‘Miracle’ patient beats the odds: Overcomes Stage 3 melanoma, gains respect for sun
By Brian Sodoma
Many people at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert refer to him as “The Miracle Patient.”
Philippe Garnier, 44, has certainly earned such a title. Garnier has endured an intense, five-year cancer battle that, by all accounts, he probably should have lost. The experience has re-shaped many of the daily choices he makes and his overall philosophy on life.
Growing up in Montreal, the French Canadian saw plenty of long winters, and sunny beach escapes were on his mind. So, when the opportunity to live in the Caribbean islands came, he took it. For six years, he enjoyed the sun, and one of his favorite activities, snorkeling. But Garnier also admits to being a bit careless when it came to sun protection.
“I didn’t like the [sunscreen] creams,” he says. Even in his teen years, while still living in Canada, he ventured into tanning booths. “I thought I needed to have a tan.”
Stage 3 melanoma was found on his back in 2008, many years after his Caribbean experiences. The melanoma later traveled to his underarms and spine, requiring multiple surgeries and aggressive cancer treatments. The experience even crippled him at one point. He relied heavily on Banner MD Anderson physical therapist, Leona Sharman, for regaining the use of his right arm.
“She helped me so much,” Garnier adds. “I lost about 90 percent mobility of my arm and have gotten most of it back.”
Playing it smart
Garnier still loves the sun. He vacationed almost every month in 2013, visiting beaches and other sunny spots. But now he plays it smart, and he’s not too concerned about his tan.
“I usually go to the beach in the mornings, from about nine to 11, then I leave,” he said. “I wear a hat. I use SPF 60 sunscreen. If I go into the water, I always have a shirt on. I used to think I wanted a tan…I’m OK with my skin being white now.”
Garnier has remained cancer-free throughout 2013. He now eats more of a plant-based diet with minimal processed foods, avoids sugars, fats and stress as much as possible, elements that literally “feed” cancer, he has learned.
Garnier’s cancer journey has also framed a fresh perspective on life. He has created a website chronicling his “miracle” journey, and he’s also learned the power of the many friends and family he has around the world.
“I have people praying for me around the planet. It really helps.”