Martha Wright, Acral Melanoma

Date Diagnosed  6/28/2007

I was diagnosed with Acral lentiginous melanoma it was under my right foot. I thought it was an ant bite that wouldn’t heal.

In passing I mentioned it to my primary care physician at my 6 month physical. He insisted on doing a punch biopsy.  I went home not really worried but hurting and bleeding like crazy. It was on the descending part of my heel into my arch.

One week later I got a call from my doctor. It was melanoma and it had to be removed. I was told there would probably be chemotherapy and I had to go to a plastic surgeon.

A short time later I saw the plastic surgeon and he cut it out (about the size of a dime) and sent it to the lab. It came back Stage 2 but had not ulcerated.

Days later I was in surgery. Before the surgery I had a sentinel node biopsy. The pain was excruciating as they stuck needles into the area which had been biopsied. They removed 3 nodes. They removed an area the diameter of a baseball from the bottom of my foot. Tendons and ligaments were exposed and covered with skin from my thigh.

I was still in a daze  and very scared the day I was to be released. My doctor came in and said that in one of the three lymph nodes they removed, they found 3 microscopic specks of melanoma. I was referred to an oncologist.
That day I had a code blue when I tried to use the walker left by physical therapy. I had a convulsion possibly caused by an anesthesia bubble. So I got one more night in the hospital.

My daughter became my bank of research, my interceder with my doctor, my driver and cook. My husband became my caregiver since I could not walk.

Three weeks after surgery I was sent to get a PICC line. My husband and I went to a special clinic that  day so he could learn how to flush it. Then over to the hospital for a deep thoracic CT to be sure there was no cancer present. I began treatment with Inferon A. Five days a week I rode 150 miles round trip for a month. The weekends were free, but I would get horribly sick with diarrhea. The Benadryl they gave me to prevent nausea made me sleepy and my throat was horribly dry. My husband would flush my PICC line on weekends.

I finished my treatment. My oncologist said I was the only patient he had to complete it for the others would get too sick.

I was assured my hair would not fall out. A month after treatment was finished, my hair started falling out, a little at a time, the worst day coming at a college football game with our in-state rival, whose quarterback was Eli Manning. It was a freezing day and I didn’t wear a hat. I could feel my body heat leaving through my head. It was very windy and at one point I turned to see a black purse behind me bearing our school logo. It was totally covered with my graying hair. I had to go sit in the car for the rest of the game to stay warm. We defeated Mr. Manning that day and the next Monday I bought a wig.

The next two years were filled with PET scans and blood tests and trips to the dermatologist and oncologist.

It took nearly a year for my foot to stop bleeding. At year 2 my graft grew a little sprout with black hair making it hard to walk, so I had to have more surgery to remove it. Too much walking causes blisters on the graft which burst and bleed. Every new sickness worries me that it’s melanoma. I had a stopped up ear from fluid for months and I worried about melanoma. I had floaters appear in my eye. Was it melanoma?  Persistent dry cough. Melanoma?  Any new bump strikes terror.

I am always warning young women I know to stay off poolside sunning or tanning beds. We slather my grandkids in sunscreen and they wear swim shirts in the pool. Hats! Hats!Hats!

I’ve read that my type of melanoma isn’t caused by the sun but I preach on. I was a lifeguard and swim instructor and my nose peeled so many times it was a shiny pink protrusion on my face. Why my foot?

Acral lentiginous melanoma is most common in people with darker skins. I am white. Makes no sense.

I have been cancer free for 8 1/2 years. I praise God every day that I lost the argument with my primary care physician to have a biopsy. I tell him he’s the reason I’m alive.