MADISON, Wis. –  When Kirsty Blattner learned she would be coming to UW Carbone for monthly immunotherapy appointments for the next year, she knew she had to find a way to make it fun.

            With a love of getting dressed up and a husband ready for the challenge, monthly themed costumes began. They have dressed up as pirates, cats, and for Thanksgiving, turkeys. When they dressed up as a bride and groom they kept getting congratulated as if they’d just gotten married.

            “I think it brings joy to the amazing staff at Carbone and I love that,” Blattner said. “I know it makes it fun for us and helps us look forward to our appointments.”

            Kendra O’Connell, RN, nurse manager at UW Carbone, strongly agrees with that.

            “We always look forward to seeing what they’re going to wear next,” she said. “It’s inspiring to see a patient share this positive perspective with others.”

            This month Blattner and her husband, Cris Blattner, dressed up as Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo, characters from Game of Thrones.

            “We’re always brainstorming what our next costumes will be,” Blattner said. “We love collecting all the elements to create something different every month.”

            Blattner, a Madison-based teacher who just celebrated her 47th birthday, was first diagnosed with melanoma 6 years ago when she was approximately 5 months pregnant with her daughter. While the initial melanoma was removed, the cancer returned in the spring of 2021 and needed to be removed surgically. According to her oncologist at UW Carbone, Dr. Mark Albertini, who is also a professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, Blattner had recurrent melanoma and they had to take a proactive step after surgery to lower the risk of the melanoma returning.

           “She is undergoing a year of monthly immunotherapy infusions to enable her body to better protect against any possible residual melanoma cancer cells,” Albertini said. “This type of ‘immune checkpoint blockade’ treatment has revolutionized care for patients with melanoma.”

            According to Albertini, who established the UW Carbone Cancer Center Comprehensive Melanoma Clinic in 1994, Blattner has responded well to the treatments.

            “While there is a possibility for serious side effects, she has fortunately had only minor side effects,” he said. “And there is a high likelihood that the melanoma will never return once she completes the year of infusions.”

            Blattner has four infusion appointments left and while she’s looking forward to completing the series, for now she’s looking forward to four more opportunities to create cool costumes and spread some joy.

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