I had always had a mole on the inside of my right fourth finger for as long as I could remember. I never had it looked at because it appeared like a normal mole. I noticed it had started to grow quite rapidly, bleeding and the skin was peeling. At this point, it was scaring me to death but I was in denial. My husband encouraged me to have it looked at, but kind of thought it was a hemangioma. Even my primary care doc felt the same. My PCP however referred me to a dermatologist that did a biopsy of it. 4 days later, the dermatologist called me and told me it was aggressive nodular malignant melanoma and that I was probably going to have to have my finger amputated because the melanoma was very deep. The prognosis was very poor. She then asked me if I had any questions. I was in total shock. Of course, I had a million questions but the most pertinent was why? I can’t have cancer and what I knew about melanoma was not good. I really thought I had months to live and I was angry with myself.
Fast forward a week when I met with Dr. Ryan Weight from the University of Colorado who is a melanoma specialist. Thank God for this man. He reassured me that I had some good things going for me. I was relatively young, in pretty good shape, and he didn’t feel my finger needed to be amputated. Huge sigh of relief. He sent me to a surgical oncologist who did a WLE and SLNB. He was able to get clear margins from the excision. The SLNB however showed it was in a lymph node in my right axillary. After a month of healing, I started adjuvant treatment with Keytruda and stayed on this treatment for a complete year with very minimal side effects. Every scan I had every 3 months was clear. Awesome news. I had a scan 8 weeks after finishing Keytruda and it showed its ugly face again in my supraclavicular lymph node. Stage IV now. I started the power combo of Opdivo/Yervoy in October 2020. I was able to tolerate 2 infusions before I developed the big side effects from the Yervoy. I first developed hypophysitis (inflammation of the pituitary and I have to take prednisone for life). A week later I had hepatitis and had to go on extremely high doses of prednisone for a month and quickly taper. This was the worst. While I was on prednisone, I was due for my three-month scans. This time it had gone to my lungs and right knee. Currently looking for clinical trials as I am BRAF negative, but have started Keytruda and TVEC injections in my knee. I am hoping for a miracle. I’m thinking I will always have to be on treatment. As soon as I go off, it shows its ugly self again. I try to remain positive, but some days are really hard. Something has to work. I am encouraged by other Stage 4 survivors. I’m not a survivor yet, but I am a fighter. I don’t like to lose at anything, so this motivates me to continue on.
Highlands Ranch, Colorado