Survivor Stories

Susan Sorenson

I am a survivor of Stage IV metastatic melanoma.

I was diagnosed with Stage III, Clark’s level 5, Breslow thickness 4 mm malignant melanoma in November 2003. I had a small spot by my left eyebrow that appeared like a blackhead. To touch, it felt like a very small BB under the skin. I went to have it removed because it was ugly, not because I suspected cancer. I went to a dermatologist that specializes in skin cancer. He refused to remove it as he said it was benign. He said, due to the location, he would not recommend removing it because it would cause a significant scar.

It was only because of the location, my vanity, and my husband’s concern that I pursued on and went to a plastic surgeon for a second opinion. The plastic surgeon said it looked suspicious and agreed to remove it and send it to be biopsied. A few days later, I received a positive result for melanoma. That phone call from the doctor will forever echo in my memory. He referred me to a local oncologist and recommended I make an appointment at Moffit in Tampa, FL.

The oncologist believes this was not a primary site due to the depth of the tumor. The primary site was never found. I had two more surgeries to clear the margins. I had a sentinel lymph node assessment. My lymph nodes in my neck were removed and were clear. I completed a year of interferon therapy, which was difficult but medically I fared well. It was 1 month of daily IVs and 11 months of giving myself injections three times per week. I was not able to work during the first month but was able to work for the last 11 months. I had follow up PET scans and blood work every 3 months and then moved to every 6 months after 2 years. I was cancer free (NED- no evidence of disease) for almost 5 years, until July 2008.

In July 2008, a routine PET scan identified a spot on my liver. Part of my liver and all of my gallbladder were removed. A single 4×3-cm mass was present next to the gallbladder. It was positive for metastatic melanoma. An ultrasound was completed, and there was a questionable lesion as well on the right lobe of the liver. It was recommended to watch this as it did not appear to be hot on the PET or CT scan. Two opinions, one at Tampa General Hospital and the other at Moffit, said there was no recommended treatment since it is Stage lV NED. My local oncologist agreed. This was bittersweet news, but overall, I was very thankful for this as I didn’t want to begin putting poisons back in my body.

I began a quest to build my immune system and to to cleanse my body with a diet free of white flour, sugar, meats, and processed foods. I strive to eat a high-alkaline diet rich in raw foods. The questionable lesion that was found on the right lobe of my liver is completely gone. PET scan and CT scan show it is no longer there. The doctor can’t explain.

I had PET scans, physicals, and blood work completed every 3 months. Now I am on the 6-month plan until I reach 4 years (this July); then I bump up to the 1-year plan. I exercise daily and keep a positive attitude. I never forget that God is in control, He is the ultimate healer, and I am thankful daily for his grace. I am ever so grateful for my husband, children, family, and friends for their endless support and encouragment.

Each day is a gift; live in the present and embrace each moment. We can beat this, believe!!!

Sue Sorenson