Sunday, June 29, 2014

It was just a little spot...

I have decided to go ahead and start a blog, because that's what many people do when they receive a cancer diagnosis, right? I am hopeful that this blog will help me process some of the things that are coming my way, and might help some other newly diagnosed melanoma patients / warriors / survivors (when am I EVER going to feel comfortable with these terms?!) get the information they need as they begin their journeys.

First of all, this melanoma is one of the strangest things that has ever happened to me. I still just can't believe it's real and happening to me. I guess that's a normal reaction to learning that your life has changed, but it surely is uncomfortable. At this point, I feel like I've read the entire internet (seriously!) and it seems that most people feel more comfortable with their situation after a year has passed.  Let's get that year started then!

I have spent quite a bit of time reading melanoma blogs. If someone has posted a picture of their incision / stitches / skin graft / recovery...I've seen it.  I feel like I could perform my own surgery at this point, that's how much I've read.

Let me start by showing you what my "spot" looked like at the beginning of this whole process.
See? It's tiny. This spot is located on my inner thigh, just above my knee.  Even posting this rather inconsequential photograph makes me realize I'm going to have to work on some issues with being self-conscious about pictures of my body parts.  Ha! The next pictures are going to be really different, aren't they?

I had shown this spot to my doctor at my annual appointment last year, but I FAILED to say the words "It's new."  I just said, "Will you look at this spot?"  Why didn't I didn't point out that it was new? Why?! I have beaten myself up pretty significantly about that fact over the past month and I guess I'm just going to have to let myself be.  He looked at it and said, "I think that looks fine."  At this year's appointment, I said "Can you please take this off...I'm concerned about it."  He did not argue. I knew I was in trouble when he said "Well, maybe this isn't a melanoma.  Let's hope it's not."  He normally tells me when he believes something is fine, but this time he didn't.  I knew that was bad.

Sure enough, I got "The Call" one week later.  By that time I had done my research, because I knew in my heart it was melanoma.  In that respect, I'm grateful for my doctor's choice to say "maybe it's not a melanoma" instead of sugar-coating it.  I had done my homework, and I knew everything I might hear in that call. That made it possible for me to take the call calmly and really hear the words my doctor said. These are the highlights:

-Breslow depth .96 mm means I'm shy of that all important 1mm cut-off, but the doctors are going to behave as if it was a 1mm lesion
-Clark's level IV, but Clark's level doesn't mean much anymore
-Mitotic rate 2
-Superficial Spreading Melanoma
-Referred to the Loyola Medical Center
-If my dermatologist had a family member with melanoma, he'd choose this surgeon
-My current stage is 1B based on depth and mitotic rate.
-I'll need a sentinal node biopsy, which will help determine if I move to stage 3
-My prognosis is very good

Prognosis? Did you say prognosis? Oncologist? Surgery? Wait...prognosis?  But this was only a tiny spot...

For those of you who have just been diagnosed, I know you have questions about timeline.  I had my biopsy on June 3rd, I received the results on June 10th, I met with the surgical oncologist on June 24th, and I will have surgery on July 10th.  Results to surgery will be exactly one month.

More about those details later.


  1. Wow! Thank you so much for posting that photo. You know you have been the impetus to get myself checked out again sooner rather than later. Love you!!!

  2. I plan to post photos of the entire journey here rather than on Facebook because people who have clicked a melanoma blog are expecting to see some (rather shocking) photos. I have learned so much from other people's blogs, I finally feel like I know what to expect.

  3. It's so wonderful that so many people put themselves out there like that to help others. You're amazing!!