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Addison Shares Her Story During #AYAware Week

Guest blog post by Addison, melanoma thriver and MRF supporter: 


“My melanoma journey began with a mole removal and Stage 1B diagnosis at age 21. Luckily, it was caught early, entirely removed with a wide excision surgery, and had not spread to my lymph nodes. So, after a quick scare, I was back to normal life within a few months and graduated my senior year of college on time. Three years later, I experienced a seizure out of the blue, which was caused by Stage 4 metastasized melanoma in my brain. After a craniotomy, groundbreaking immunotherapy treatments, and suffering terrible side effects, I achieved “remission” status within a year. Stage 4 melanoma returned a second time to my brain at age 28, presenting itself again with multiple seizures and resulting in yet another craniotomy, more immunotherapy, and years of relentless side effects.

Those are the facts and only a piece of my real story. This is what the medical world sees and shares, but what’s missing is the monumental impact all of that had on my life, my psychology, my physical abilities, my career, and my relationships. I’ve experienced the lowest lows that I didn’t even know were possible. I’ve also experienced the highest of highs. I have immense appreciation and gratitude for life and health when I’ve been so lucky to have it.

Being diagnosed with cancer as a young adult brings with it a flood of obstacles and emotions at a time where figuring out how to be an independent, successful person is difficult enough. I had so many questions. Why me? Is this my fault? Who do I trust with my medical care? Am I going to fall behind in my career? How am I going to pay these astronomical medical bills? Who is ever going to want to date me? Do I stop investing in my 401k? Do I need to write a will?

When I was young and hit with the news of a Stage 4 recurrence, time moved fast and slow; I was painfully present and yet incredibly distant. I think back on that time and don’t have an easy way of explaining it. Something that recently helped with processing my journey was attending the True North Treks wilderness retreat for young adult melanoma survivors this past year sponsored by the Melanoma Research Foundation. I had the opportunity to meet 6 other women with similar experiences. We had so much in common and yet each of our stories were very unique as well. A long weekend of tech-free, intentional reflection was the perfect way to think back on the struggles and triumphs we’ve all experienced and get back in touch with the calmness and beauty of nature.

As challenging and debilitating so many of the things I have experienced have been, I still consider myself beyond fortunate. My family and friends have rallied by my side each and every re-diagnosis. I’ve been under the care of countless doctors and nurses who are among the best in the country. I’ve been diagnosed at a time coinciding with revolutionary medical breakthroughs in immunotherapy treatments, miraculously giving me options and a path forward, and always giving me hope. I fell in love with my supportive, caring, funny, and motivating husband who has been by my side for the past 9 years. I’ve regained my physical strength time and time again and have excelled in my career. And perhaps most importantly, I have clarity about what’s important to me in life, how I spend my time, and who I want to spend it with.”