My mole (melanoma) appeared during my first pregnancy in 2004. I brought it to the attention of my OBGYN and was told that it was not unusual to grow new moles during pregnancy. Soon after, I was pregnant again and the mole kept getting bigger and uglier.
In 2006, just 6 weeks after my baby was born and my older daughter was two, I was diagnosed Stage 1B Melanoma – a Breslow depth .8mm and Clark’s level IV.
I had visited my Primary Care Physician (PCP) thinking I had a basal cell carcinoma on my shoulder. While the doctor was removing the lesion, vanity made me ask him to remove the ugly mole on my left, upper arm.
To my surprise, he called a week later and told me I had cancer. The lesion on my shoulder was basal cell… and the ugly mole on my arm was Melanoma!
My head began spinning. Did someone punch me in the stomach? I think I’m going to throw up… shock… am I going to die? What happens next? Will I leave my husband and two babies to fend for themselves? These were just some of the thoughts and feelings I experienced during the following moments. Everything was a blur.
My PCP referred me to a skin cancer surgeon, who then referred me to a surgical oncologist doing a study on melanoma patients. The next step was to have a wide local excision (WLE) to surgically remove the melanoma. I was also encouraged to have a sentinel node biopsy (SNB) at the same time to determine if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.
Waiting to hear the results was agonizing. When rocking my daughter to sleep, the tears would flow from my eyes. I could not stop wondering if I would get to see her grow up. I realized I was not invincible.
Six days later, my husband and I received the results in the doctor’s office. God’s grace gave me a peace and I was ready to hear the outcome, whatever it was. It was excellent news. No traces of melanoma found in the two nodes they removed. I was still Stage 1 – the best possible news given the situation.
I go for skin checks every 3 months – which is so important. A year after my initial diagnosis, my doctor found another suspicious mole that turned out to be a melanoma in-situ. Nothing new has come up since then. I check my skin once a month to look for any changing moles and keep up with my doctor’s appointments.
I’ve settled into a comfort zone and have accepted my situation as one of good news. The anxiety lessens and life goes on. I’m careful about my exposure to UV radiation and stay out of the sun as much as possible during the mid-day hours. I also wear sun protective clothing if I go outdoors for any length of time.
I’ve found comfort in talking with others in the same situation. Participating in melanoma walks and events have been helpful. I’m thankful for all the blessings given to me. I have a new appreciation for people and simple joys in this life… and am grateful to God for it all. I will be okay, no matter what happens. Melanoma is not going to control my life.
My hope is that a cure for melanoma will be found so that no one suffers unnecessarily.