Survivor Stories

Crystal Stanley, Stage III

I am Crystal. I was 26 when I noticed first that something was going on with my skin. I had this growth or mole on my back that would itch like crazy. Nothing stopped the itch. I didn’t think much of it. I figured if it still bothered me after I gave birth I would see the doctor. Because you see this type of thing doesn’t happen to someone who doesn’t tan right??? WRONG. Fast forward. I received the phone call on April 22, 2011, that changed my whole life. I was told then that they considered my melanoma to be Stage IV and that I would need to see a specialist quickly.

I couldn’t believe it. Cancer?? Me??? How is this possible? I had a 2 year old and a newborn! What a cruel thing to have this happen after bringing such sweet lives into this world. I felt shattered and went through all stages of grief in those short 2 days before calling the doctor back to ask him if he had made a mistake because this isn’t possible.

A week later I was in to see a plastic surgery who specialized in cancer patients. She was going to remove the basal cell cancer from my nose, do my wide excision on the melanoma on my back, and check my sentinel nodes that lit up on the screen (both underarms lit up). After spending the night in the hospital I came home positive that the first phone call was wrong. I was told my nodes looked good, so they doubted the melanoma was there but they were tested in case.

One week later, I received yet another phone call that would change things again. Some nodes on the right side showed micrometasis so I would have to undergo another surgery. This time I would get the wonderful honor of carrying around a drain tube that would follow me everywhere for well over a month because of all the lymphatic fluid that it collected daily. Good news finally arrived! Those further removed came back CLEAR! That put me at Stage IIIa and not IV, which meant my prognosis was looking up!!!

I received my port and started interferon treatments. I had some of the worst body aches, headaches, nausea, and fevers. My hair was coming out all the time, which was devastating. I felt like such a failure to everyone who took care of me and to my children that I was raising. I felt like I was going to die but made it through a month’s worth before we noticed my liver counts were continuing to elevate. They would end up taking me off a week, then letting me go for a week. This continued until Dec. 26, 2011. My doctor had suggested we try Sylatron instead of just interferon. The Sylatron alone dropped my WBC to a dangerously low level and raised my liver counts so high it took months to get them down. While I was only able to get in roughly 12 weeks total of treatments I needed for my melanoma, I have been NED since then.

I was never a tanner and actually had some significant burns from the sun in my younger years. Oddly, those are probably what set into motion this whole nightmare. If there is one thing I could share with others who are going through this, it is to never give up. The road is long and can take many turns but the end result is so worth it. The thing that could have broken me, has made me a much better person who takes nothing for granted.

So please get checked, and checked often. When in doubt get it checked out, or even cut out! Don’t wait until it is too late!