In 2013 I had been watching a mole closely and decided with urging from my sister and my gynecologist that I should definitely get this looked at. I had almost canceled the dermatology appointment thinking it was no big deal. Not being sure, but saying it looked “suspicious” he scheduled me back that Friday to remove the mole. Then the long wait for the results. A week later I went back to get stitches out and results. He came back and said it was in fact stage IIIB Melanoma. Having no clue what that meant I didn’t have a lot of fear or concern at that point. He did tell me that I would need a further surgery based on pathology parameters to clear the margins. I left the office with a lot of unanswered questions or what my fate would even be. I told my family members, and my younger sister who is a year younger than me. She worked in pathology and of course knew exactly what it meant but never said a word even though she was always the big worrier of the family. I had never been a big worrier but at 31-years-old I had never imagined being diagnosed with cancer. Everyone says research is the best thing, but when I hit Google searching for what was next, my heart dropped. I immediately couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, panic attacks set in, and all the what-ifs came to light. I had two little girls, Madalyn and Avary who I couldn’t imagine leaving behind.
I made an appointment with a surgeon for second surgery to clear parameters and also an oncologist who my step-mom used for her breast cancer. Before I knew it I was scheduled for surgery. It seem like time flew but it had only been a couple of weeks. I had to go back for a nuclear med procedure before surgery which took about an hour and consisted of about four shots in my upper thigh to illuminate lymph nodes in my groin area for removal. Then off to surgery I went. I didn’t remember a thing until I came out of surgery and it was time to go home. The surgeon ended up cutting about eight inches wide and four inches deep to clear all parameters on my right inner thigh. Then we waited for results. Finally, the call I had waited for…..all the parameters were clear and all the lymph nodes that were removed were negative, nothing had spread. Yay!!! I felt a little bit at ease, but there was still the oncology visit to see if there were any follow up procedures I would need. The day came when I finally went to the Tulsa Cancer Institute of Tulsa. I remember seeing the nurse and my heartrate was over 160, the doctor came in and gave me a little smile and said to me “you’re a little nervous”? I know I looked at him like he was nuts thinking to myself who wouldn’t be in a place like this. Haha…anyways he told me that he didn’t think in my case that I would need any chemo or radiation but every 6 month checks and of course keep a frequent check with my dermatologist. That day I felt a sense of relief and I could finally feel myself becoming “me” again.
I have hit my 3 year mark this past March (March 2016). My dermatologist and I are BFF’s. This past November I had a mole removed but it was negative and I’m sure I was being paranoid but better safe than sorry. If I have any questions or concerns he is very attentive and gets me in right away which I am so grateful for. I still go every six months to both oncologist and dermatologist and will for as long as they will let me. My two girls also have yearly skin checks and they are only 13 and 6 (they say thanks mom ☺).
I hear so many stories of people being diagnosed with Melanoma and not following up or not thinking it is a serious disease. It is, please do NOT ignore what this disease is or what impact it can have on your life or the lives of others. Most sites and dermatologists say follow the ABCDEs of Melanoma: which is Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter, and Evolving. This is true; however my mole was not larger than the size of a pencil eraser (which is found under the category of diameter). I am sure it may have gotten that big if I would have let it go longer. Do not let it go that long.
Everyone’s stories and situations are different, so share and be aware. Protect yourselves and your loved ones. Stay out of tanning beds, and yes I was guilty of this as well.
I am now happy and healthy living in Muskogee, OK with my two sweet girls Maddie and Aves. I love my job working for the Department of Veterans Affairs helping Veterans. I value my life so much more than I once did. Instead of groaning about upcoming birthdays I now embrace them each year. My family and friends have been a great support system. They all know me so well and know that I am independent and would rather be alone when times are tough, but they are always there to catch me when I do fall and for this I am so appreciative. I love each and every one of them for all of their prayers, checking on me, going to doctor’s visits, helping take care of my girls, and most of all just loving me. Oh and of course putting up with my crazy anxiety every six months before my check-ups…those times I can get a little crazy. Thank you for letting me share my story and I love hearing all of yours.