Melanoma and my Lucky Day
Friday, April 23, 2010
In April of 2003, I went to the doctor for a routine Blood Pressure Check (I have high blood pressure). During that visit I had him look at what I thought was a persistent zit on my back-and my world changed instantly. He did a biopsy (barely waited until the ink was dry on the consent form) and two days later called with the news that I had the worst kind of skin cancer - melanoma. I was to see a specialist on Monday.
My world spun as I became educated about cancer. Surgery followed with the good news that my skin cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes so I was classified Stage I. And seven years later, I am still NED (No evidence of Disease). But the bad thing about melanoma is you are not considered cured after 5 years-it can still come back even after 20 years. But life doesn't wait for the prognosis and I have been very lucky-all because of a chance comment to the doctor during an office visit. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had not said anything that day. I was 45 when diagnosed. If the cancer had traveled to the lymph nodes, you have about a 50% chance of living 5 years. I was VERY glad to celebrate my 50th birthday!
I have met many friends online at the Melanoma Research Foundation's patient information board while researching and going through my surgeries. And unfortunately many have passed on in seven years. The bad thing about melanoma is that there is no cure. Only trial chemotherapy or drugs that may or may not help. Research has come far in 7 years, but much more is needed. The board is at www.mpip.org
and I do recommend the board to anyone who has a diagnosis of melanoma. There are wonderful people who will share information and encourage you throughout the process. And they do take donations for research funding.
So please use that sunscreen, stay out of tanning beds and do not get sunburned. If you are high risk (fair skinned, red or blonde hair, blue, green or hazel eyes) then get a skin check annually. And if you ever have a mole change-see a dermatologist promptly. It could save your life. It did mine-and I was a brown haired, hazel-eyed farm girl who didn't use a tanning bed.
Don't forget to do all your other cancer checks too.
It helps to be pro-active and catch it early - no matter how afraid of the diagnosis you may be.
It IS a matter of life and death!
A 7 year Survivor