Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Holy Moley! {Part I}

Matt and I met on May 4th, 2007 and got engaged the following February. We planned our wedding for one year and were married on February 7th, 2009 in Ocean Springs, Mississippi (in the church my parents were married in) which was the happiest day of my life! :) Married life has been exceptional and more than I could have ever asked for. Our relationship has been a blessing. We are made for each other (trust me!) We bicker like all other married couples (well, unless they don't communicate!), and for the most part I win those little battles :), but that is not what is important...what is important is that I have a husband who I can tell anything to, who I want to spend my time with, who when I am with him, I feel like I am the most beautiful girl he has ever laid his eyes on and who is next to me holding my hand (or holding me up (emotionally)) no matter what life brings our way and I can only hope he feels the same about me! ;)

Well, this year has been what I would call a bit turbulent so far...

In January, two weeks and two days after my 26th birthday I had an appointment with my dermatologist to be screened (this is where she checks my skin for any peculiar looking moles). Now, this is typical because my father passed away from skin cancer, melanoma to be exact, ten years ago this August (I miss him terribly, but he is thought of very often), so my sisters and I are expected to go to the dermatologist regularly. On this particular visit to my dermatologist, I had three moles removed (for those of you who have never had this done, the dermatologist simply removes each mole with a blade after having been given a shot of numbing fluid). The spots are then bandaged up with a small circular bandage, it does not hurt. The nurse told me that I would get a call back in 7-10 business days after the biopsy results were in, and off I go...

I have been checked several times before and have had some biopsies done in the past; last year I had a pre-cancerous mole removed from my right leg, but other than that all have been benign. After these biopsies I did not think much about it at all until the 7th day, that day I checked my phone for missed calls if I had to leave my office for whatever reason while at work. At this time I was working 7:30am-4:30pm. Well, on exactly the 7th day after these biopsies, February 2nd (five days before our one year anniversary), I received a call at 4:30 pm (I was literally on my way out of my office to go home). I picked up the phone and my dermatologist was on the other end of the line. I thought, "This is not the nurse, why is my dermatologist calling me herself, and her voice sounds different to me!?" I started shaking, my heart started beating faster and I knew something was wrong. I could not leave my work at this point, so I carefully got up and closed my office door. She started the conversation by telling me that two of the biopsies I had came back benign (okay, Yay!), BUT that the one on the left side of my stomach was melanoma. All of a sudden I could not breath and I kept telling her, "I am not going to remember any of this conversation." My doctor told me that she had tried to reach my husband, but did not have any luck (he was in a business meeting at the time). At the end of our brief conversation I said, "I know this may sound silly, but does this mean I have cancer?" She replied, "Well, you have melanoma, so...."....So, yes, It meant that I had cancer! I will never forget that felt surreal, I was so scared and I had so many questions and emotions running through my mind.

I called my husband and he answered right away because his meeting had just ended. I had to break the news to him and he said he was going to call the doctor straight away. I got myself together the best I could and drove home, Matt arrived right after me. Matt repeated what the doctor told him back to me since I did not comprehend all the information the first time. I spoke with my mom and sisters and everyone was obviously upset, but optimistic (including me) that this was all in the very early stages and that I would be perfectly okay. I did not go to work the next day, Matt and I went to see my dermatologist who assured me that since the mole was so thin it had to be in the early stages and everything was going to be fine. I was then contacted by my surgical oncologist's office who my dermatologist referred me to. Matt and I went the following week for a consultation visit. We scheduled my first surgery which was a wide excision of the melanoma (that incision is about four and a half inches long) as well as a sentinel node biopsy (which is a procedure where blue dye is injected into the lymph nodes so they can be easily identified during surgery. A few lymph nodes are then removed for biopsies to see if the cancer has spread). My doctor knew which lymph nodes the cancer would have spread to by sending me to nuclear medicine where I was injected with radioactive fluid which lights up in an x-ray (the lymph nodes that the cancer would have spread to for me was my left axillary area, my left armpit in layman's terms.) So, both of those surgeries were on the same day, February 19th, and my surgical oncologist removed three lymph nodes to perform biopsies on at that point. Again, everyone was super optimistic and really were just being overly cautious given my family history.

The recovery was smooth. I was moving around before expected and had started to feel like myself again. One day, about a week and a half after my surgery, when Matt got home from work he pulled me to the side to tell me that my surgical oncologist had called him on his way home to tell him that there were a few cancerous cells in one of the lymph nodes that was removed. This was incredibly unexpected and all of my doctors were very surprised as well because this is extremely rare to see with a mole that was as thin as mine. We were told that the cancer I had was particularly aggressive. Matt had to tell my mom and Katie who were still in town, because I could not tell them myself. I did not really know what I was feeling at that moment, I was fine, but I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me...


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