I had a "freckle" come up on the left side of my neck around April 2010 after I started going to the tanning bed to get darker for my wedding (I'm a redhead with very pale skin). I ignored it. I already had a ton of freckles so it was just a new one - so I thought! It started growing, and would occasionally bleed without being touched. Still I ignored it thinking it was nothing. A few months went by, and a lump came up beside the "freckle" that had now started looking more like mole. I told myself that It was a cyst and it would go away on its own. Family members kept telling me to go get it checked because it was still growing, but I didn't have health insurance so I ignored them. In February of 2011 I finally got insurance!
I went to the Dr because I had been bitten by a spider and I wanted to make sure it wasn't poisonous because I hadn't been feeling right. While I was there I ask her to cut off the mole. She looked at it with a light for a good 5 minutes before telling me that she couldn't do it because it was a strange type of mole that could have veins in it. I was sent from the Dr's office to a dermatologist office that same day. That's where I first found out I could have melanoma. A week later it was confirmed, Stage III, level three. Everything just went cloudy as we starting making appointments with surgeons and calling family members! The next morning I woke up just as the sun was rising. When I opened my eyes the suns rays were shinning in on me and at that moment I knew I was going to be OK.
I met with my original Dr that day to learn more about my diagnosis since I wasn't seeing my surgeon for another week. She said I could possibly only have 3 weeks to 3 months. What?! I can't explain how I felt when she said that. The following week was full of Dr appointments, xrays, blood work and CT scans. My surgery was scheduled on 3/9/2011. I had a waiting room full of family and friends as I was taken back to the prep area. The surgeon was pretty sure he removed all the cancer along with three lymph nodes (2 were positive for cancer cells) which left me with nerve damage and numbness in my neck, ear and some of my face. I had 32 staples and a drain tube. My surgeon was amazing, and the day he removed the staples and drain tube he said something and I laughed. He couldn't believe that I could still smile after all the damage to my nerves from the surgery.
A month later I started Interferon treatments 5 times a week for 4 weeks. The first day I was so tired afterwards, I had to hold on to my husband just to walk out of the hospital to the car. I had to take the second week off as my liver levels got extremely low. It was a long 5 weeks with high fevers, and two ER visits (once over a high fever, and the second I thought I was having a heart attack because of the pain from the nerve damage in my left arm). I wanted to give up once but my mom was an amazing support system and helped me to stay strong even when I was weak. After the treatments I did CT scans and blood work every three months then went to every six months and was released completely in August 2014!
Almost one year to the day of my surgery I got the melanoma ribbon tattooed my my leg with the quote "one day, one breath, one step at a time". It reminds me daily of just how strong I truly am!