Ben Talbert

My husband Ben, 34, diagnosed Stage IIIA in May 2014. CLND - Done! Now the biggie: interferon or not?


On June 13, 2014, my husband Ben, 34, was diagnosed with Stage III Malignant Melanoma.  We have been happily married for nearly 9 years, and have three little boys, ages 5, 3 and 1.

After noticing some recent changes in a large mole on his chest (about 2" from his right nipple), he made an appointment to get it removed the week before Memorial Day and all went well. However, on Wednesday, May 28, Ben received a call from the dematologist's office informing him that his mole was actually a "Malignant Melanoma."  (We could find photographs of the mole on his chest in Summer of 2012, but no earlier.  He had noticed changes in color and size about 6 months prior, but attributed it to working out and his sweaty shifts irritating it.)

The next afternoon, we met with a general surgeon who explained the procedure to remove the tumor, and identify & remove the correct lymph nodes for testing. He also gave us info that the tumor was 1.9mm floor to ceiling, and the mitosis rate is 10/mm.  We got a second opinion from Dr. Stephen Trocha who is a surgical oncologist who specializes in melanoma, here at GHS' Cancer Center of the Carolinas. He pretty much backed everything up that we had been told, but both Ben and I felt 100% more comfortable with a specialist doing the work.

On June 5, Ben had outpatient surgery on his chest to remove the residual tumor. They removed a wedge shaped piece of tissue, all the way down to his muscle, as well as 2 lymph nodes from under his arm. Pathology results showed small traces of cancer (micromets) on both sentinel nodes. 

On July 2, Ben had a right axillary lymph node dissection.  Recovery was swift for the actual incision, however the drain tube was a total pain.  Ben is still regaining his full range of motion, but is able to work out again (modified upper body).  We have not had any lympodema concerns so far. Our next step is to decide on whether or not to pursue treatment, and if so, what that looks like for our family.  With such modest statistical benefits of interferon, we are leaning towards the "watch & wait" approach.

And here's the best part of this whole thing: Despite all of these unfortunate circumstances, we can totally see & feel God's hand in it all. See, Ben was let go from his job in early May. In order to use up all of the flex spending dollars we had pre-allocated, we scheduled doctor's visits for the ones you put off as long as you can...eye doctor, dentist, dematologist. Had Ben not lost his job, he would not have even gone to get this mole removed in the first place...meaning it have would continued to grow and potentially take over his body. Our network of family, friends, church family, & neighbors are incredible, and have already opened up new doors for Ben in terms of his new career as an Executive Recruiter, as well as connecting with others who have been through very similar health situations.

We covet your prayers, and we are claiming God's healing promises."I will not die, but live and will proclaim what The Lord has done." Psalm 118:17

Mon, 2014-07-28


MaryElizabeth - (9/18/2014 - 9:27am)

Thank you for sharing Ben's story.  Did you decide to "wait and watch" or did you opt for the Interferon?  We are faced with the same decision.  Thank you.


g_booker - (10/6/2014 - 12:56pm)

I have stage II C and I'm going through the same decision process on interferon.  I'm also leaning against taking the substantial loss in quallity of life for the marginal chance of help from interferon.

Marissasrn - (9/8/2015 - 10:09pm)

Just wondering what you decided. If you chose inf, you are probably almost done. How are your scans?