Survivor Stories

Cathy Baker, Stage III

Date Diagnosed: 4/18/96

In 1996 I had a mole that became irritated. It bled and itched and after a while of being annoyed by this mole, I decided to go to the doctor. He did a biopsy in his office. After several days he called me and told me it was melanoma that he would have to remove it. I thought okay, it’s just Skin Cancer. Well that is not it at all. It’s not just skin cancer I realized, after reading up on it. I knew nothing about melanoma. I was sent to a cancer doctor in my hometown and he sent me to MD Anderson cancer center in Houston. I spent several days there taking extensive tests. The doctor that I saw there told me that I didn’t need any treatment so I went home thinking I was home free so to speak.

I was home free until 2012 when I noticed that something was wrong with me, I was almost passing out, I had become weak. I thought it was a bug or something. Then one night I was lying down and I ran my hand over my stomach and realized that there was a lump in my left groin.

So I went to my doctor and he sent me to a surgeon that told me it had to come out. He removed it on a Friday and told me to come back on Monday. I had this feeling that the cancer had returned. That was the longest weekend of my life! I went in on Monday and he told me that melanoma had returned and he sent me to the cancer center here and the doctor here sent me to MD Anderson again. I saw a doctor Ross there and he told me he would have to remove my lymph nodes on the left side of my body from my stomach to my knee. I had been diagnosed with stage IIIc melanoma. We scheduled the surgery for the following month which was August. I was in the hospital for 5 days and it was the worst thing I have ever been through in my life. I left the hospital with three tubes in my stomach that I had for six weeks. I spent three weeks with my daughter. Then I drove home, tubes resting in my lap which was a two hour drive. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. After three more weeks, I got the tubes removed. What a relief that was!

It has been two years now since my surgery and I go every three months to MD Anderson for tests. I worry every day if the cancer will come back a third time. Someone once told me that it’s not a matter of if it will come back but when. I have had several scares. If it metastasizes to the inside, there is a chance of it spreading to the organs. But my faith in God keeps me going and He will never leave me. I want everyone to know that melanoma is not just skin cancer, that it can kill. It recently took the life of a friend of mine that I met on Facebook. I am devastated that cancer took her so suddenly. I am here to tell you that melanoma, most melanomas, are caused by sun exposure, excessive sunburns, and the tanning bed which I did frequently. Melanoma isn’t just skin cancer! I was addicted to the sun. I would lay out in the sun every day. Not only does it cause cancer but it ruins your skin. I want to get the word out to everyone to wear your sunscreen.

My children are very worried because melanoma can be inherited. They wear their sunscreen faithfully when they are outside.

My name is Cathy and this is my story.