a Metastatic Melanoma Survivor.
This is my story.
In the fall of 2013 (when I was just 24 years old) I was diagnosed with Stage 2A Melanoma. I had a suspicious looking mole on the back of my right shoulder for most of my life. My Mom recently became a breast cancer survivor (GO MOM!) and was hyper-aware of things that could be cancerous. To say she aggressively encouraged me to go to the Dermatologist would be an understatement. I went and had my mole removed. To everyone's surprise (even the Dermatologist who told me it was probably fine but we'll test it anyway) it was Melanoma.
I immediately had two procedures: 1) Removed the sentinel lymph nodes (hypothetically the first places cancer would travel) and 2) Removed a 2cm x 2cm x 2cm cube from my shoulder to make sure we got it all out. The sentinel lymph nodes were negative (YAY) and I was left with what I call a "shark bite" on my shoulder/back. Being Stage 2A, I didn't require any further treatment. After my procedures, I entered maintenance mode where I became very close with my Dermatologist and Oncologist and followed a schedule of routine check-ups.
5 years (literally, almost to the day) in the fall of 2018, I saw my Oncologist for a checkup. I showed her a lump I had found under my skin near my groin area and she immediately became concerned. Turns out, the Melanoma that they thought they got 5 years ago has spread. Further testing showed I have mets in my brain, lungs, heart, shoulder and a couple spots in my legs. As a 29-year old, this news was earth-shattering to say the least.
As of October, 2018 I began the fight of my life to beat this nasty disease. Doctor's felt positive and I had to be too. I created "Have a Sense of Tumor" to document this so called "journey." Here you'll see the good, the bad, and the ugly. I promise there will always be some sort of humorous layer though - because I don't know how to do anything else ;)
After 14 infusions of Immunotherapy, and 1 SRS (Stereotactic Radiosurgery) and 13 months of chaos, the cancer is GONE. In July, 2019 I was officially declared N.E.D. status (No Evidence of Disease) and in October, 2019 I had my last treatment.
My story is far from over and now I have to figure out how get out of the cancer bubble I've been living in. My "new normal" is very different and I'm still trying to figure out how to navigate it.
I've been able to use this space to connect with other "Melahomies" all over the country and I couldn't be more grateful. We're not done yet!