Melanoma Warrior Spirit
My melanoma and skin cancer journey started when I was 4 years old with a family history of melanoma. My mother was pregnant with my little brother when she dropped the Thanksgiving turkey due to a cyst on her wrist. She scheduled an appointment to see the doctor to have her wrist looked at and decided to have them look at a mole on her back while she was there.
With the holidays it took a while to get an appointment and she figured that as long as she took care of it before July she should be fine. The day before her appointment the cyst on her wrist disappeared. She told dad she was going to go ahead and keep the appointment and at least let them check the mole on her back. The doctor told her they would take a biopsy of the mole and get back to her.
My family history with melanoma
When the results came back melanoma needless to say they were terrified! By the time they removed the melanoma and finished with skin grafts and everything, they told my parents that my mother had at most 3 to 5 years to live. My parents were devastated. My dad said he prayed that God would leave her with us long enough for their children to know their mom because according to the doctors he was going to be raising 3 small children by himself in 3-5 years. We were blessed to have her around for another 43 years! She was grateful as we were for every day we had. There were more cancers in store for her and she was a warrior until the end. She took every diagnosis with strength and grace unlike any I have seen.
When my grandmother (her mother) was diagnosed with melanoma in 2000 I again watched my mother handle cancer with strength and grace and her warrior spirit was amazing. We lost my grandmother in 2001 to melanoma. It was a horrible death but she and my mother again showed us what grace, strength, and faith in God looked like. My mother had faith in God like no other. But my mother wasn't finished showing us what strength, faith, and hope meant.
More cancer diagnoses
She was diagnosed with 3 more cancers in what little time she had left. Her final being pancreatic cancer. I watched this brave woman take the diagnosis with grace and beauty and a warrior's spirit. Even to her last day (she was a nurse so she KNEW what she was facing), she told me she would never give up. She was going to fight with her very last breath to be able to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up. My mom was so brave. God made her an angel. She lost her battle with pancreatic cancer but she never gave up and never felt sorry for herself. She never showed how bad she was hurting, how much pain she was in.
My mother told me to get checked
She kept telling me that I needed to get a large freckle on my face checked. It was moving down into my lip. I told her that they were watching it but that they kept saying it was "cafe latte" skin discoloration. I was seeing the dermatologist finally that had taken care of my mom and grandmother. I had makeup on for my first appointment so he was not able to fully see the area. A year later when I went back, my mom's warning ringing in my ears I decided not to wear any makeup at all.
He immediately zeroed in on that spot on my face. He froze several spots and told me that with my family history with melanoma, he wanted to biopsy a small part of that area just to make sure and if it was nothing then great but something about it bothered him. I have learned when something "bothers" him about a spot that means it's cancerous as he knows before ever sending it off. When he called me I knew the moment I heard his voice on the phone what he was going to tell me. He said it's melanoma.
My biopsy results
Trying to lift the mood as he is such a sweet person, he said, "Now wait a minute, can't a doctor call to check on his patients without suspicion?" We both laughed and I said, "I knew the moment I heard you on the other end doc, you can't fool me!" He laughed and talked for a moment and he told me that I was correct, that it had come back as melanoma, and that he had scheduled me for surgery to remove it on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving and he said I had to stay at least a few days so they can make sure they get everything. He explained that I would be having Mohs surgery to remove the melanoma.
He told God had his hand in this because he was never able to get an appointment with the Mohs surgeon and the plastic surgeon that fast before. He said normally they are booked out and even pulling strings it normally is a few weeks before he can get patients in to see them so when they told him they had an opening in a couple of days he went ahead and booked it. He told them not to call me until he had a chance to tell me himself what was happening and they did. He was a little worried because he kept asking me if I was ok. He said I normally hear crying when I give this news. He stayed on the phone with me for almost an hour. I told him that the moment I heard his voice I knew but I also had a peace come over me. I told him God has got this.
I went through 2 days of Mohs surgery to remove the melanoma and on the 3rd day, they removed one more layer before starting the first of many reconstructive surgeries on my face. I have had one recurrence and 2 other melanomas removed since and one squamous cell carcinoma. Every time I see him I tell him, "Doc I love you and you can call me to check on me anytime EXCEPT right after I have had a biopsy done!"
Sharing my family history with melanoma and my story to bring awareness
I have had AMAZING doctors and an AMAZING support system at home! I’m still self-conscious about my face, but I look at my scars as a way to open the discussion to warn others. I have had several friends and strangers that, after seeing what I went through, had spots checked and were able to catch their melanoma early. I will continue to share my story and family history with melanoma and skin cancer and encourage others to get checked. I show my pictures of all my surgeries to teenagers that love to sunbathe to show them the reality of what can happen to them. I am not as strong as my mom but I will always fight and try to show the same strength and grace she taught me every day.
Do you check the UV index before leaving the house?