Survivor Stories

Danielle Dahm, Stage III

In March of 2000, I was diagnosed with Stage III Malignant Melanoma – this is my story…

While pregnant with my 3rd child in 1998, I noticed a raised lesion on the back of my right thigh. I mentioned it to my family practice doctor. He felt it was possibly a growth due to pregnancy. Six weeks after I had my child, I went in for a biopsy around January of 1999. My family practice doctor looked at it and got on the phone with a dermatologist and described what he saw. He then told me he wasn’t going to biopsy it and too just keep an eye on it. This spot was about the size of a nickel and was reddish purple.

Around January of 2000, I noticed the lesion was bleeding. I assumed I just nicked it shaving. But after a few weeks, it had not healed and was still bleeding. I went in a clinic in Germany and had a biopsy. Within a few weeks, I was called back into the clinic and told I had Melanoma. Within days, I was put on a plane to Walter Reed hospital in Washington D.C. I underwent surgery to remove the tumor and wide area from my thigh, as well as 3 lymph nodes in my right groin. 1 of the 3 was positive and I went in for a 2nd surgery to remove additional nodes. The rest of the nodes were negative. I also endured a muscle transfer and had to learn to use my right leg again. I was on crutches for a month or so and then a cane for another 6-8 months. I was at Walter Reed for 30 long days, away from my husband and 3 children ages 6,5 and 1. I returned to Germany to recover. A month later we moved to Washington state so I could get treatment at Madigan.

In June of 2000 I began a clinical trial of High-dose Interferon. The treatment plan was for 12 months of which I lasted about 9 months. I went in daily the first month for IV therapy. Then began self-injection shots 3 times a week. After about 8 months, I was down to 86 lbs and my treatment was stopped 3 months early. I had numerous side effects to include short-term memory loss. I still suffer with that today.

I was ready to announce to the world that this month I was 4 years in remission. However, a recent PET scan reveals that melanoma has most likely returned. There are several lymph nodes in both sides of my groin, near my stomach, liver and heart ranging in size up to 9mm. There are also 2 nodes in my neck which I’m having surgery to remove them today. Major surgery is likely for the nodes in my right groin since they did find cancer there 9 years ago.

We can never feel we are in the clear with this beast. We must be diligent with our check-ups! Cancer will not take away my spirit for Life!