I remember this day last year clearly. I was 36 weeks pregnant. Just the day before I had gone and had the mole on my chest biopsied. They told me that the results would come back within the next week. I certainly wasn't expecting a call so soon. I had just started eating lunch when a number I didn't recognize called me. I never answer the phone if I don't know the number. I normally don't even check my voice mail right away, but I did that day. The message was urgent, her words made me sick to my stomach. They went something like "We got your pathology report back and Dr. Kaiser wants you to come in immediately. We can see you in an hour and a half." I knew that if it was nothing then they wouldn't need to see me so urgently. I called back, tried to remain calm. I couldn't. I begged her to just tell me if I had cancer and she told me that I just needed to come in. I knew what was happening. I called Jason, crying, hyperventilating. I told him emergency, he had to come home now, we needed to go to the doctor.
We got to the dermatologists office. They gave me the paper gown to put on. I still hadn't been told anything. Finally after what seemed like forever, the doctor came in. I started crying before the words even left his mouth. Then he said it. Cancer. My stomach sank, I couldn't swallow. I felt dizzy, so dizzy that I had to sit down on the cold tile floor. When someone tells you that you have cancer the thoughts that immediately enter your head are "I'm going to die". I thought I was going to die. I couldn't die, my baby wasn't even born yet.
My doctor checked the rest of my skin for anything unusual. Nothing. He told me the next step was to see a surgical oncologist. He called and made me an appointment with one for that week. I didn't realize the extent of the surgery I was going to have and I was thinking maybe they could just put me in a twilight sleep and do it quickly while I was still pregnant. Nope, I had to wait.
Those were the longest 4 weeks of my life. Not only was I waiting to give birth, and in the middle of the hottest summer yet, but I was waiting to see just how bad my cancer was. I was sleepless anyway, but I would stay up until 4am, examining my skin, feeling all my lymph nodes until I had convinced myself that they were all swollen or that cancer was taking over all of my skin. Then one night I really did feel something. Right on my left collar bone, a marble sized lump had appeared. It hurt. I just kept feeling it and feeling it. I woke Jason up at 4am crying hysterically telling him I had a lump and I just knew it was cancer. I spent the entire next day with an ice pack or rice sock on it hoping it would go down.
6am on July 5th, 2009, I went into labor. It had been a couple weeks since I had really thought about cancer. I had trained myself to forget. I was focused on Elijah (although at the time I didn't know it was Elijah, or even a boy). At 10:52pm he was born that night and I figured I would wait couple of days until I called to schedule my surgery. I just wanted time with my son.
Again, waiting, waiting, waiting. I think it was about 7 days later that I went to get my drainage tube out. My surgeon took the tube out and then sat down on his stool with my file and started talking. The cancer was found in one of my lymph nodes. "NO!" I thought. I had convinced myself that I was fine, no more cancer, and here he was telling me I was wrong.
I was referred to an oncologist at Texas Oncology. From there I was referred to MD Anderson. I went to MD Anderson for my first visit and then a week later was back for surgery to remove the rest of my lymph nodes from that area to make sure there was no more cancer.
Recovery from the 2nd surgery was the worst. I am still in pain from it. Luckily all my results came back clear. So now it's just wait and watch.
In the end I was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma stage 3. They told me I have an over 50% chance of it coming back. The scary thing about melanoma is that it's the only cancer that can come back anywhere in your body. Anywhere.
This 1 year anniversary is important to me because not only does it mean that I am kicking cancers ass, but every year it doesn't come back means that if it does come back, it won't be as aggressive than if were to come back the year before.
I will always be at risk for another melanoma. Elijah will always be t a higher risk for melanoma.
I am just now starting to feel not so terrified of being outdoors for more than 2 minutes. I always wear sunscreen. I generally wear a sweatshirt, but it's really starting to get hot.
It's been a hell of a ride. Shit, I'm crying just writing all this. It's emotional. This has been hands down the hardest fucking year of my life, but I've gotten through it. I managed to raise a beautiful baby boy while going through all of this. What doesn't kill me will only make me stronger, it's true. I don't think anything can bring me down at this point. I might just live forever.