I have always been a very outdoorsy person - hunting, fishing, hiking, camping - but I have never worshiped the sun like my sisters. Actually, I used to hide from the sun, so finding out I had melanoma was an incredible shock to me!
I am a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale, Irish/German girl. Which means that I have a lot of moles and freckles and red spots on my skin. However, I did have one mole that didn't look like the rest. It was a strange mole on my left inner leg by my knee that I had noticed about 2 years ago. It was blue/brown/black in color, odd shaped and had various levels of elevation.
So, during one of my annual physicals (Dec 2014), I asked my PCP to look at this suspicious mole. My PCP said it was nothing to worry about and that it was just a nevus on top of a mole. I wasn't real happy with this response, so I decided to get a 2nd opinion.
I saw a dermatologist on May 13, 2015, and the NP there agreed that it looked suspicious and did a shave biopsy of it and sent it off to pathology. I really never thought about it for a second after that shave biopsy because I really was one to protect myself from the sun. I figured it would come back basal cell or just noting at all.
However, 6 days later, the dermatologist called me and said that I had malignant melanoma and that I needed to see a surgical oncologist due to the path report. I was just like, "ok". So, I scheduled an appt with a surgical oncologist 2 days later and that was that. It still really didn't hit me. I didn't know much about melanoma, so I didn't know how bad it could be.
The next day, I picked up my path report and read it: 1.2 Bresow thickness, ulcerated, non-brisk TILs, 2-4 mitoses per mm2. I immediately went online and did some research. I should add that I am a nurse and very well educated and I know how to navigate around all the bullsh*t on the internet and find the actual appropriate facts. After educating myself on all things melanoma, sh*t got real. It finally hit me! I had no clue that melanoma could be so bad. I had no clue that it could go internal with mets to the liver, lungs, brain! I always thought it was just some epidermal lesion you had removed and you just had to watch your moles after that. So, now I was concerned... and nervous and anxious and angry and sad and annoyed.
I was in an incredible place in my life! I had just married the most amazing man ever! We had just bought our dream home. I had just switched jobs and was working at incredible hospital with incredible people. I was so happy and so pleased with my life. I did not want anything threatening it!!
Anyway, I met with the surgical oncologist on May 21, 2015 and he told me I would need a wide local excision of the primary tumor site (left inner leg by my knee), and that I would need to have a sentinel lymph node biopsy to make sure the cancer did not go out of the primary area. Surgery scheduled for June 19th! Wtf!? 1 month of waiting- ugh I was angry. I did not want to wait a freaking month. I wanted this crap out of me!
Surgery day - June 19, 2015: First I had to go to Nuc Med to have a dye injected in the primary tumor site to see what lymph node could be affected. That burned/hurt something awful! Then off to the OR. I woke up with quite a bit of pain. My left knee/leg was wrapped. The surgeon told my husband that he had to remove a large chunk from my left inner leg by my knee and that he had to cut through the vein so that there would be a lot of swelling and a lot of pain. He also told them that he removed 1 lymph node from my left groin.
I went home and rested and took alot of Norco. I was in a lot pain... like A LOT! But each day got better... got easier... the pain subsided.
I was a bit shocked when I removed the dressing and took a shower for the first time (3 days post-op). I had a fairly large chunk missing from my leg. I looked like a baby shark bite! Haha. But I didn't care - so long as my surgeon got all the cancer out, I didn't care how much of my leg he took.
I had my post-op appointment on June 25, 2015 and I was very very VERY pleased to find out that my lymph node was clear!!! No spread of the cancer!!!!!! Literally the best news of my life!! The surgeon did say that there was some residual cancer that was left over from the original biopsy which was why he had to take such a large amount of tissue during the surgery, but that the margins were clear. So I was upgraded to a Stage T2bN0. I was fine with this staging, because it said N0!!!! :)
I have lost all sensation between my knee and my ankle on my left leg. I also have decreased range of motion and decreased strength on that leg. So, I do have to start physical therapy for this. They are unsure at this point whether I will get that sensation/strength/range of motion back or not. If I don't get it back, that is totally fine! I don't really care, because all that really matters is the fact that I am now cancer free!!!!!
I had a lot of people praying for me. I truly do believe in the power of prayer. I hope that other people have their prayers answered too, and am very happy to pray for anyone that would like me to.
God Bless everyone and keep your chin up! It is one hell of a rollercoaster, but eventually the ride stops and you can breathe again!
xoxo - Lisa