Survivor Stories

Holly, Stage III

Hi! My name is Holly. I’m a 32 year old Stage III Melanoma Survivor. I was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma in August 2009 by my dermatologist.

He did a punch biopsy when I showed him a reddish and irritated mole I had on my hip. Not only am I fair skinned and red headed… but I have always had quite a few moles.

Initially, I just thought this mole was getting irritated because it was located right where my jeans came up to, so I just thought that was that. I had actually had the same mole checked out by another dermatologist a few years earlier, and she said I could have it removed if I wanted but that it wasn’t malignant.

I decided to live with that ugly little thing… hmmm, so I guess it’s composition changed or whatever. Coulda, shoulda, woulda… but hey, here I am, with some super cool battle scars!

I had my left love handle removed which was the area surrounding the tumor. In that same surgery, my doctor biopsied my sentinel node, and yes – although they said 90% chance that would be IT – the little 10% won… cancer was found in my sentinel node. I had the second surgery in my groin where 10 lymph nodes were removed. Luckily, no more cancer was found!

Next, they told me my only treatment option would be interferon. Without the interferon treatment, I would have a 60% chance of it coming back or with the Interferon its only 40%… hmmm.

So, I started my interferon nightmare. It’s hard to speak of something that I think is supposed to help me, but that I feel is an evil poison, and I fear injecting it ever again. I did the one-month high-dose. That wasn’t so bad, but I would definitely do that still, if I had to relive this all over again. It made me so tired and weak but thanks to my parents and family friends, all I remember is riding to and from the hospital to get my treatment, sleeping, trying my best to eat something…anything… and then sleeping, and oh yeah- writhing in pain from headaches and muscle aches. But really I was so tired, I slept off most of the worst side affects. ALSO, I was not working at that time.

I took a leave of absence from my beautiful bilingual 1st grade geniuses at PS 333. It was hard to leave work, so after the high dose, I tried to go back…ha ha!! That didn’t work out. I started an even lower self-injected dose in Jan 2010 but I still felt like I was losing all control of myself and everything around me. I really couldn’t handle it, mentally or physically. I couldn’t work, I was sooo tired, but I just couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t just go out and have fun with my friends except maybe every 10 days or so, and sometimes that stuff had me so anxious I was afraid to leave my house. (TOTALLY NOT ME!)

Every person is different. I’ve heard of some people making it through the whole year. However, its mental affects are just too much for me. Especially considering that I was trying to do it all alone. I had family help me through the rough parts, but they were traveling from out-of-town to do so. I have amazing friends, but cancer and its treatment are a whole other world. You can’t expect friends to be able to literally TAKE CARE OF YOU, because they have their own lives.

I really think the interferon thing needs to be REALLY CLOSELY monitored and is not something to be considered lightly. I think each person needs to consult several doctors before starting this treatment. Although I had a great oncologist and surgical team, it’s this Interferon that I hate!

Now, I don’t recommend this, but I just quit taking it… I’m meeting with another doctor, and will see if he recommends that I go back on it, or if I can stay off. But, although I definitely fear that it will recur (at around a 50% chance) I would rather be ME than lose my mind, memory, or suffer from constant fatigue.

We shall see… my story is not over yet. I hope to report back with good news soon! I am sure missing out on this snowboarding season, but I had a clear scan in February 2010… so, hopefully next year I’ll be back on the slopes.