My name is Sharon, and I am 44 years old. I had my original melanoma diagnosed in 2007 on my left chest wall. It was only stage Ib and had not spread anyway. I had a sentinel node biopsy and was all clear. It was caught early and the future looked good. I continued for 5 years with checkups and nothing had come back. Things were great.
Then in May 2013 ( 6 years after), I started having headaches and couldn’t read things very well. My doctor send me for a CT scan of the brain and to my shock horror I had three melanoma lesions in three different areas of my brain. I now have Stage IV metastatic melanoma The following week was a blur with seeing doctors, oncologist, and neurosurgeon. The oncologist also sent me for a CT scan on the rest of my body, and the bad news kept coming. I had them on both lungs. On June 3, 2013, I had my first brain surgery. This surgery they removed two of the three. At that stage they couldn’t get the third one as it was in a difficult spot in the brain stem. Later June 2013 I had stereo static radio surgery on that one. It worked for a few months, but then it started growing again. A scan in September showed I had a new one grow, so it was back for brain surgery again in September 2013.
In amongst brain surgeries I have also had lung surgeries. In July 2013 I went in for the first lung surgery, the right side, which they took out the middle lobe. I found lung surgery much more painful than brain surgery, and it took a lot of recovery. Oct 2013 I went back in and had the five removed from my left lung. They took wedges from this side.
I had a few months Nov. and Dec. from surgeries, which was a good break. In Feb 2014 it was time to go back in and have the one removed from my brain stem. Another scan in March showed another new one in brain so back to surgery in April 2014.
Routine body scan in April showed new ones in the left lung and one in the mediastinal area on AP window. Another lung surgery for me in July 2014. Brain MRI in July showed another two new ones in brain, so back in for more surgery in August to remove them.
In the last year I have had five different brain surgeries removing eight lesions and three lung surgeries removing eight lesions. One stereo static radiosurgery. It’s been a hard year, but we are getting through it. I have changed my whole life. I eat much healthier than I ever have. I have lots of green juices, lots of kale, spinach, and supplements. Organic stuff. I exercise and try and try and stay fit, but it’s hard after surgeries as your body has to recover.
The biggest challenge I have found was completely changing my life and giving up work. Also it is a challenge getting over the surgeries and the time I now spend in hospital. It’s hard on my family. I also have four children.
I have started on the immunotherapy on August 2014 ‘Yervoy,’ and I hope this may slow them down. My outlook on life is different. I no longer take life for granted. I am positive and I believe in mind over matter, and I think you need this to beat this horrible disease. I will not give up, and I have hope that I can beat this. My advice to other melanoma warriors is stay positive ( it’s hard sometimes), eat well, stay active, read as much as you can about other melanoma survivors, it does give you hope, and never give up. I have many motivational books, which I also think help. Have a great network of people around you to keep you positive. Stay away from negative attitudes.
I’m lucky. I have a great husband who looks after me and a great family.