Survivor Stories

Courtney Ashley, Stage II

Diagnosed  05/12/2011

My beautiful daughter, Courtney, is a sweet, fun-loving, intelligent, and very brave young lady. She makes me laugh and smile every day. She does very well in school, and is hoping to get a scholarship to Western Kentucky in Bowling Green. I can say she is not only my daughter, but is my very best friend.

Courtney was was diagnosed at 16 years old with malignant melanoma skin cancer, Stage IIC on May 12, 2011. Her tumor was 7 mm, ulcerated, invasive and had a high mitotic rate of 20.

Courtney had a mole on her left forearm since she was a little girl and at the beginning of 2011, it started growing, bleeding and itching. I had no idea what melanoma was or even that there was a deadly skin cancer, so I thought it was growing because she was picking at it. I kept telling her it would stop growing if she just stopped touching and picking. It didn’t, and it only grew bigger and bled more.

In April 2011, I made an appointment to have the mole removed as she was going to prom the 2nd week of May, as it continued to bleed. On May 6, 2011 the dermatologist shaved the mole and sent it for a biopsy. He said he has never seen anything like it as it did not have any pigment. On May 12, 2011, the dermatologist called and said the results came back as malignant melanoma. We were stunned to say the least.

They immediately sent her for PET scans, CT scans an a MRI of her brain and liver, and an ultrasound of her liver as they thought it had spread, but thank goodness it did not. She was referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and we arrived there on May 23, 2011. Courtney had to do all of the scans again to verify that she did have melanoma, and she did.

After all of the testing was complete, she had wide excision surgery to remove the tumor and margins, along with a lymph node dissection. We were blessed again as the cancer did not spread to her lymph nodes.

On June 15, 2011, she began her 4 weeks of high dose interferon treatment. On her 2nd week of treatment, she began having problems with her liver, so they did not do treatment for that week.

After spending 7 weeks at St. Jude, Courtney and I are home, and she continues a once a week peginterferon shot. She will take this for 48 weeks. She is having some side effects with this drug… nausea, fatigue and memory problems, but she is maintaining a positive attitude. She is very confident that she will beat this horrible disease. She will be complete her peginterferon treatment in June 2012, and we hope and pray she will remain cancer free. She continues to go to St. Jude for monthly check-ups and, again, every month we have been blessed with wonderful news that the cancer has not spread and she has not had any no secondary tumors.

I thank the Lord every day for watching over my daughter, and pray that the cancer will not spread. I will be by my daughter’s side until the day I die. She will have to fight this the rest of her life, and we will do it together!