcoming benefits, but is looking
for help with travel, e.g., donations of "Frequent Flyer"
miles, and soliciting general support.
A benefit party at Soule Park is in the works; date to be announced.
Call Adveeff at 640-8866 for more information or visit the Web
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