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2023 Courage Awardee, Keith Woolley, Shares His Melanoma Journey

Keith Woolley

Keith Woolley alongside his wife and daughter.

Guest blog post by Keith Woolley, melanoma thriver and MRF supporter:

“From the beginning of my journey in April of 2021 I have felt compelled to share my story to help educate others on how to prevent cutaneous melanoma. I am driven to pay forward my good fortune through this process and donate to the MRF.  I hope to share my story both personally and professionally to inspire impactful change in the world of melanoma and beyond.

In April of 2021 my wife and I were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary in Belize. While applying sunscreen to my back she noticed a “pin head” sized freckle below my right shoulder blade that she thought looked unusual. I thought nothing of it but decided to see my dermatologist when I returned home. The dermatologist agreed that it looked unusual and removed it for biopsy along with a few other spots. My dermatologist felt confident that it was probably nothing. Five days later, while traveling for business, the dermatology office contacted me to let me know that indeed the freckle was Stage 1 Melanoma that did not require radiation or Chemo but would require surgery. Two weeks later I had surgery to remove a large football sized portion of skin from my back to assure that we had clear margins from the original melanoma (10 internal stitches/10 external stitches). The tissue was also sent for genetic testing to assess the probability of metastasis. Post-surgery the margins were clear, and the genetic test showed a very low probability of metastasis. I was told that I had dodged a bullet and that once again my wife had “saved my life.” Fast forward to November of 2022 when I began to suffer from severe facial tremors/spasms on the left side of my face. My internist felt confident that the tremors were a result of my TMJ and the probability that the trigeminal nerve was touching a blood vessel causing these tremors. This seemed like a very logical diagnosis considering I am an otherwise completely healthy individual. Over the next 45 days I had about a dozen of these focal tremors that would last for about 90-190 seconds. At this point I was scheduled for an MRI but I didn’t have to wait that long. On a Sunday morning at 3am I had a massive seizure and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. I thought for sure that I was having a stroke but was showing signs of quick recovery by the time I arrived at the ER. I was assessed by a neurologist and had an MRI. The MRI showed “no stroke” ….but it showed 3 lesions in my right frontal lobe. One of the lesions was quite large at 2.5cm. From there I went to work advocating for my care since I worked in healthcare for 30+ years. The next Wednesday I was seen at University of Colorado (UC) Health Neurosurgery. That Friday I was in surgery for 5 hours having a successful craniotomy. I was home and feeling good that Sunday. I met with UC Health Melanoma team the following week. We charted a course of dual immunotherapy beginning in early January. The following week I had successful Gamma knife surgery to remove the two smaller lesions. After completion of 4 courses of immunotherapy I had my first PET scan after my baseline PET scan. In early April I got the phone call from my Oncologist that I was “cancer free” and would be considered a “complete response” to therapy. I will continue with single agent immunotherapy for the next 18 months and then assess our options towards continued cancer free status. The moral of the story is….

Stay in the fight and thrive!

Focus on your controllables (physical, mental, nutritional and spiritual health).

Put your life in the hands of the experts and do EXACTLY what they tell you.

Surround yourself with the love and support of friends and family.”

If you are interested in making a donation to the MRF, click here.