Truth: I Have Melanoma - Sharon's Personal Story

*Note:  This blog post is strictly a result of my own experience with my recent melanoma diagnosis. This is not medical advice or anything related to a medical perspective. Please consult a doctor if you have any questionable spots on your body!

I have always wanted my blog to be relatable.  I try to be open and honest about the challenges/positives about pregnancy, motherhood, moms with multiples, and life in general. I also use it as a reference in my own life, to re-read recipes or try to remember when someone starting eating solids, or when they took their first steps. With that said, I wanted to share some news with you all with the hope it will result in helping even just one person. 

As you likely recall, my sister in law Lindsey shared her personal skincare story in 2016 with this blog post. It was eye opening. She wasn't even 30 yet! I think because of that, both Lindsey and Chrissy are now extra cautious with skincare and making it a point to visit the dermatologist annually, if not more frequently. SO fast forward to Memorial Day Weekend 2019 and my personal story. 

Jim, the boys and I visited Chrissy and Lindsey in NYC over Memorial Day Weekend.  I was wearing a two-piece bathing suit with my legs hanging in the pool next to Chrissy. She happened to be on my right side, and she looked down and noticed a mole on my hip that I have had for my entire life. She suggested I get it checked. I told her that I had the mole my whole life and didn’t think it was anything worth worrying about. Fortunately I had been going to a dermatologist at MGH every two weeks since September for a separate issue (wart on my foot - blog post for another day). Here's a photo that Conor took of me relaxing by the pool.

After my routine foot appointment with the dermatologist on 6/12/19, I nonchalantly asked if she could look at something on my hip/leg. She said sure and after I showed her, she said that’s something we needed to take it off that day - if I had the time. Of course I said yes and she prepped for the minimally invasive “scrape” procedure. She injected me with lidocaine to numb the area and then scraped the mole out of the surface of my leg. She sent it away for a biopsy and said I would get a call in a couple weeks. This was June 12, 2019. 

Separate from those appointments, I went in to my primary care on June 20, 2019 for a routine physical. She then referred me for a followup appointment (unrelated) at an offsite in Waltham. I saw that an appointment had been scheduled for June 28, 2019 so I assumed it was that appointment that my primary had just requested out of Waltham. 

So I logged into patient gateway and saw that an appointment on June 28, 2019 with a surgical oncologist and a melanoma specialist. I immediately froze. I knew exactly what it was and what it meant - but why didn’t I receive a call?? An explanation? Any information at all?

I then called both Jim and my sister and told them what minimal information I had. I saw these appointments but I don’t have a diagnosis and I don’t know what is going on.  
They were both calm, but upset as to how I found out. Chrissy and Jim both advised I call my dermatology office and ask for the test results. 

I did just that. I called the office and the nurse on the line said a doctor hadn’t reviewed the report yet and I would receive a call when they review it. I asked how and why that was possible because I see two new appointments for Friday 6/28 with an oncologist and melanoma specialist. She put me on hold immediately and someone new came on the phone to explain there was a mishap with the system. She apologized and said my dermatologist Dr Avram (MGH) would call me back momentarily and she would explain more. She did say that melanoma was found and it was “relatively thin” and “hopefully that means we caught it early.” She said Dr Avram would call back and explain more. 

I called Chrissy and cried and cried and cried. I didn’t know what to think. How long had I had it? Had it spread? I think back to recent ailments I had and was thinking was it so severe that I would have just a little time left to live?  All I thought about was my boys and I was an emotional wreck. Chrissy calmed me down and said she would stay on the phone with me until the doctor called. When she called, I merged the calls so Chrissy could listen in. I pretty much blacked out so I was grateful to have another set of ears on the phone. 

Dr Avram called me about 20 minutes later and also apologized for the way I found out. She wanted to schedule follow up appointments ASAP and wasn’t aware setting up those appointments would go straight to my portal. However, at that point I didn’t care.  I just wanted to know the prognosis and treatment and basically “where do we go from here?” 

She confirmed that it was in fact melanoma and yet was relatively thin. This meant it wasn’t the earliest we could’ve found it but it also wasn’t that late. She said it measured .5mm and I would need to see an surgical oncologist for them to dig down and get all of it out. She was hopeful it hasn’t spread to lymph nodes or anything, as it measured less than 1mm however we scheduled a follow up appointment on Friday 6/28 with the melanoma dermatologist and the surgical oncologist. She was  hopeful it had not yet spread and I would not need chemo or radiation.  About the time of that phone call, this is what the scrape looked like.

That following Friday, Jim and I went into Boston for my two appointments. It went very smoothly and they assured me it was thin, it was early and I would need to schedule surgery to have the melanoma removed. They did a full body scan and looked at other moles/spots that I thought looked concerning. They said everything else looked fine - there was nothing of concern. They advised that I need to come back every 3 months to keep an eye on my skin. Two statistics that resonated with me were these, among a few others:
  1. Melanoma typically emerges from a new spot on your body...about 70% of the time. And 30% of melanoma is a result of an existing mole/spot on your body. So I was in the minority with having the melanoma from an existing mole on my hip.
  2. I am now 4 x more likely to have melanoma on another part of my body, compared to a person that has not yet melanoma, quite a significant higher risk.

Here is a photo of what it looks like today, as I am writing this post.

This is an example of what the surgery will entail on 7/26 (on my hip, not hand as depicted in the photo). They call this the excision rather than the "scrape" procedure she did on 6/12 which they then sent for a biopsy.

I will keep you posted on how everything goes! I have a few appointments scheduled for next week at Dana Farber in order to hear a second opinion. If I prefer the surgical oncologist there, I may reschedule the surgery for another day. 

Wish me luck! And go get yourself checked!! 



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