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Kate Bennett Shares Her Melanoma Journey During Melanoma Awareness Month

Guest blog post by Kate Bennett; melanoma thriver and MRF supporter:

Kate Bennett

“My melanoma story began in August of 2021 when my sister-in-law spotted a tiny black mole on my back. After a visit to the Dermatologist, I was reassured that it was probably nothing serious as hormones can change your moles during pregnancy. It was malignant melanoma, and I was 7 months pregnant. I had surgery to take out my left side lymph nodes with again the belief that it didn’t spread. Yet again it did, and I was reclassified to Stage III cancer. I had to wait until I delivered my baby before receiving any further imaging or treatment. After delivering my beautiful baby girl in December 2021, I had a clean CT scan and started immunotherapy with Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) as a preventative measure.  

By June 2022, 6 months after birth, my overall health had deteriorated. I was in a lot of pain and overall felt horrible. However, I just had scans done 6 weeks prior and I attributed these symptoms as treatment-related. After a couple more painful weeks, more abnormal blood work results and reaching the point where I couldn’t get out of bed, I went for another CT scan. The results were devastating. I had over 30 cancerous lesions in my liver and too many to count on my bones, particularly my spine. Some of the lesions had caused fractures in my vertebrae. All of this metastasis occurred within a 6-week time span. I now went from what was a small mole to a stage IV metastatic melanoma diagnosis which included multiple organs. The small likelihood of a mole being cancerous turned into a small likelihood that I would be alive in 5 years.  

Due to my cancer’s BRAF+ mutation, I was recommended by leading melanoma oncologists to start Encorafenib (Braftovi) and Binimetinib (Mektovi). These two oral drugs saved my life, within weeks I was able to get out of bed again and by December 2022, I had no evidence of disease. It is now believed that the pembrolizumab had a delayed response and the combination with the targeted therapy pills saved my life. This can happen to anyone. I have no family history of cancer. Be proactive, wear sunscreen, wear cover ups, etc. Get checked out frequently. The research and treatments have come a long way over the years and are creating more success stories like mine.  

I have chosen to share my story because when I was first diagnosed, I scoured the internet to find survivors who had similar stories to mine. I was desperate to connect with someone, especially local. I wanted to become involved with an organization dedicated to expanding outreach and local to where I live. I wanted to be able to help others and expand knowledge right in my backyard, especially in an area where there isn’t as much awareness of just how deadly skin cancer can be.  

I chose to share my story specifically with the MRF because it is one of the largest nonprofits that supports melanoma research and when hearing about new breakthroughs in the field or lobbying, the MRF played a role. My amazing Oncologists past and present are also involved with the MRF, Dr. Richard Carvajal and Dr. Michael Postow.”