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Clara’s Story: Advocating for Your Child’s Health

Guest blog post by Andrea Smith, mother of pediatric melanoma survivor Clara and member of the MRF’s Pediatric Melanoma Parent Steering Committee:

In early 2017, Clara (then 15 months old) had what looked like a small pimple form on her lower calf. The pimple did not go away and grew into what looked like a wart within a few weeks. In April, I asked her pediatrician if it needed to be removed. He assured me it was nothing to worry about and that he would freeze it off in his office when she was a bit older. As the months passed, the wart continued to grow and became more bothersome, even bleeding at times when she would accidentally snag or bump it on something.  

During the summer months it grew increasingly bothersome and I asked her doctor about it again. He again said that it was nothing to worry about. Eventually, I asked my friend who is a nurse practitioner at a dermatologist’s office what she recommended. She told me that the growth was actually a pyogenic granuloma, and that it needed to be removed and cauterized underneath, but that it wasn’t anything to worry about. After deciding it was worth removing because of the pain it was causing Clara, I got her into the dermatologist who confirmed what my friend had said. He performed the procedure and sent the tissue for a biopsy. We were shocked twelve days later, getting the news that our baby had melanoma. Learning that a small, innocent-looking growth could possibly take our daughter away from us was devastating. 

Clara underwent a surgery six weeks later, where a large portion of her calf was removed. Because of the size and depth of her growth, she was diagnosed with stage II melanoma. Now we have a little 3-year-old (almost 4!) girl who we diligently protect from the sun, as recurrence is always a worry. We hope that research advancements get to the point where a cure is found and we can allow her to have a normal childhood, without the worry of her cancer ever coming back.  

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and stories like Clara’s are a powerful reminder that melanoma can affect even the youngest members of our community. In honor of Clara and the 500 additional families who will be affected by pediatric melanoma this year, please consider a tax-deductible gift to support further research, better treatments and progress towards a cure.