Since I have a strong family history of melanoma, I kinda actually felt safer than others in a strange way. Safer than those who didn't know that a mole could kill you. I knew what to do, knew what to look for, I got regular skin checks from the dermatologist, wore sunscreen, sat in the shade, etc, etc. I knew I would probably get a melanoma at some point, just a matter of when. But I also knew that if I caught it early, all would be fine, no big deal. I had my first mole removed at 14 and in the next 23 years I had so many moles removed, it was kinda routine. As routine as having parts of your skin removed can be anyway. I knew my family history meant I was more than likely gonna get it "sometime". Then my "sometime" came.
It was a thin superficial spreading melanoma that left me with a 3 inch by 1 1/2 inch wide scar on my lower back. It was scary, it was hard, but I made it through. My "sometime" had come and gone and now I felt kinda safe again. I was upped to 2x a year at the dermatologist. If any more arrive, I am in good hands. But then the phone call came. It's another melanoma. "What stage is it Dr?" "We won't know till we test your lymph nodes"...............lymph node! what?!
I didn't feel safe anymore.
You see, the thing with knowledge is, it needs to be accurate, and more is better. We should have known the beast we face. I should have respected it more. For a family full of melanoma, we should have known! We always thought raised moles were ok. We always thought if you caught it early, all would be well. We didn't know there were different kinds of melanoma. We didn't know that nodular melanoma grows faster than the others and straight down. How did I get caught with a 2.45 mm deep melanoma, me, the one who knew what to do?!
Now I know that any stage can progress to stage 3 or 4 without advance notice. This site is full of stage 1 patients that have progressed! Now I know that I need to advocate for my own body, not to trust in the Dr so fully. He can make mistakes too. If it grows, itches, bleeds, or just doesn't feel right. When in doubt, just cut it out!! I would have had that nobby little growing thing on my arm cut off sooo much earlier if I was listening to my "spidey senses". But I waited, and now I am in "limbo land" wondering if one day, a cough will turn into a lung metastasis or a headache into a brain tumor.
I now have a third melanoma. It is thin, it is superficial spreading melanoma again. The average person has a 6% chance of getting a second melanoma. I have had 3 in 3 years. I guess I have blown that statistic out of the water. So I am feeling on the short end of the statistics right now. My 80% chance of survival in the next 4 years, seems a little slimmer.
In round 3 of my battles with melanoma, I have decided to no longer sit on my hands. Its just too much. I need to let it out of my "skin". Be an active participant in this cancer thing, instead of just hoping it will stand at the doorway and leave me alone. And so I am writing my story, to my friends on facebook, and on a blog. I am so amazed at how it has changed my mood. When you feel forward movement it lifts your spirits. In the weeks since I started writing, I have gone from depression to vibrancy.
Thank you! to this site for encouraging us to share our stories. It should be standard therapy for all cancer patients.
All my best to my fellow melanoma patients and their families. We are united by uncertainty, but we can help each other by sharing our experiences.