September was a whirlwind, and October is going to be just as crazy. Below is the story of what has been happening. Many more details to come.
Over the summer, I noticed a mole on my arm had grown and changed color. Several close family and friends noticed too. In September, it decided to start bleeding. The message was loud and clear: Maggie, you need to go get that thing checked.
On September 9th, I went to a dermatologist. I already knew in my heart that it was going to be melanoma. During the week leading up to this appointment, I had spent most of my evenings researching abnormal moles. The photos of melanoma on each website looked exactly like the spot on my arm.
When the doctor came in the room, she looked at my arm for no more than 2 seconds before saying she needed to get a different doctor. (That can’t be a good sign.) I recognized the doctor that came in next. Her photo was on the dermatologist office’s website, and I remembered that she was the skin cancer expert. (Again, not a good sign.)
She was very candid with me and told me that it was most likely melanoma. After numbing my upper arm, they scooped out all of the skin surrounding that mole in order to perform a biopsy. Three stitches closed it up tight.
On September 15, the doctor called me to give me the results. The biopsy confirmed that the spot was melanoma. The pathologists measured it at 2.1mm deep, and it had ulcerated (it had microscopic tears). This put me in the category of Stage 2b. The doctor also informed me that when the edges of the tissue were tested, it showed them that there was more cancer in my arm – the original scoop had not removed it all.
On September 21 I met with a surgeon who helped me understand everything that would come next. He also sent me to the labs for blood work and a chest x-ray. (By the way, every single Community North employee that I met that day was so kind, patient and helpful. Kudos to that hospital for being awesome).
On September 24 I went in for surgery. First stop: the radiology department. My upper arm was injected with blue radioactive dye. After lying down and being moved underneath some ginormous machine, the technician watched the dye move through my arm and into my lymph nodes. She drew some symbols on me with a Sharpie, then sent me back to my room. I found out later that these symbols marked where my lymph nodes were, and showed the surgeon which lymph node should be removed for testing.
After the injection, things moved pretty fast. I was hooked up to my IV and taken to the operating room. The next thing I remember, I was waking up in the recovery room. The surgeon had removed a large football-shaped portion of my upper arm. He also had made an incision in my armpit and removed one of my lymph nodes.
Recovery was a little rough, but I’m super lucky to have parents that still look after their 31-year-old baby. I spent a long weekend at home with them, and they were amazing. Dad went to the store at least once a day to get everything I wanted or needed, and mom cooked some of my favorites. I’m so grateful for them!
About two weeks later, on October 6th, I heard the results from the sentinel node biopsy. The lymph node came back positive for cancer cells, which means I am now considered to be in Stage 3b. I’m still learning exactly what this means and will post further updates as I figure things out.
October 15 – CT Scan
October 19 – Meeting with the surgeon
October 27 – Surgery #2 to remove more lymph nodes