Sharon Waxler wasn't just the best Nana in the world, she was the most loving, generous, and ambitious person I ever met. As far back as I can remember, she was rarely sick but was always diligent about going to the doctor and staying healthy. The thought of her having cancer never crossed any of our minds as she began to seek treatment for foot pain.
She started noticing the pain toward the end of 2008. It was so severe that it interferred with daily activities. Her GP referred her to a podiatrist who began treating a black dot on the base of her big toe like it was a common plantar wart. The treatments worsened the condition, and it wasn't long until she insisted on a biopsy.
What it revealed was acral lentiginous melanoma. Unlike more common forms of melanoma, acral lentiginous is genetic, rarely found in Caucasians, and it starts on unusual parts of the body, such as the bottom of your foot, palm of your hand, or on the inside of your nose (or other mucus membranes). Had she sought the opinion of a dermatologist, she may have at least bought some time or still be with us today. Unfortunately by the time it was found and despite the removal of a toe and some lymph nodes, it spread to her brain. The wonderful team at MD Anderson Orlando worked tirelessly and tried different treatments, but they let us know that this form of cancer does not respond well to chemo and radiation. A little over a year after her diagnosis, she passed away after peacefully slipping into a coma.
Nearly 2 years after I lost Nana, I will not let her passing be in vain. As I do my part to support the search for cure, I encourage all to be vigilant about annual visits to the dermatologist. If just one person's life is saved by her story, I know that she would be grateful to have been able to help.
I love you and miss you everyday, Nana!
Courtney Waller, granddaughter