Survivor Stories

Ron Whelchel

My journey begins in February 2012 when I noticed a growth in my neck area. It started small, then grew very big. I went to my doctor who referred me to MD Anderson in Houston. My doctor did all the legwork to help me get seen in a timely matter. For that, I will be forever grateful.

Every test was performed that one can think of. A biopsy confirmed it was melanoma. During a visit with my oncologist, she found another growth on my side. A biopsy confirmed it, too, was melanoma.

Not knowing the magnitude of my situation, I asked her if it was treatable and how long I had. She said I may live a year. I got sick to my stomach, weak, and almost passed out. She said I had Stage IV melanoma.

I underwent a 9-hour surgery March 5th and spent 5 days in the hospital. Upon discharge, I have experienced every emotion there is. Back to the surgery, a radical dissection of my neck was performed. They took my right peck muscle and converted it to being my new neck muscle. The tumor removed was over a pound in weight. The tumor on my side was attached to my right soft mass area near rib cage. It was golf ball sized and removed. In addition, 57 lymph nodes were removed from the L1-5 areas. My jugular vein was also removed. The amazing thing is all 57 lymph nodes were clear of melanoma. The margins were free at the other tumor site.

Since the surgery, I have been reading everything about this stage. Very depressing. I have had five radiation treatments to my neck. My radiation doctor told me to quit reading that stuff. I have stopped.

One thing I will recommend anyone to do is get closer to God. I have had many people praying for me. I myself have changed in this way. I have repeated two articles from the bible and pray and repeat them every night and day. They are:

“affliction shall not arise twice”

“growth and tumors are not allowed in this body. They are a thing of the past for I am delivered from the authority of darkness.”

Well, since surgery, my oncologist is not the bearer of bad news. She said on my first visit post op, maybe we got it. “Remember 57 lymph nodes clear and margins free.” A light ray of hope.

Well, it is now June 1st. CT scans were completed this week of pelvis, chest, lungs, head, and neck. Everything came back clean and NED … “no evidence of disease.” That is my new nickname with my oncologist, NED. I told her it was going to remain that way. No further treatments are scheduled. I will be closely monitored every 3 months.

I know it is early in the process, but I am a firm believer in Christ Healing and prayers being answered. My head & neck surgeon saved my life. I am a changed person forever. I live for today because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

I am another person with an unknown primary site. Been in the sun, tanning beds a few times.

Don’t give up. I fight it every day. I treat it as the devil. Don’t let it win.

I will keep everyone informed of my “unchanged” status in the upcoming months and years.

By the way, one is considered “disabled” with Social Security with Stage IV melanoma. Got an answer in 4 days. The heck with that. I am going back to work. I will never lose this status.

God bless everyone.

October 2012 update: 8 months and a few days since I was told I may have a year to live. My quarterly scans are in.

“No Evidence of Disease.”

Miracles continue to happen. Never give up.