My story begins 2 years ago. There I was standing in my bathroom with my shirt off, and my wife is bugging me about an odd-looking mole on my back. Of course, I make multiple efforts over many months to disregard the conversation in attempts to dodge a visit to the dermatologist, but she wasn’t having anything to do with my excuses. I finally told my wife that if it meant that much to her, I would make the appointment. The real reason I didn’t want to go is because I was afraid. In 2007 I watched my cousin battle melanoma, and in only a few short months she was gone. Stephanie was the only thing I could think about when the word melanoma came up.
In August of 2012 I walked into Central Ohio Dermatology. Dr. Holsinger listened to my whole story about how I thought my wife was over-reacting and that I was sure it was a lot to do about nothing. Dr. Holsinger asked me to remove my shirt, and I quickly saw his face go from humored listener to concerned physician. Dr. Holsinger saw the mole she was concerned with, but it was three other spots that had his attention. We removed all four spots and sent them off to biopsy. It wasn’t very long after the initial visit I received what would turn out to be one of many “please come see us at the office” phone calls. My deepest fears had become realities, I had melanoma.
In the fall of 2012, I had surgery to remove cancerous sections on my back and right flank. The cancer did not stay in those areas as we had hoped though. Right before Christmas 2012, I had full lymph node removal performed under my right arm. The surgeries were deemed a success, and now we were moving on to chemical therapies. I started high-dose Interferon as soon as my body was healed from the surgeries. I stayed on Interferon until the summer of 2013.
In July 2013 I spent 9 days in the hospital with complications to all the medicines and a severely infected gallbladder. During my stay I had lost most of the function to my left leg, an odd surprise to the doctors who had no idea why a gallbladder would cause issues to a lower extremity. Doctors ordered a scans to be performed, and I received another “come see us” phone call. The scans showed a tumor in my spine that was growing around the nerves that serve my lower back and left leg.
At this point, nothing the doctors said to me came at any surprise. By now I was so numb to bad news, it just went in one ear and positive reassurance came out the other. I decided well before this last dose of bad news that cancer can’t hurt me unless I give it the power and pleasure to do so.
My therapies had to change at this point. Doctors decided that the tumor was not operable, and Interferon was not effective in the spinal column. I started taking Temodar, a drug initially designed for brain tumors but proven effective against melanoma. I also received an extremely high dose of radiation, but that proved to be very ineffective.
So here I am today in the same position I started, Stage IVa melanoma. I don’t dwell on why; I dwell on what now? God did not give me melanoma, but He did allow me to have it. He knew I could handle the responsibilities that were going to come in the package deal. My life was very fulfilling prior to cancer, but cancer has given my life a degree of fulfillment that I never thought possible. Cancer is not a death sentence. It is only as powerful as you allow it to be. I personally have taken more from cancer than it will ever take from me, and that, my friends, is a win.