Survivor Stories

Michael Tuell

My name is Michael Tuell. I am a father of a 5-year-old son named Jayden. I was 26 when I was diagnosed with Stage IIIc spitzoid melanoma. It had started when a mole came up on my foot in 2010. I really paid no mind to it until it started changing shapes, itching, bleeding and changing colors in the summer of 2011.

Finally I made an appointment with Panzer Dermatology. The doctor did a biopsy and was pretty sure it was a tumor or melanoma. After 6 weeks of waiting the dermatologist called and said that I needed to come in tomorrow, they were diagnosing my mole as a spitzoid melanoma (rare skin cancer). My mom, Anna, and I went in the next day, and of course, he confirmed the worst news anyone could hear … CANCER! Since I also found a few cysts by my groin area, we feared that it had spread.

We met with the surgeon, oncologist, and nurse advocate at Helen Graham Center in Newark, Delaware, but as a second opinion I went to Abramson Cancer Center UPenn Hospital in Philadelphia PA and met with Dr. Czerniecki. He called in a team to do a biopsy on the cyst, and it came back positive for cancer. He then scheduled me to have surgery that Friday. Dr. Czerniecki removed the cancer from my foot, which needed skin grafts from my thigh, and removed 14 lymph nodes, of which four of them came back with cancer. I spent 5 days in UPenn Hospital.

After recovery I went back to Helen Graham Cancer Center to Dr. Suppiah for my treatments of Interferon 5 days a week, 2 hours a day for a month, then did self-injections three times a week. I only made it 4 months on the treatment, due to my body was not reacting to it the way it should. I lost too much weight. My oncologist then decided to give me a 3-month break to try and build my immune system up and gain weight. In September 2012, I started pegylated interferon, which is one injection a week.

I have decided that this September 2013 I will go off all treatments. I have had PET scans every 6 months and have been NED since October 2011. My next scan will be October 15, 2013. Praying for good results.

This disease has truly changed my life and everyone’s around me. I feel this world has not been given enough information that “melanoma” is not just cancer … BUT a cancer that has no cure. We need to let the world know just what this “BEAST” can do to you. My biggest challenge is having the energy and strength to continue to fight this beast and to watch my son grow up. Just remember it can happen to you or someone you love. Just give them as much information as you can on what can happen to you if you sunbath or tan in beds. Always use sunblock!