One morning in September 2012, I woke up with an odd bruise under my left arm and some mild swelling. Having just moved to Arizona, I did not have a family physician yet. I made an initial appointment to get checked out and at first, we weren’t really worried. I was sent for an ultrasound and a possible hematoma was noted. Two weeks later, a follow-up ultrasound showed enlargement so a needle biopsy was ordered. The biopsy confirmed that I had melanoma. I had had a suspicious mole removed six months earlier and the pathology report said that there was the possibility of melanoma in situ. No true source sites for the melanoma have ever been found. I went on to have a left axillary lymph node dissection to remove the affected lymph node and tumor. Two months later I started a clinical trial for ipilimumab. I had some side effects from the treatment such as partial hearing loss, dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, night sweats, but overall, tolerated the treatment well.
Things were going well until May of 2013 when I suddenly lost motor control of my left foot. Neurological testing and an MRI confirmed that I had a 3cm brain tumor. My melanoma had metastasized to my brain. My family and I were devastated. I had to have immediate surgery as my brain was swelling and I was losing more function of my leg.
A craniotomy followed to remove the tumor, as well as radiation to the site. I was able to continue on the clinical trial and to date have not had a recurrence. It’s now been 6 years since I was first diagnosed and over five years cancer free.
My wife was told that I may only have weeks to live but luckily they were wrong.
The acute care for the disease is tough but trying to heal afterward is just as difficult. I have been very lucky to have a loving and strong support system. Private therapy, group therapy, mindfulness, and meditation were just a few of the tools I used to learn to live with the diagnosis. It’s been a long road but I have been able to work full time as a pediatric dentist and we were able to start our family after this unfortunate delay. We just welcomed our second baby girl two months ago and not a day goes by that I’m not thankful to everyone who helped me in my fight against the disease.