Sometimes in the midst of creating your Dreamlife, you have a nightmare. How you handle it and what you do with the information you learn, makes all the difference! My friend Misti has melanoma. She is not a sun-worshiper, actually she pretty much avoids any long-term exposure to it. There is no history of cancer in her family. As I started writing this post, I realized that nobody can write someone else’s story. In her own words- -
“When people ask me what kind of cancer I have they seem almost relieved it’s ‘only skin cancer’. But skin cancer is still cancer. It’s very real and can kill you. It has a low success rate of survival and the treatment is one if the longest and hardest treatments out there.”
Recently someone said to me “you joke about cancer too much” and that got me thinking. So I decided to write a little about it. Here’s what happened. A few years ago I had a funky freckle looked at by a dermatologist. He said “it’s nothing now and never will be, don’t worry about it”. So I didn’t. Even as it became larger, his words lingered in my head. “Don’t worry about it! Don’t worry about it!” So I didn’t! Why would I?
Two years later, now a big, ugly mole, I just wanted it gone! So I went to a free cancer screening. The mole had recently started bleeding and crusting over but I didn’t really “worry about it”. After all, there is NO HISTORY OF CANCER in my family and I pretty much always expected to die of heart disease. So I went and the doctor decided to remove it.
I didn’t ask about results because I didn’t “worry about it”. I went in on a Friday, had it removed, five small stitches later and I’m done. A cute little scar with a story, right? Wrong! Sadly, I had a reaction to the betadine.
“Normal freckles and moles don’t change for no reason. If it starts changing, it IS a problem that needs to be addressed.”
My arm swelled up, blistered, and burned like a bad sunburn. I saw the dr that Monday and found out it was an allergy I didn’t know I had so he couldn’t have known I had it either. It was awful but he popped the blisters and I felt immediately better. That night I was having dinner with my family. I made rice, broccoli, and some faux chicken! I’ll never forget that meal! It was nothing special, but what happened during dinner would change our lives forever.
The dr called. I figured he was checking on me to see how the blisters were doing. I still wasn’t “worried about it.” I had no reason to be, right? The conversation went like this: Dr: “Misti, your mole was tested and was shown to be a Clark level 3 melanoma”Me: In a chipper happy voice “oh ok! Good!” Pause – Me: “oh wait, you said it IS melanoma? I have cancer?” There it was! The dreaded “C” word. I was the first to say it. I was still in shock but we talked some more.
“If you get just ONE bad sunburn before you’re 18 you are much more likely to get melanoma as an adult.”
He’s an awesome doctor who took time after office hours to call me and explain stuff to me. He told me to come in his office the very next morning so he could go over the process. I returned to the dinner table, clearly shaken but unable to speak. Of course, if you’re reading this, you know me well enough to know how odd that is.
Misti with her kids
I excused the kids and just stood there in the doorway. It was hard to say that word. I was so vague that he didn’t really understand what I was trying to say. So then I just said it “that was the dr. he says my mole was melanoma…I have cancer!” I have to admit, if they had tested the mole and somehow found that I had heart disease, THAT would have made more sense to me than cancer! I guess it was ok for me to start “worrying about it?!”
Over the next few months I had 3 more surgeries. One more mole removed. Countless blood work, PET scans and MRI’s. I’ve been poked and injected with dye and radiation. My entire life has changed. Forever! At first I didn’t want to become this disease. I didn’t want to be “Misti with cancer”. But, as it turns out, that is EXACTLY what I am.
Just like other things I can’t change about myself like my skin color, my height, and my DNA. I AM Misti with cancer! I embrace it because it’s part of me now. I have always loved humor because laughing feels good! So the two may not seem to go together but in my world they combine nicely. IT SUCKS! Treatment SUCKS. Being dependent on others SUCKS! But I have learned so much.
Paul ♥ Misti
Firstly, Paul and I are closer than ever. I always knew he was amazing, but he stepped up to this and has taken control, and for that, he is truly MY hero. My kids are super helpful and rarely complain though it’s taking its toll on them, I’m sure! But mostly what I learned is that the people you think will be there to catch your tears, drive you to appointments, cook your family dinner on days when you can’t get out of bed, come sit with you when you’re lonely, or just offer an ear are not always the people you think it will be. Unexpected relationships have been formed and for that, I’m so grateful.
