Survivor Stories

Sheila A. Stanton

My little story on skin cancer … my own MeLaHella.
I was given the news on May 5, 2011. The doctor called, saying I had melanoma and not to take it lightly. He had already scheduled an operation with a doctor I didn’t know. Yes, I thought that was a bit odd. I was out of control or, should I say, out of my mind. I heard nothing except “melanoma” and “surgery.” I chose my own surgeon, who was fabulous. He did a wide excision and sentinel lymph node mapping. They also ended up taking four lymph nodes from my groin.

I am very pale blond with green eyes … prime candidate. I never was a sun goddess or tanning bed user. I also rarely showed my upper thighs (where my odd-looking mole was hijacked). I had a plastic surgeon do the surgery, as the cut would be wide and deep. I also, at that point, had four lymph nodes taken out in my groin. Then the great news came … three were positive for melanoma. So that means I am Stage IIIb.

Two weeks later, I was back in surgery for a radical lymph node dissection to remove the rest of my lymph nodes from my groin. Finally good news … no melanoma found! I left with a new friend, Mr. Ceamore my drain, which I carried with me for 3 weeks. That was so awful to me. He was almost the death of me … HATED him, but he had a very important job to do.

After that, off to the oncologist to get a plan in action, which was the start of the never-ending issues. I decided on the interferon for 1 month 5 days a week IV, then 11 months of three shots a week. I had a horrible reaction to the interferon … flu?? Not quite … the PAIN … never experienced such pain in my life. Every 2 months, I was sent in for PET scans. The second one showed spots on my lungs. All I can say is that was the worst news AND my worst fear … it spread to the lungs and now I will die. After a CT and a lung biopsy, it came back NEGATIVE!! Oh, the relief!

Then 2 months later, more spots appeared, and the ones I had were growing. So back for a CT and another biopsy of the lungs … which I had pneumothorax. Very fun. Again it came back negative. My oncologist/and lung doctor were baffled. January rolls in, off to meet another lung specialist and another CT and another biopsy. This biopsy indicated that I had sarcoidosis induced by interferon. That is one of the reasons of my severe pain. By February I could barely walk. My oncologist took me off the interferon, and we hoped my sarcoid would leave. But it is still hanging on, like last year’s shoes … unwanted.

While at another visit, the doctor noticed one of my pupils was larger than the other. They tested me and found out I had Horner’s syndrome and needed a MRI of head, neck, and chest ASAP. (Yes, I glow in the dark!) Lo and behold, I had a brain tumor “the size of a peach.” Good news, they said 98% not cancer; bad news, not the cause of my Horner’s syndrome. I had brain surgery (craniotomy) last year March 28, 2012, and had the brain tumor removed.

I have PET scans every 3 months, as they never come back 100% clean, but so far I have had all negative biopsies. So I will not complain. I also get MRI of my brain every 6 months and CT of chest. This has been my life. Always a bit nervous, but it’s the process and life of a melanoma survivor. I feel as I am finally moving on with my life … traveling and again working full-time to just keep up with my medical bills. I am reminded of my melanoma when I look down at my leg and see the indent. I check my body regularly for any changes (luckily, only change is my weight). I am also at the dermatologist every 3 months.

I feel very lucky, and I know I will never forget how lucky I am that they caught it. I also feel extremely lucky as the support that I received from my family, friends, doctors, and other melanoma patients. I never joined a support group or wrote a blog. It’s been a real eye opener, and it will be a lifelong journey.

That’s my little story. It will be my 2-year anniversary of being a survivor. I am hoping to keep my stage at a standstill. Standing strong and every day is a new day. Cherish what you have. 🙂