One year ago today, I was getting pretty nervous.
All summer, I had been noticing that a spot on my arm was getting stranger. It was puffy, and it had gone from brown to black. Every once in a while it started bleeding with no warning. I had even called to make an appointment with a dermatologist, but I was told there weren’t any openings for over a month. I have a deep-seated irrational hatred of scheduling appointments, so I quickly gave up without trying another office.
I didn’t tell my parents about my attempt at getting an appointment. I didn’t want them to worry over something that was probably just a figment of my imagination. There was nothing to really worry about, right? Surely I was fine.
On this day one year ago, it was a super sunny, hot Saturday, and Dad and I were headed to Bloomington for our first Hoosier football game of the year. I was wearing my favorite summer attire: shorts, tank top, and sunglasses. Definitely no hat, but I think I was responsible enough to wear some SPF 30 sunscreen. I had no idea this would be the last time I would ever enjoy the sun like this, without protective clothing, big floppy hats, and SPF 70+.
While we sat at the game, Dad looked down at my arm, and obvious concern took over his face. “Maggie, you need to get that thing checked.”
Frustrated, I said in my quit-telling-me-what-to-d0 voice, “Daaaaaad, I know! I’m trying! I just called a dermatologist’s office last week, but they can’t get me in until October.”
“Maybe you should call back on Monday. Maybe they can get you in earlier.”
“Ok, ok. I’ll try.” I wasn’t really intending to call the office again, but I wanted Dad to stop worrying.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That night, I got online and researched abnormal moles. My stomach twisted and my heart pounded more and more as I looked at pictures. My mole looked exactly like melanoma. So, I started reading everything I could find on this murky and misunderstood disease. I spent a couple of sleepless nights, staying up reading very scary statistics and stories.
And I kept telling myself, “Surely something like this can’t happen to me.”
Well, I worked myself into such a worried frenzy that I took my dad’s advice and called the office on Monday. Lo and behold, there had been a cancellation for Wednesday.
Driving to that appointment, I had no way of knowing what a whirlwind was waiting for me.
The doctor took one look at my arm and said she needed to go find someone else. The doctor who came in was a skin cancer specialist. She wasted no time in telling me that I needed to prepare for the worst, and that it was for sure going to test positive for malignant melanoma, a potentially deadly diagnosis.
They took a picture (see below), and they immediately went to work cutting into my skin to get that evil thing out of me.
I left the appointment with three stitches and a lot of fear.
(P.S. I laugh a little when I think of how concerned I was about that tiny incision and those 3 stitches. They never even took the stitches out! A few weeks later I was in surgery, having a huge football-shaped part of my arm removed all around it. Now, after multiple surgeries, and tons of staples holding my body together, I’d take the 3 stitches!)
It is really strange to think about all that has happened in the last year. There are lots of anniversaries coming up, including my diagnosis and first surgeries, and it is hard to wrap my head around all of it.
To celebrate this anniversary, I want to remind you of what to look for if you have a concerning spot. They call it the ABC’s of Melanoma. Notice I had all 5 signs of melanoma.
I have said this before, and I’ll say it again! Please go get yourself checked by a dermatologist. The only way to save yourself from the torture that I have been through this last year is to detect it early. In fact, if you detect melanoma early enough, all you have to do is have the spot removed, and you are cured. If you let it go too long, like I did, you will be in for lots of surgeries, awful treatments, and some very scary survival statistics. GO GET CHECKED!! It is really so incredibly simple, and it may save your life!
I made it through August! Thank you SO much for all of you praying for my energy and strength during this hectic and busy time of the school year. It is great to have campus buzzing with energy again.
I am down to only 29 treatments left!! That’s just 3.5 months to go. I have a countdown on my calendar, and it feels so good to cross each one off.
My treatment side effects have been fluctuating. Some days I feel pretty much normal. Others, like my most recent treatment, have been miserable. Super intense headache, sinuses feeling like they’re going to explode, high fever, and every muscle aching. I have no energy on those days. And, even though I wake up the next day feeling better, my fatigue has been staying with me even in between treatments. All of that to say: I can’t wait for December when I will be done!! Merry Christmas to me!
I am only going into the cancer center for blood work once per month now. On my last visit, my white blood count was very low. This makes me more susceptible to infection and illness, so I have to be careful around sick people. That is pretty inconvenient considering I live in a building with 180 other people, and at any given time I’m sure I have several girls who are sick.
Ok, enough complaining! It’s time to sign off and take a nice Labor Day nap. Thank you for your continued prayers and support! They mean so much to me.