03.2013 Anna Echols
Diagnosed at 25
Anna was 25 and in her 1st year of marriage when she found a small, dark mole on her back. She had never been to the dermatologist before, but decided to go get it checked it out. She was diagnosed with stage 3b melanoma. Among other things, this diagnosis meant melanoma had spread to her lymph nodes. Anna had surgery that removed the area around the melanoma and removed 13 lymph nodes under her arm. She then spent one month getting daily IV treatments of interferon. After the first month of treatment, she received interferon shots 3 times a week for the remainder of the year. Anna has been cancer free now for 9 years. She and her husband now have 2 wonderful children.
04.2013 Beth Green
My name is Beth, I am now 30 years old, and this is the story of my 13 year battle with Melanoma…
As a child I literally grew up outside. My dad is a farmer and I loved to play softball. I participated in 4-H and also loved the outdoors. I am sure that my parents put sunscreen on me, but I was the child whom did not burn as much and do not recall ever having a sun burn that blistered. When I got into high school and started attending dances I wanted to be tan. I only got to use the tanning bed a handful of times as I was first diagnosed at age 17 with Melanoma. My dad had noticed a mole on my forehead that had not been there before and appeared to be growing. At this time it was only the size of a pencil eraser but at his request my mom took me to have it removed. It was only a couple days later when I came home and found my mom crying. She had gotten the call that I had Melanoma cancer and would need to be seen by a Dermatologist, Surgeon, and Oncologist. At age 17 I believed that I was invincible and teenagers whom were active did not die from cancer especially skin cancer. My parents on the other hand appeared to be devastated. I vividly remember my first appointment after that in which my diagnosis and all the risk were explained. It was at this time that everything set in. The oncologist had told my parents that if the cancer had spread or metastasized, the prognosis was that I would have six months to live. This is was the defining moment for me. In the appointments and surgeries to come we found out the cancer was in my lymph nodes and glands. This meant I had stage four Melanoma and that was when the treatments began. I spent the entire summer and my senior year of high school going back and for the to Children’s Mercy for interferon and radiation treatments. I knew that I had to fight the cancer if not only for myself, but for my parents, and my little sisters and brother. The best way I could think of at the time was to keep enjoying life. I played softball that summer and fall while also continuing to be a cheerleader for my high school. I had numerous surgeries and spent three days a week at the hospital receiving IV treatments. The treatments finished as did my senior year. I went off to college cancer free that fall. It didn’t last long as I was again diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2001. This time the cancer had spread throughout the lymph nodes in my neck and into the muscle tissue. I had just made it to college and joined a sorority. Needless to say this time I was devastated and even questioning why this had to happen to me again! This was also the first time during this journey that I saw my dad cry and could hear the tears in my grandma’s voice while I spoke with her on the phone. I had a radical neck dissection and now have a scar that is about nine inches long with scarring as well further scarring due to the radiation treatments that took place. The hospital stays got longer and surgeries more intense with drainage tubes and physical therapy. I was still determined to continue to fight and believe it or not one of my biggest worries before the surgery was the scarring. I even had my mom go by me lots of turtle neck sweaters for Christmas that year, although I did not end up wearing them. My treatments finished in the winter of 2002 and I have since been cancer free. I am now going on 11 years of being cancer free! It has been rough and I have had countless biopsies and moles removed as well as the millions of follow up appointments. I cannot say that I am glad this happened to me but I do believe it has made me the person I am today. I am able to see the positive side to everything and not sweat the small stuff. I do not tell my story to make people feel sorry for me. I now wear my scars proudly so that people will ask me what happened. Educating people is my way of helping others prevent this from happening to them. I want young women to know that you do not have to be tan to be beautiful and life is too short to not protect yourself. I feel blessed to be able to share my story and my journey with Melanoma. I am now married with three beautiful children and am thankful for everyday that I get to spend with them.
03.2013 Cayce Burwell
Cayce Burwell was 25 and engaged to be married. While trying on her wedding dress, she noticed a mole on her back. Not thinking much of it, she made an appointment and had the mole removed and biopsied. Two weeks later the dermatologist’s office called and said it was melanoma. In an instant, she went from being an excited bride to a cancer patient.
