Friday, July 8, 2011

Melanoma Sucks

I don't share a lot about this, but I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in December of 2009.  I had to see an oncologist on Christmas Eve of that year and be told that I needed surgery and Interferon therapy. There had never been any cancer in my immediate family, and I was devastated. I thought I was completely bullet-proof about cancer. I had grown up in Southern California, and beach-going was a major part of my life. I'm sure there were some bad sunburns along the way, some summers spent on air mattresses at Lake Tahoe, and I thought the only consequences were freckles.

In 2001 I asked a dermatologist to look at a mole on my back, and he was so disturbed he removed it that day. It was pre-cancerous, and he followed a protocol to remove three inches of skin from the area. He said that I had "almost a melanoma" and I thought that was the end of that. I never went in the sun again.

Fast forward to December of 2009, I had what I thought was a "skin tag"  and finally got to the doctor about it. It was malignant. At this point, I was finally, very happily married and very scared about not being around. I had surgery, and interferon therapy for melanoma during January and February of 2010. I got up every morning at 6:00 a.m.,  got to the doctors office and treatment room by 8:00 a.m., and in the office by 10:00 a.m.  I would do the best I could at the office, with our administrative manager shepherding me through assignments and asking me every day how I was doing.  When I got home from work, I would go to sleep until the next morning. Weekends I would sleep most of the day. It was a very awful time for Dave and I. I would cross the days of treatment off on a calendar, which I still have.I never want to forget how that time felt.

After I completed my Interferon treatment, my hair started falling out. When I had a PT scan in May of 2010, my oncologist wasn't concerned. I was a bit freaked out and had my hair cut short. I ended up losing about half of my hair, and the great part was that, it came back curly!

I had one more CT scan in December, 2010, and I was very scared, not wanting another awful Christmas. (My insurance company would not authorize a PT scan, which would have gone to a biological level, and cost more) but I had a clear scan. Dave and I had a great Christmas and I probably spent too much money, but after last year, I felt we deserved it.

I had a scan a couple of weeks ago. The eerie part is, that I was assigned to work for the nastiest senior partner in the firm, and I remember saying that I would rather have cancer treatment again than spend another day working for him (Seriously, he is that bad). I have also had terrible reports about my mother's dementia and how she does not remember me, and I know that I thought I really would not want to live to be that old (89).  I'm sure that didn't cause the scan results, but I do regret those thoughts. My scan revealed two "suspicious" lymph nodes in the area where two were removed before.

I have been told told that the worst thing one can do after a diagnosis is to get on the internet.  I just never knew that melanoma usually comes back. I thought I was safe. 

I had a "freak out" moment last week when I didn't think I would ever get to go to Paris again, ever get to have a dog again, or see my beloved stepson, and I felt trapped in my life like a rat in a cage. My sweet husband once again calmed me down, but it's still there, in my head.

Today I met with my surgeon/oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. We need to get these two lymph nodes out, and ASAP. My hematologist in charge of my care wants to have me go on the new melanoma drugs, and I have no idea how I will react to those. I keep trying to avoid negative thoughts, but it isn't easy.

I got Dave to go out to dinner at our favorite dive restaurant in Playa del Rey tonight. I'm going to enjoy life more, and hopefully, worry less. I cannot control what's happening, but I can control how it affects me and my life.

I have my sweet husband, my adorable pets, great friends, and some very supportive  people I work with. Life is good. I will face the surgery and removal of these lymph nodes with hope and grace.