Featured Survivor Story:
By Mara Klecker
At first, Reva Foy assumed the open wound on her right foot could be attributed to a pair of ill-fitting shoes. But finally, after realizing it wasn’t healing, she saw a podiatrist.
“He took one look and said, ‘I think it’s melanoma,’” Reva remembers about that day in late 2012. Having spent her career as a medical practice administrator who worked with plastic surgeons, she thought back to the melanoma patients she’d met decades ago when there were fewer treatment options than today. “I was horrified,” she said.
A biopsy confirmed the podiatrist’s suspicion: It was indeed cancer. Reva was diagnosed with Stage IIIC BRAF+ nodular melanoma. Then, two weeks later, while staging, Reva’s doctors discovered she also had breast cancer.
“It was a pretty tumultuous year,” Reva said. But it was also the beginning of a now decade-long journey that Reva says taught her the importance of gratitude and of staying present.
Even back then, Reva felt it wouldn’t help her to obsess over survival rates; instead, she wanted to focus her mindset on her three children.
Her youngest was a year away from 18, and she prayed that she’d live long enough to see her daughter reach adulthood.
“I not only got to see that, but I got to see her become a nurse,” Reva said. “I got to dance with my son at his wedding and become a grandmother – all blessings far beyond what I asked for then.”
Reva feels lucky to have had such a sustained response to her targeted therapy treatment – she’s been taking Zelboraf since early 2013. She had a wide local excision and groin node dissection in May 2013. And that fall, she underwent a lumpectomy to remove the tumor in her breast and a wide local excision to remove another melanoma spot on her back.
While Zelboraf has caused fatigue and photosensitivity that makes Reva very susceptible to sunburn, she chooses to focus on the time it’s given her.
“Every breath is a gift,” she said. “It makes you really grateful for the little things and sometimes even a little intolerant of pettiness. There’s just so much to be thankful for.”
Reva now lives on an acreage in Ohio with dogs, horses, goats and chickens. Normally a private person, she’s determined to keep sharing her story to spread awareness and hope.
Her advice to those facing a melanoma diagnosis: Seek out that hope. Find a doctor you trust, join support groups online and participate in fundraising walks to meet other survivors (Reva was this year’s honoree at the Dallas Steps Against Melanoma Walk in May, and she was a board member for Walk with a Doc for 15 years.) She also tells patients to make sure they are reading only the most up-to-date research about treatment options.
“Whenever someone says they’re newly diagnosed, I give them the link to AIM at Melanoma because so much of the other information on Google is outdated and doesn’t offer as much hope,” she said.
Reva hangs onto her positive mindset as she celebrates ten years of survivorship and reflects on the perspective that her melanoma journey has given her.
I’m incredibly lucky,” she said. “I need to continue to make sure that every day I wake up, I live the best life I can.”