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Melanoma Awareness Month: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey through their Melanoma Diagnoses

Guest blog from Rachael Payne, a stage IIIb melanoma survivor and mother of Delilah-Anne, a spitzoid melanoma survivor: 

delilah and momMy name is Rachael and I am 36 years old. I have two daughters: Delilah-Anne, five years old, and Annabelle, three years old. When Delilah-Anne was just two years old I brought her to the pediatrician for what I thought was a wart. The pediatrician said it was a molluscum. The plan was to watch it and let it go away.  Except it didn’t; it got worse.

When it started bleeding, I thought she had scratched it or snagged it on something. Finally after a few months, I asked for a referral to a dermatologist. The dermatologist didn’t disagree with the diagnosis, but said it looked more like a wart in size. We treated it like so.

The medicine that was supposed to make it go away was actually making it worse. The dermatologist was not willing to continue and wanted to remove this. The pathologist called her directly and she called me directly. The pathologist couldn’t really believe this was what she was seeing in a two year old. She sent the sample off for a couple more pathologists to view. They all came back with the same finding: spitzoid melanoma.

Melanoma?! I’ve never let her get a sunburn though?! How?! It’s a mutation. From there it was like climbing a ladder. Next step was to have surgery to have more removed and get a lymph node, then get scans, then wait.

Stage IIIb malignant melanoma was the diagnosis. It took my breath away. Many amazing people entered our lives and helped us on this journey. We decided to do three months of scans and blood work and not immunotherapy. At St. Jude, the pathologists and doctors studied her case. Finally, at five years old I heard the news I had been wanting to hear. This was extremely rare and highly unlikely to occur again. My baby is safe from cancer now.

But before that news came, I found out more disheartening news myself.  A mole I had ignored began to bother me. Even with Delilah-Anne’s case I still neglected to get my skin checked. Mistake! I got that direct call from my dermatologist explaining melanoma. Again with the ladder. Excision and removal of two lymph nodes. MRI, CT, X-rays blood work…stage IIIb malignant melanoma. I am now receiving Opdivo for the length of a year. Today I am six months in and going strong!

I’ve learned to be vigilant about skin checks and when it comes to a mole or mark, it’s better to be safe than sorry. I thank God for the amazing people at the Melanoma Research Foundation who were there for me in the scariest moment of my parenting life. The information they provided was priceless, not to mention the community and support. Nobody was too high up to speak to. My daughter and I were always important to them.


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