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Melanoma Awareness Month: I am proud of the woman I am today, because I went through one hell of a time becoming her

Guest blog from Katie Ostrovsky, stage IV metastatic melanoma survivor who shares her journey with melanoma and why she fights to advocate for prevention and awareness: 

Katie O

My name is Katie and I am known on social media as @My_Melanoma_World. Here’s my story of survival, even when my odds were less than 5% to make it to 5 years. I stand here, happy and healthy, as of today. What does it take to be a survivor of cancer? I wish I had that exact answer. All I can tell you is my version of it. I’ve been married since 2005 to an absolute angel. His name is Benji and he has done everything for me, giving up so much for his family! He is gratuitous and supportive, always showing unconditional love. I consider him a superhero. He is the best caregiver and father to our 2 girls, 19 and 13 years old. They are beautiful and smart, through and through. We have grown into something special as a family. 

I was diagnosed on September 26, 2006, with a 9mm discolored, dark, risen mole under my left forearm. It was a very quick removal, but a deep shave biopsy made my world blow up. Two weeks later, the results were in: stage IIA melanoma. Sentinel node surgery showed the cancer hadn’t spread. Fast forward to 2008 when my first daughter started kindergarten and we had a newborn baby girl. I had mostly forgotten about melanoma but two weeks after my second daughter was born, I found a ping pong ball sized tumor in my left armpit. I assumed right away that it was a clogged milk duct. After a needle biopsy, the breast clinic confirmed that it was melanoma! I had done everything right; I couldn’t understand how this could happen. Unfortunately, it’s all too common! 

I was fighting at 100% capacity. I spoke up often when I felt my therapy wasn’t working and I was always for surgery. I wanted the tumors out! Things got really scary in 2010, when my oncologist told me they were trying to turn my weeks into months. I was covered with more than 100 tumors all over my body! Slowly, chemo therapies started working, and two treatments together, my oncologist thought, were shrinking my tumors. What changed my story was Target Now Testing, where they tested my tumor to find a reacting therapy! Temozolomide, Carboplatin and Taxol, showed the most promise. It ended up being Temozolomide and possibly ipililmumab that changed the course of my story. Haven taken ipiilimumab right before temozolomide, my oncologist thought it was possible the two worked together to shrink the tumors along with the surgeries and keeping on top of potential spread to further locations throughout my body. No one will ever truly know how I came to recover when I was headed towards my death. 

January 24th, 2019, 14 years after my initial diagnosis, I was given another diagnosis. It was a different type of journey now and I had to heal emotionally and physically from the journey I had just survived! A long road of recovery lay ahead. I’ve battled through 14 surgeries, including brain, lungs, uterus, spine and three on my left armpit. I’ve been through many skin biopsies as well, all positive for melanoma. I’ve taken lots of chemo/immunotherapies such as: Carboplatin, Taxol, Temozolomide, Leukine, ipilimumab (Yervoy). I participated with Bristol Meyers Squibb and The Angeles Clinic in a double blinded trial with Dr. Omid Hamid out of Santa Monica, CA. For medical purposes we later unblinded my results, and I learned that I received the placebo, which made sense since the melanoma spread to my lungs. 

In March of 2011, the FDA approved ipilimumab and I was able to finally receive the therapy in Arizona. I’ve endured countless rounds of radiation treatments to my brain, thigh, uterus, spine and upper chest. For those who are tanning out there, or not using sunscreen, that is what happens if you don’t stop. Pay attention to your body and educate yourself! Now I am living with consequences and side effects of stage 4 metastatic melanoma. I’ve battled Fibromyalgia for the last 8 years as well as cancer neuropathies, muscles loss, memory loss and more! 

Somehow with all of that, I am living 8 years cancer free! 1/24/22 was my Cancer-versary, giving me yet another year with my family. I’m blessed to be here and so grateful for every moment I have with them. I am challenging myself every step of the way and hoping to become a better person from it all! I am a melanoma advocate. Sharing my story, advocating and being supportive of others, in turn, has helped me heal. I want others to know that there are survivors of this beast. I know that hope goes a long way along with the power to believe in yourself! Advocating during your journey and sharing with others are truly so important during your battle against cancer!   

I am proud of the woman I am today, because I went through one hell of a time becoming her.

The MRF is committed to increasing awareness of melanoma, sun safety and how important it is to #GetNaked for a monthly self-skin check and yearly full body exam by a board certified dermatologist. Your support makes this work possible; please consider a tax-deductible gift today: