I started to see a dermatologist in 2007, knowing that my skin type, complexion and freckles left me
susceptible to skin cancer. I spent a lot of time in the sun, as a kid, and had numerous
burns with blisters over the years.
In that first exam, July 2007, he did a thorough check of my body, making notes about what
was where and which ones we should keep an eye on. He found and removed a
suspicious spot on my left leg. It was analyzed and showed "questionable" basal cell. He
did a deeper excision at that location, which came back with "clean" margins. I had an
annual appointment in July. No issues were found in 2008 or 2009.
Around the holidays, 2009, I noticed a spot on the back of my left calf that was not there
in July. As I watched it change and get darker in color, I called his office and asked if I
could be seen sooner than my annual appointment in July. They said he was booked and
put me on a cancellation list. Then my request for a cancellation appointment fell through
the cracks. I specifically told them that I was concerned about how quickly this thing was
growing and changing!
Needless to say, when I did get to visit him July 22, 2010, he was immediately concerned
about that spot. I told him I called to get in sooner and he was going to "discuss" the
process of creating a cancellation call list with his staff. I got the impression that he was
sure there were canceled appointments and I could have seen him sooner! Of course,
hindsight being 20/20, I would have been on the phone every hour of every day to get in
He removed 3 spots that day. One tested negative, another showed basal cell again and
the one on my calf was Melanoma!!! He removed more from the basal cell, which then
tested clear. He told me I should see a plastic surgeon to have the melanoma excised. I
didn't realize, until I saw that surgeon, how big this deal really was!
The cells were more than 2 mm deep, so he described how he would take a 2.5" chunk
from my calf and all the way down to the muscle! He also was the first that mentioned
anything about the cancer spreading to the lymph nodes. He advised me to allow him to
conduct a sentinel node biopsy prior to removing the spot. That's what happened
September 14, 2010 (My 45th birthday!). Unfortunately, the biopsy showed that it had
traveled to my lymph nodes and one was removed.
Oh, by the way, the stress of my diagnosis and realization of what I was facing, sent me
into a severe MS episode! They used IV steroids on me to get through it and that agitated
my acid reflux as chest pains. I spent a day in the ER being treated for heart attack and it
was reflux all along. They treated me with Nitro twice, which gave me a migraine headache
for 2 weeks! The MS went into remission, but where I used to have numbness and fatigue,
I now have pain and extreme fatigue!
The analysis on that node was positive for melanoma. That takes me to the next
recommended step. I was referred to Johns Hopkins. I saw a medical and surgical
oncologist. They both recommended a complete dissection of the nodes in my left groin.
The medical oncologist noted that he would not treat me with interferon or immunology
because of the MS. On October 31, 2010, (Halloween) I had a lymph node dissection.
It took a LONG time to recuperate from that surgery. I set records, at the oncologist's
office, with the amount of fluid I was producing. I was making 2-3 trips to Hopkins, per
week, to have it manually drained! Then, in February 2011, I went to ER with high fever
and stomach pain. There was an infection in my wound! High doses of antibiotics were
dripped and since they didn't do originally surgery, my local hospital wouldn't touch me, so
they shipped me off to Hopkins, via ambulance, after 2 days of antibiotics.
On February 14, 2011, (Valentine's Day) the surgeon re-entered my wound and removed
the infection. I was then sent home with a wound vac to help with the healing process! My
oncologist, at Hopkins, would not consider interferon treatment because of my MS. My
neurologist said, "MS is a pain in the ass. Melanoma could kill you. Let's treat the
melanoma and worry about the MS if we need to."
I contacted CTCA with the hope that their Melanoma Specialist would work with my MS
Specialist at Hopkins to start and get me through the treatment. They didn't even let me
stay past the 1st day, saying there was nothing they could do. I believe they realized I
wasn't going to get treatment, but if I did, I wouldn't be doing it there. No money for them,
so they turned me loose! They wouldn't even run the Braf DNA test on the sample they had
from my dissection! Boooooooooooo! I get pissed every time I see those stupid
I managed to, finally, go back to work, after being off for almost 6 months! I determined,
in March 2011, that I could no longer work full-time. I had to use a walker to get from my
car to the office and it was only one block away! This is when I applied for, and was
immediately granted Social Security Disability. I went part-time at my job, after 15 years of
After almost 2 years of clear scans, the February 2013 scan came up. As I was no longer
full-time, I was paying COBRA premiums and had a $1,500 deductible. I was eligible for
MediCare in March 2013 and seriously considered postponing that scan until I didn't have
to pay out of my pocket. I didn't postpone and that scan very well could have saved my life!
Still owe local hospital $1,200 for that scan!
After almost 2 years of clean scans, this one showed an enlarged node in my left
abdomen. Let the fun begin!!! My employer of 15 years, would not work with me concerning
my job. I was scheduled for surgery March 19, 2013. I would need at least 5 weeks to
recuperate, then start interferon treatment for 4 weeks. They would/could not keep my job
for me. So I am now unemployed!!!
Dissection of abdomen was performed in March 2013. Only one node was positive, but it
was attached to a major blood vessel. Surgeon had to bring in vascular specialist to assist.
Because of that issue, they decided I should have radiation. This time, not doing Interferon
wasn't an option. This treatment and MS do not go well together! I made it through the first
30 days. After those 30 days, I was to start self-injection 3 times/week for another 11
months! Having MS made my 30 days so miserable, I chose quality of life and decided not
to go forward. All I have read indicates you get the most “bang for your buck” in those 30
days and I couldn't see living like that for a whole year! The benefit didn’t promise enough
to make it worth it for me.
As usual, things didn't go smoothly with surgery site. During set-up for radiation, they
noticed a fluid pocket. They would not go forward with it until it was gone. I had to have a
drain placed to assist with drainage of fluid. Took forever for it to dry-up! And during
swimming/boating season!!! Radiation was next! This, for a change, went off without a
hitch! Although I did start losing hair during the process. Am now convinced that the
radiation brought-on menopause, which assisted in hair loss issues! In November 2013,
I had a CT to see if surgery, treatment, radiation was successful. It was a clear scan!!!
I found a lump in my abdomen, last month. I saw the surgeon, who moved my scan up
from the end of April 2014. After a week of scanxiety, I was told the scan was clear and my
next scan won’t be for 6 months! That makes me a little nervous, but I will be adamant
about checking my skin for anything new or changing and my lymph nodes for swelling.
Another battle won in the war against the Black Beast!