Survivor Stories

Candyce Charles, Stage I

Diagnosed 06/13/2017

 After rapidly declining vision, months of seeing flashing disc-shaped lights travel through the periphery of my vision in my right eye, sudden onset of floaters and many doctor visits, I was diagnosed with uveal melanoma on June 13, 2017. Uveal melanoma is extremely rare, affecting 5-6 in 1 million people annually. Even more shocking than the diagnosis (I was examined by 2 doctors a total of 4 times between Dec. 2016 and April 2017) is the fact that I personally knew someone with uveal melanoma who passed away 8 years ago from metastasis to the liver. So the fear sets in. I was treated in late June 2017 with brachytherapy which involves surgically affixing a plaque to the eye that houses radiation beads and delivers targeted radiation to the tumor for a period of 1 week, then surgically removing the plaque. This therapy is 93-95% effective for tumor control. However, 50% of all UM patients will develop metastasis, usually to the liver but may also involve lungs, bones, other organs. Talk about a fear factor. My tumor was sent for genetic testing which showed a high risk for mets. I would love to say that I now live every day to the fullest and I’m brave in the face of the uncertainty staring me down. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t confide that I’m filled with anxiety and fear in addition to the joy and happiness that my family and close friends bring me. As a result of being high risk for mets, I am followed by my oncologist who is looking at my liver and other organs for UM mets, in addition to my ocular oncologist who ensures this aggressive tumor has not sprung back to life. Any MRI, CT scan, ultrasound and blood panel could be the one that changes the course of my life. It’s an anxiety that has not dissipated yet, 18 months out from diagnosis. I make every opportunity to raise awareness for this rare cancer, which includes a campaign with the Ontario Association of Optometrists on ocular melanoma awareness. This was born from several missed opportunities to diagnose me and I’m thankful the Association was receptive to my urging them to tell my story. I am proud to say that I am participating for the 2nd year in a race to raise money for the wonderful hospital that treated me and provides my stellar follow-up care – Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. What many people don’t realize is that cancer is as much a disease of the mind as it is of the body. It takes work and some mental weightlifting but it’s possible to find peace and positivity on the other side of fear and anxiety. It takes time, work and a strong support system. I’m lucky to have these things on my side. At least for now. Candyce