My Melanoma Story - by Karen Layman
It’s been over a year since I’ve finished my treatment, and I still have a clean bill of health. Thank you God! It’s time for me to express my appreciation to my long time customers who stuck it out with me through my illness and those of you who have come back. I also need to take this opportunity to let you know my story. Many of you knew of my illness over that 18 month period and some of you only knew that I was hardly ever at work.
In May 2002 I saw a doctor about a mole on my calf, neither a biopsy was done nor was I referred to a dermatologist. Over the next year the mole remained and nagged at me. In May 2003 I saw a dermatologist and he removed it and sent it off to a pathologist. To my shock it came back as Melanoma, the most deadly of skin cancers. I knew nothing of Melanoma, but I self-referred to MD Anderson, and that, saved my life.
You see, my surgeon at MD Anderson recommended something called a sentinel node biopsy; they tested the lymph nodes nearest the melanoma site to see if the melanoma had spread. Unfortunately, in my case, I had one positive micro-metastasis.
That meant that I would be scheduled for a subsequent surgery, in which all of my surface lymph nodes and surrounding tissue in the groin area would be removed, I could expect mild to severe lymphodema (swelling) the rest of my life, and I would need to have a year of very high dose Interferon (immunotherapy) or other bio-chemotherapy under a clinical trial. What a shock for someone who had always been healthy!
Before surgery they did CT scans to make sure that the Melanoma had not spread to any other part of my body. Well, the Melanoma had not spread, but they found a kidney cancer that was totally unrelated! So, I had a double whammy, and part of my kidney and my lymph nodes were removed the same day!
I spent the next year on high dose Interferon, which meant 3 days a week in bed and the other 4 days feeling rather puny, but a lot of joy and happiness came out of that experience, too. I took the time to learn (however badly) to play the piano, and I bought a piano, and brought music into my home. I quit working nights and weekends, so, if you can’t find me on Sunday, well, call me at home (218-382-9745), or call me Monday. I found my way back to my beloved Catholic church. My grandchildren spent the summer, and, even though I was ill, they were nothing but joy. I learned to love grilled cheese and grapes. My husband took me to see Barry Manilow (Row 8 tickets!)
I wrote this AS A REMINDER to check your moles. When in doubt, have a dermatologist check it out. If you feel uncomfortable insist that it is removed and a biopsy performed.
ABCDE’s of Melanoma
A – Asymmetrical instead of round (although nodular Melanoma may be round)
B – Border – uneven or notched
C- Color – Varying shades of brown, black, purple, pink
D – Diameter – Larger than a pencil eraser
E – Evolving – Any changing mole, even regression or fading
When outdoors, always wear Sunscreen, Never get severe Sunburn, Wear UV protective clothing, hats and sunglasses. Most Melamomas are caused from severe sunburns from childhood. Guard your children’s’ skin with high SPF sunscreen, keep them indoors during the heat of the day, and NEVER let them get a severe sunburn.