Current Stage: Total Remission for 11 years
I discovered my melanoma while showering in Grand Haven, Michigan – as we were camping – on my birthday. Having gone through cancer with both of my parents and my husband (all survivors), I figured that I had breast cancer like my mom. What I felt – way, way up in my armpit was a tiny nodule. Scared to death – yes. As soon as we got home I called my mom’s surgeon and he did a biopsy (but before he could do it I had to show him how far up my armpit it was – as he couldn’t feel it). I felt like “yes – it REALLY is there – trust me.”
He called me three days later (by phone is not a good idea). He said, “I’m sorry Pam but you don’t have breast cancer – you have melanoma – Stage III. I was then sent to my husband’s wonderful oncologist and he had me in the hospital that night – after they removed all the nodes under my right arm – finding that 2 were full of cancer but no where else in my body. Then he said, “Pam, you have Stage III and the type that you have is very aggressive and we give that kind/stage a 15% chance of any recovery. Damn- not what we wanted to hear but I am a glass half full girl – so onto more tests – and finally found a 6 year clinical trial – which included one grueling year of interferon high dose. I DID IT!!! I didn’t quit like many are apt to do – I am one of the few blessed ones! Wow – I DO know how lucky I am.
My husband and I are FULL time volunteers for the American Cancer Society in Grand Rapids, MI. We have been co-chairs for our Relay For Life of Forest Hills, we are on the planning committee, we are very active with the ONLY HOPE LODGE in Michigan (right in Grand Rapids) and I have just become the volunteer coordinator of the Cancer Resource Center for the ACS. We connect patients and their families with the free services provided by the American Cancer Society – including the HOPE LODGE – where patients and caregivers stay for FREE! I also run the prayer shawl ministry for the Hope Lodge where we give each cancer ‘guest’ a prayer shawl – which shows them how they are loved by someone that they don’t even know – and I have expanded that to include shawls for all cancer patients at Cancer and Hematology – which serves 95% of all cancer patients in the Grand Rapids area.
Am I blessed? Absolutely – I was taught as a child to give back and I am doing that and hoping that I teach others to do the same.
My biggest challenge is I don’t have enough hours in my day. I truly love life – always have – always will. If there is anything that I can possibly do to help anyone going through this cancer journey – I will do it. No one should go through it alone. I didn’t know a single person with melanoma – let alone a survivor – now I can say – I AM ONE!!