Survivor Stories

John Garcia

Hi! My name is John Garcia. I am 49 yrs old, and I am a melanoma fighter from southern California.

I noticed a mole on the back side of my left leg about 18 months ago. I paid no mind to it because I thought, well, everybody gets moles at times. Fifteen months after having that mole, I noticed it was starting to grow and itch. After a couple weeks of that, I made an appointment to see my doctor. After seeing him, he sent me to see a dermatologist. She cut the mole off and said she would get back to me in about 2 weeks. In less than a week she called me at work and said, “John, are you sitting down?” I said, “Yes, I’m in my office.” She said, “I’m really sorry but I have some bad news for you. The mole we took off the back of your leg is cancer called melanoma. The size was 2.2 mm.” This was in Dec 2011. I figured it was no problem because they cut it off so I am in the clear. I was very wrong about that!

She made two appointments for me, one to see a surgeon and the other to see an oncologist. I went to see the surgeon first. He informed me that I had to have surgery on the back of my leg to take the rest of the cancer out and also he needed to cut me on the left side of my groin to see if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. I could not believe what I was hearing! Then I went and saw the oncologist, and he talked about different treatments and different options that I have.

I went in for my first surgery, and he found three lymph nodes out of four tested positive for cancer. That’s when the surgeon told me I was at Stage IIIb cancer. I went in for the second surgery, and he removed nine more lymph nodes, which tested negative for cancer. Ten days later, I got an infection in the wound so I had to go back for another surgery. This time they could not close the wound, so now I am in a nursing home with a wound vac, and the healing time for that is about 3 months. I cannot start any kind of other treatment until this is healed up.

For those of you who are going through this or have some loved one going through it, I understand your pain. Since my family and I have been going through this, I see things differently. Life is so much more important to me; my family is so much more important to me. Not that they weren’t before, but it’s different now. Everything is different now. I can honestly say, in the past 5 months I have grown in many ways and what a blessing that is. The things that keep me strong are my faith in God and my family. They give me strength and the will to live.

This has been the biggest challenge of my life, fighting for my life, and it is not over by any means. I still have to do radiation and maybe interferon for 12 months. After this experience with melanoma, I will live to educate others on prevention of this disease.

Thank you and much love to all who are in the fight 😉