Date Diagnosed: 05/01/2015
I am a single mom, with two great kids. In 2010, I had two melanoma spots biopsied on my left neck. They were a Clark’s Level Four depth, which is pretty deep. The doctor did an excision. All my margins were clear. I was told there was no reason to do a sentinel node biopsy, and that my risk of it coming back would be very low. I followed up with my skin checks, but melanoma rarely comes back as a new mole. So skin checks wouldn’t catch a metastasis.
In December of 2014, I started noticing a lump on my scar on my neck, where the melanoma was excised. I thought it was just scar tissue. Unfortunately, I didn’t take it seriously until it kept getting bigger. Even my oncologist thought it was just scar tissue. I kept noticing it getting bigger, and finally went to my family practice Nurse Practitioner in April. She was very concerned, and had a biopsy scheduled for the next day! The pathologist immediately told me she was 99% certain that it was metastatic melanoma in a lymph node.
Within 10 days I had surgery to remove my parotid gland as well as a modified radical neck dissection. I have had C-sections, and numerous abdominal surgeries. Nothing has been as painful and required such a long recovery as this neck surgery.
4 weeks after my neck dissection, I started radiation treatments. 5 days a week for 5 weeks. I’ve lost 50lbs in three months. Radiation for head and neck cancers frequently cause mouth sores, destroy taste buds, and cause serious nausea and vomiting. I was unable to eat, could hardly drink and had a lot of pain. The parotidectomy is involved with a lot of nerves. My left jaw, ear and neck are numb… but still painful. I’ve never felt anything like this, and for this length of time. It’s not been fun.
I had a PET scan prior to surgery in June which showed that I have a questionable spot on my lung, but cancer was only in one lymph node (which was very large).
I have finished radiation treatments and have a PET scan scheduled in 2 weeks. Hopefully everything will be clear.
My doctors have made it clear that there is no cure for melanoma. I have been told that chemotherapy does not cure melanoma. There is at least a 50% chance it will return.
I was diagnosed right before my oldest child graduated from High School. This has been a long, slow and painful recovery. My kids have been incredible! I am very blessed. I am just praying that it doesn’t return. Or at least for a long time!
Stay strong and optimistic. The scary thing about melanoma is that it just seems to jump around. It will spread to areas far away, yet still have negative lymph nodes. It just has a mind of it’s own.