I would like to start off by saying that surgery is the most effective way to cure melanoma and surgery is the only form of treatment I have had.
...So, here we go, back to the oncologist's office for another consultation to talk about my next surgery. At this point I have stage III-A melanoma (whoa, scary). I could not believe what I was hearing. Everyone kept asking me how I felt...I felt great, that is what is so scary and difficult about this disease. I went from being healthy my whole life, to all of a sudden having stage III melanoma in a matter of weeks. My oncologist told me that during this surgery all of my lymph nodes in this area would be removed (lymph node dissection) and I would have to have a drain put in for a few weeks following the surgery because my body has to adjust to all of those lymph nodes being taken out and the fluid has to go somewhere (doesn't sound pleasant, I know, it's not). I would also have another wide excision on my back on an area that looked suspicious from another mole that was removed at the same time. My surgeries were scheduled for Friday, March 19th. My surgical oncologist removed 47 lymph nodes total (which is a lot), and the good news is no cancerous cells were found in any of the lymph nodes removed from this surgery! My recovery from these surgeries was about six weeks, a bit longer than expected. I was in a lot of pain during that time and the drain was no fun at all, but absolutely necessary, because the fluid could build up without the drain and bring on lymphedema in my arm. The drain looked like a tube growing out of my body (it was under my left arm, by the incision where the lymph nodes were removed) and at the end of the tube it looked like a grenade, which is where the fluid was collected. My husband had to empty it two to three times a day (thank the Lord for Matt! He is an incredible husband!) and it was gross and unattractive, but had to be done. The drain was in for four weeks (which is longer than normal (oh, yay!)) I was nervous to have it removed, even though my doctor told me that it would not hurt, which it did not at all actually, and I was more than happy to say goodbye to it! I had to go to physical therapy to learn how to get full range of motion back in my left arm because everything was so tight from the surgeries and also my oncologist had to remove a muscle in my pectoral region to get to some of the lymph nodes during the surgery. I had a severe muscle spasm in my left arm (and I am left handed) that suddenly popped out of nowhere one night which was absolutely excruciating and threw off my recovery for a little while. I could not move the upper left side of my body at all....I mean at ALL, it was awful. Matt and I made an emergency visit to my oncologist's office the following day and were told that it was caused from all of the shock my body had been put under. My doctor said the knots were so incredibly tense and he had never seen anything like this after this kind of surgery (which is always so good to hear!) It lasted about a week. I could finally start the physical therapy now that my drain was out and the muscle spasm had subsided! I went to physical therapy for about two weeks, which was really quick and they said I got my range of motion back so quickly because I do some strength training (trust me, it is not a lot) in my arms. I did have a tiny break down one day while at physical therapy and told my sweet and wonderful therapist that I did not want to be there! I felt so bad, but I was just so sick of going to the doctor all of the time and everyone staring at my body and examining me like I was some sort of science experiment...I know I have been in wonderful hands and have amazing doctors, but at that time she was pulling my arm (which is her job and I understand that), and I felt so invaded and I felt like this is my body and I just want all of this to be over and go back to normal, but like my oncologist said, "What is normal anymore?"
So, exactly eight weeks to the day had passed from my last surgery and I was feeling really good. On Friday, May 14th I was due to go back to my dermatologist (I have to go every 3 months now) for another screening. She told me that she was going to be extremely thorough now given my recent history...and she was. On that particular visit, I had five moles removed and as I was leaving, like usual, the nurse told me that I would get a call with the results in 7-10 business days...
Well, three weeks later, after being informed that my biopsies were sent to one of the best pathologists in the field (who is based in NYC) we get the results. First, let me say that those three weeks were not easy, I mean we were under the impression that it was going to take the standard amount of time to get the results, and then informed that my moles are so "abnormal" that they have to be sent to someone in the very top of the field (which, at that point you already know is not a good sign). So, back to the results, four out of the five biopsies were declared "abnormal" (they were not cancerous, but looked like that could be eventually) and the fifth, which was literally on the very end of the incision where all of my lymph nodes were removed under my left arm, was another melanoma. My dermatologist called my husband to let him know (because I was already nervous from the results taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r). My mom was visiting to see our new home and had extended her stay so that she could be in town when we got the results. When I spoke with my husband and he told me the bad news, I just replied, "Okay, so I guess were are going back to the oncologist's office already." I then walked into the living room and told my mom. I felt fine considering, it was just all happening again so insanely quickly! My mom left a few days later, but I was happy and grateful she was there for those few days after getting the news, she is very comforting and great to talk to about all of this. Matt and I went back to my oncologist's office for another consultation and it was nice to see everyone, but not so soon (I really like my doctor and his team...a lot, but we were not supposed to see them until a follow-up in July). My doctor said he was going to just go into the same incision where all of my lymph nodes were removed and do another wide excision (so the incision will be extended 2-3 inches, making it about a six inch incision.) The good news is that since the lymph nodes have been removed already, there is no where for the melanoma to spread, so if I have to have melanoma again, that would be the spot to have it. As for the other four spots deemed abnormal, my oncologist advised taking about five millimeters around and deep each spot to prevent cancer from growing there in the future, and Matt and I agreed with him. We scheduled my surgeries for Wednesday, June 23rd...two days from today.
P.S. Happy first day of summer! :)