On January 4, 2011 I was diagnosed with Melanoma! It took 2 months and 2 surguries to determine that it was stage iv. The first surgery was to remove the melanoma from behind my right ear and 6 lymphnodes. They found cancer in 5 of the 6 lymphnodes and that led to the second surgery which was a parodadectomy and radical neck disection. During that surgery they removed more lymphnodes for a total of 41 and a total of 14 had cancer in them. Then it was on to radiation therapy and things I could never have imagined! For instance, I was unaware that if you have radiation therapy to the jaw area you have to have a dental evaluation first. Any tooth that can't be certified to last for the next 15-20 years has to be pulled before therapy. This is due to the fact that you can never have a tooth removed from that jaw again or you could lose the jaw. From what I understand this is due to a combination of the loss of saliva glands and changes in the blood circulation in your jaw. I lost one tooth because it had a shadow on the root where the pin was in it.
Now we come to radiation! Because it was on my head, I had to have a mask made to hold my head in the exact same position for each treatment. This mask is tight and mine was too tight over the eyes, so they cut eye holes. Now I got to watch the machine that was shooting the radiation. It totally reminded me of a scene in Star Wars where the death star is getting ready to fire and the shields are sliding together to aim the beam. Weird! I had five treatments in which they said I received more radiation than is normally given in 20 treatments.
Next I moved on to interferon treatments. Three times a week for four weeks. Finished those and moved on to the home injections and did those for four weeks before my oncologist decided to take me off of it (wasn't doing what he wanted).
Drug trials were the next step! They submitted tissue from my tumor to see if I qualified for the drug trials. Something about the dna from my tumor had to be different from my dna. While they were testing it, I went to a Buick convention in Boston. When I got back and went back to my new oncologist, oh did I mention that my oncologist retired, anyway they told me that the trial was closed!
Did I mention that Club Melanoma has a roller coaster! Then in his next breath he said "But you were accepted because you were already in screening. (Back at the top) So I qualify for the trial and in the his next breath "Now there is just one more requirement for the trial, you have to have a measurable tumor." (bottom again) Conflict- do I pray for a tumor or pray for no tumor? I prayed for God's will.
They found a tumor in my lung and I started MEK162 at the end of July. Three pills in the morning and three pills at night and the side effects are acne and diarrhea when you first start it. Let's jump ahead to September when they did an MRI and a CTI. My tumor was reduced by 45% and I am now in remission.
All that being said, it is now January and I find myself reflecting over the last year and trying to decide if this was a good year or a bad year. On the good side I got to visit my daughter and son-in-law and Grandson, I got to visit my other daughter, son-in-law and Granddaughter and be there for my second Granddaughter's birth and I got to visit one of my sons. I made it through two surgeries, radiation, interferon, got in an experimental program, and am in remission. On the bad side I found out I had stage IV melanoma and had some discomfort and pain. Forgot to mention on the good side that I found out I'm going to have another Grandchild. Ok, it's been a good year. I realize that I am rambling and I promise that in the future I'll settle down, but I'm just realizing that while some of you haven't been through anything like this, there are others out there who will understand and this is the first time that I have spoken to others who have experienced what I have.