Because there wasn’t enough healthy tissue around the tissue sample used for the biopsy, the dermatologist couldn’t guarantee all of the cancer cells had been removed and recommended a more extensive surgery. In an effort to predict how the cancer would spread, the doctors injected a radioactive dye at the original site of the mole and tracked it to the lymph nodes.
“They ended up removing a chunk the size of a hockey puck from my back as well as six lymph nodes,” said Burwell. It turns out she was lucky, all of the lymph nodes came back clear and she was able to get back to the exciting things happening in her life.
Three years later, Burwell’s grandmother noticed a wound on the bottom of her foot. The red streaks emanating up Granny’s leg led the doctors to believe it might be a bacterial or fungal infection. Over the next few months, various efforts failed and Granny’s leg got worse. An eventual biopsy determined that she too had melanoma. Granny traveled to Duke for surgery and when that was determined to be unsuccessful, and with her health continuing to deteriorate, she was admitted to the hospital and scheduled for a PET scan. The news was not good. Her entire body had been affected including her bones, lungs and brain. Sadly, within two weeks, the cancer took Granny’s life.
Devastated at the loss, Burwell made it her mission to educate people about melanoma. “Melanoma is often downplayed in the media,” she said. “I was lucky that mine was caught early but I’ve also seen how serious it is when it advances.” According to the American Cancer Society, 76,250 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, will be diagnosed in 2012 and some 9,180 Americans will die of the disease this year.
“I don’t want anyone else to hear, ‘Your biopsy came back and you have melanoma.’ I never want another granddaughter to hear ‘There’s nothing we can do,’” said Burwell emotionally.
This is an excerpt of Cayce’s story taken from sacancernews.org.
03.2013 Eileen Marie Nallen
“Yesterday I underwent my first procedure to the remove a lesion of skin on my heel that was melanoma , followed by a bone shave biopsy of the heel bone. I cannot express enough the importance of protecting your skin from the sun. For those who know me for a while now, they know how much I loved to tan and be out in the sun all day. Unfortunately, I am only learning the hard way now. I can only consider… myself one of the “lucky ones” who caught it early. Get checked every year or even every six months by your dermatologist. You never think its going to happen until you either hear of someone you know or you yourself have to go through it. Please be aware especially with the warmer weather upon us! ”
Hi. My name is Jade and I am a melanoma survivor. That’s something I never thought I’d say, but I’m pretty damn happy that I get to. My story begins when I was a teenager. I LIVED in the sun! Hey, a tan makes you look better, right? Wrong. Then, when I was 17 I started going to tanning salons, sometimes twice in the same day. Looking back, I was such an idiot. Fast forward a few years. I was 23, a newlywed, and a soon-to-be-mommy. Life was perfect. I enjoyed my job, my husband and I had just bought a house, and we were prepping to be first time parents. But, there was this one thing…..this one little mole that completely changed my life. Like many other melanoma patients, I had a mole on my arm that I thought looked funny, but I never suspected melanoma. Besides, I had read that pregnancy could change the appearance of moles and your skin pigmentation. Still, this little, perfectly round red bump on my arm troubled me enough to make an appointment with a local derm. It was august 2, 2008 when i found out I had melanoma. My life was perfect. I was happily married, I was 8 months pregnant and with just a few words “you have melanoma ”.. my world…..just…..crumbled. Words can’t describe the fear, anxiety, saddness, anger….everything that you feel! And no matter how supportive your family and friends are, no one can truly understand what it feels like, unless they’ve been through it themselves. I had a wide excision biopsy done on my arm 2 weeks before I gave birth to my daughter. My cancer was originally diagnosed as Stage 1 and the results from wide excision biopsy came back clean. I was cancer free. Since then, i have had countless moles removed….one came back as a melanoma in situ…many came back abnormal…many normal. When I’m naked, you could probably play connect the dots from all the round scars on my body. I see a dermatologist at least every 3 months, sometimes more often. I have physical and emotional scars from melanoma. This is a disease you never really heal from. The fear is always in the back of my mind…if, or more like when, will it come back, but I try not to let it consume me. I am a melanoma survivor. That’s something I never thought I’d say, but I’m pretty damn happy that I get to.