What I Want You To Know About Melanoma: Words of Wisdom From a Melanoma Survivor

Mindi Helmandollar-Armatas, (left)
Stage IV Melanoma Survivor

I was first diagnosed with Stage III melanoma when I was 22 years old. I was a high school and college cheerleader, and I will never forget having to be tan in order to cheer at games. In college, all team members received free tanning, and it was expected that we go, especially when you had skin as fair as mine.

At the time of my first diagnosis, I had just graduated from college and was waiting for my now husband to finish up graduate school. After 5 years of being scanned every 3-6 months with regular skin and doctor visits, I “graduated” from the cancer institute since the likeliness of my melanoma forming again was incredibly low.

Fast-forward to eight years later from my original Stage III diagnosis, I started to develop vitiligo on my back, and all of my eyelashes and eyebrow hair turned white. I then developed a cough. It turns out after seeing multiple doctors; I had a tumor in my lung. I had to have my lower left lung removed in order to get the tumor out. Once the tumor was tested, it turned out to be melanoma making it Stage IV since it had metastasized from my original melanoma to my lung. The first time I was diagnosed, I did not have many friends who really understood the seriousness of melanoma, nor could I even talk about it due to the emotional toll it took.

This time around I talk openly (for the most part) about it because I have found it helps me for others to understand more about melanoma. I am also able to help raise awareness and important funds needed so a cure can hopefully be discovered.

I am so lucky to have such a huge support system, which has been a key in my recovery. My husband, parents, family, and friends have made a world of difference in helping me stay emotionally strong. If I need something, I know I can just ask, and they will help me find the answers. I know not everyone has this, and I feel so lucky I have such a huge support network. I am also taking advantage of all the great resources my doctor has offered and would highly recommend others to do the same such as counseling and classes about healthy eating. I have realized it is okay to accept help from others because it helps them too.

One year later after battling tumors, I am now onto my third type of chemotherapy treatment, and I finally had a clear scan! I am so incredibly grateful to all the scientists, doctors, donors, and everyone else involved in the never-ending battle to find a cure for this vicious disease.

Mindi Helmandollar-Armatas
Stage IV Melanoma Survivor
Sherwood, Oregon

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