Survivor Stories

J. Allyson Cummings

Diagnosed 04/01/2009

Angels are everywhere.  They’re at the grocery store – the old woman whose eyes still twinkle.  They can come into your life and be gone just as quickly.  They’re parents of your child’s friends, or at least my angel was.  We’re not in contact any more, but I still consider her my “angel.”  When my daughter was 7, she started playing soccer.  You soccer parents out there know how fleeting these relationships are with other soccer parents – they last about as long as the soccer season does!

My angel was a nurse at a local hospital.  We would sit on the side lines, talking about our work life, our girls, our difficulties as single parents.  She came to one practice, particularly upset about her day.  A young single mother had come in to get the results of a mole biopsy, and it had come back Stage IV melanoma.  The doctors gave her weeks to live.  I never met this woman, but between the two of them, they saved my life.  My angel explained to me the importance of getting moles checked out.  That story scared me enough to begin to get my moles examined.

I started getting them checked in 2005 by a local plastic surgeon that specializes in skin cancers.  He has been specializing in this field for over 30 years, and my mother recommended him to me.  My father had gone to him, and had 2 moles removed that turned out to be basil cell carcinoma.  Every year, except for 2008 when I was married, I would go get checked, and he remove a couple of mole.  So, when I had 2 more moles removed in April, 2009, I thought it would be no different than the previous years.

Imagine my disbelief when his nurse called me on April 22nd and told me that the results were back, and the Dr. wanted to discuss them with me.  I was at work, and started shaking and didn’t stop until my husband and I arrived at the doctor’s office.  The doctor walked in, and with no preamble, said “Well, this is the stage I like to catch melanoma.”  What?!  Surgery, wide local excision, was scheduled for the very next day, followed by 4 weeks of recovery at home.  Luckily, my employer is extremely understanding!

Within a matter of months, I had learned more medical terminology than I cared to know; PET scans, wide excision, cancer.  My PET came back clean, which is exciting, and basically, my doctor owns me for the next 5 years – you know the drill, every 3 months I go in and get a “visual scan” to determine which moles come off next.  I had 2 removed a month ago that he said it was a good thing we got now, because they’re the kind that develop into melanoma.

The numbness has still not worn off.  Some days, this happened to someone else, and I’m watching a documentary about their experience.  Others, I want to rant and rave – basically want to rip someone a new one.  Happily, most days, I want to find my “angel” and thank her for saving my life.

J. Allyson Cummings

(I’m the bride in the photo)