I was diagnosed with melanoma in 2012, just 3 months after having my first child. Here is my story:
It was a hot spring day and my family decided it would be a great day to go out on the boat. I debated on wearing my swim suit...(what kind of person wants to put one on 3 months after having a baby?! Not me, lol!) But...my husband talked me into it since I was just going to be around my family who doesn't care about my post-baby chub :) Well... I thank God that he did. When we were on the boat, my husband noticed a mole on my back (bra line) that he said looked really "weird". It was in such a spot that no one really sees. And who knows when we would have noticed it had I not listened to him and worn my swim suit that day. Black and red are the words he used to describe it. I am an R.N., and you'd think when I heard that description it would have set off an alarm in my head...but it didn't. So after my husband and parents lectured me on how I needed to get it removed, I decided to call and make an appointment with my family doctor. He was able to get me in the next day (thank God, again!)
My doctor took one look at it and said it needed to be removed. Told me to come back in in 2 weeks for suture removal. He said he would call me prior to this appointment if the pathology came back abnormal, but if it was normal we would discuss it at my follow up. I had never had a mole removed before, so when I came home with seven stitches in my back I still didn't think much of it. At this point in my nursing career I had only specialized in orthopedics, so I wasn't all too familiar with mole removal. Since I was under the impession that no news was good news, I had absolutely no idea how my life was going to change that Friday morning 2 weeks later.
I walked in to the office smiling, ready to get the itchy sutures out. It was a beautiful day and I couldn't wait to get home so I could take my baby girl on a walk. So when my doctor sat down, looked me in the eye, and said "You have melanoma", I laughed. Yes. that's right....out loud. Apparently I thought he was joking with me (since that's something people joke about....not!). Well, as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer knows, the rest of what he said was all kind of a blur. I did gather that the pathology wasn't great, it was a T3 tumor, 2.2mm and had a high mitotic rate. Thanks to nursing school I did remember that tumors only have 4 stages, so 3 wasn't exactly great news.
Everything moved fairly quick after that. I was sent to see a wonderful dermatologist that same morning. I can't say enough good about her. She spent about an hour with my husband and I explaining everything and answering any questions we had. She kind of braced us that based on the path report...it was very likely the melanoma had spread. But she reassured us that there are some great treatments out there for it. She set me up with a surgeon to have a wide excision and sentinel lymph node biopsy and also set me up for a PET scan. Then she referred me to an oncologist about 4 hours away who is well known for his expertise in melanoma. She wanted me to have the best care since I was young and had a little baby at home.
As quickly as the "bad" news came, we began to get some great news too! The PET scan came back clear, and of the 15 lymph nodes I had removed, they all came back negative for melanoma! So off to Minnesota we went to see the oncologist, feeling pretty hopeful at this point. The great news continued- he did not feel I needed any further treatment at that time. No chemo, no radiation! Thank you, God, again!!! He diagnosed my melanoma as stage IIA, and said had it been IIB he would have recommended further treatment. I was so relieved!! And I am a firm believer that it is all in the power of prayer! And I was blessed to have so many prayer warriors during this time.
Now it has been two years ago this month. I see my dermatologist every 3 months. I have had many other moles removed, all which have been atypical, but no cancer! Last summer I had to have some suspicious lymph nodes removed from my groin area-but those came back negative as well!
I grew up in a very sunny state. I grew up playing softball, which meant a lot of time in the sun. I also enjoyed being in the sun even when I wasn't playing softball. I always wore my sunscreen, and never had horrible sunburns, but that just goes to show you can never be safe enough! I also spent my fair share of time in the tanning bed during the cooler months. And all I can say is I am a huge advocate for states banning tanning beds for those under 18, because at that age, you just can't comprehend what you are possibly doing to your body.
As we all know, we live in a society that promotes being tan as being beautiful. But it's not worth it...trust me...it's not! So educate your loved ones and protect yourself! Five minutes spent applying sunscreen could save a life!!
So 2 years later, I am cancer free. I try not to take any moments for granted, good or bad. And I wake up each morning with a deeper appreciation for this life that God has blessed me with. My husband and I welcomed our second baby girl into the world a few months back, and I couldn't be more thankful than to get to be here to watch my babies grow :)
For all of you who are fighting melanoma - keep fighting! Miracles happen every day! For those of you who have successfully fought - way to go!
For those of you who have lost loved ones to this melanoma - my heart and prayers go out to you!
Educate, educate, educate!!
And one more thing.... pale is the NEW beautiful :)