“This is my cat Riley, he’s blind and he loves me!
Sadly, some of the people I expected to be there for me, haven’t been. That includes family and friends. It’s been a real eye opener. I’m not saying they are bad people. I’m just saying that I learned a lot and I will keep that with me forever. So yes! I talk about cancer a lot!
I joke about cancer a lot! I AM Misti with cancer! And I’m doing my best to beat it. I am not always chipper but as a self-proclaimed, hopeless cynic, I think I’m doing pretty well. Thank you for reading! p.s. If a doctor EVER tells you “don’t worry about it!” please think of this story.
Today, I asked Misti for an update on her treatment and prognosis. Unfortunately, this week was an especially difficult week in our hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania where a tragic incident resulted in the death of Misti’s childhood friend. But she still took time write a few paragraphs.
Since diagnosis on June 20, 2011 I have had 6 surgeries SO FAR! I have 1-5 dr appointments every week, which are all cancer related in one way or another. Treatment is very hard. I get chemo three times a week. The days after treatment are the worst because that’s when I really feel the effects. My husband has to give me treatments through a subcutaneous shot every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night. Which means every Friday and Saturday for the last 7 months have been horrible.
The first month of treatment you have to go to the hospital every single day for 2 hours of treatment. They pump you so full of fluids that you’re freezing and headaches start almost immediately then the body aches. Like you were hit by a bus.
I am not technically considered in remission until I am done with chemo for a certain length of time. Right now there is no sign of the disease but since my tumor was ulcerated, that means it got into my blood stream and I will have to be checked for the rest of my life. I actually have an MRI tomorrow so I’m hoping all is clear.
I’ve lost my hearing in my left ear and can barely stand up without getting dizzy. There have been so many horrible side effects. Feel free to google interferon alpha 2b for melanoma and check out all of the horrible side effects from it.
My current cancer stage is 2b melanoma. That can never go down. It can only go up. I have had one precancerous mole removed since diagnosis…so that’s 2 tumors I’ve had. At stage 2b my 5 year life expectancy rate is 67%. Ten year is 43%. Keep in mind, I’m only 37.
To check up on Misti and read the second part of her story here –> Misti’s Milestone, Now What?
Continue Scrolling for an important video, facts and links to awareness.
May is Melanoma Awareness Month- we urge you to find a free screening near you and go get those moles, freckles or questionable skin spots checked out. Visit The American Academy of Dermatology to find a Free Melanoma Screening near you during May.
Dear 16-year-old Me (A Must See Video)
Is Tanning Worth It? No it’s definitely NOT!
“After the first 4 weeks of high dose, you move to a lower dose 3 x a week for 48 weeks. You, a friend, or family member has to administer these injections.
That’s 144 injections at home. Plus countless blood work (because interferon can cause kidney and/or liver failure) and constant checkups. It hardly seems worth it to get that tan that will fade away.”
10 Facts About Melanoma
1. If caught in the earliest stages, melanoma is entirely treatable, but because it spreads quickly, early detection and treatment is critical.
2. Melanoma is now one of the most common cancers affecting Americans younger than 30.
3. Among women between 25 and 29 years old, melanoma is more common than any non-skin cancer.
4. Melanoma kills nearly 8,000 Americans a year.
5. An estimated 80 percent of sun damage occurs before age 18, which can set the stage for skin cancer later. (Protecting children from sun is very important!)
6. If untreated and allowed to spread, there is no known treatment or cure for melanoma.
7. Risk factors for melanoma include fair complexion, family history, severe sunburns as a child, and using a tanning bed ten times a year or more before age 30.
8. UVA rays from tanning beds penetrate deep into the skin; they destroy skin fibers and damage elasticity, causing premature aging, wrinkles and leathery skin.
9. Tanning beds put out three to six times the amount of radiation given off by the sun.
10. With the numbers climbing rapidly, now 1 in 50 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing melanoma
American Cancer Society
Fox Chase Cancer Center