I haven’t written in a while. I have had some repeat doggy clients so I wanted to wait for a new one to write about.
OMG, I just had a my tiniest guest today. Diego is a 10 week old, 3lb Beagle/Chihuahua mix. This was his first visit and he did very well. I assumed that he would play for an hour and sleep for an hour and I was correct. I took him out every 60-90 mins to go potty, which he did. All and all, a great first visit. I believe that he will be coming back, YAY!!
Like I said, I have had some repeat clients….here they are…
Also, A friend and I went back to PA for a weekend in Sept. We joined my sister’s team, to walk and to raise money and awareness of Melanoma. It was fun and very successful. I am excited to say that my sister has had her 12th and final treatment and all looks good now. She is so strong. This is her story…..
My Melanoma Madness Family history: none Number of full skin checks I had through my life: zero Melanoma type: Acral Lentiginous (subungual) the most common in Asian, Hispanic and African American races. Of which I am not. This type of melanoma makes up less than 5% of all melanomas. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Timeline: Years and years ago I got a mole on the cuticle line of my left big toe. It was fine. Appeared normal. I thought it odd to get a mole on my toe, but I was not concerned. Fast forward to sometime in late 2017-ish I notice I have what I think is a blood blister. It’s near or on or around the “mole”. So I google blood blister on toe. Because who googles toe cancer??? I go several months until having it looked at.
May 2018: I’m in my 3 month diabetes check appointment with my Doc and at the end of appointment, I ask him to look at my toe. He glances at it and tells me it’s ugly and I should cover it for a week and if it doesn’t improve I should go see a podiatrist. Ok!!! Sounds easy. So I do what he tells me and it seems to start to dry up so I don’t go to the podiatrist.
September 17th 2018: Ok, I give!!! Made an appointment with the podiatrist because it seemed to get worse again. I go in, sit down and show him my “blood blister”. Instantly he tells me it is a wart. Oh! I ask if warts oozed and bled. He shook his head and told me no and that he wanted to biopsy it to see what kind of wart it was so he knew what type of antibiotic he may need to prescribe. OUCH. That kind of hurt. But ok! The results will be in in 7-10 days. Thanks doc. So, because I’m impatient, I go buy a wart freezing kit and try to freeze the little bitch off. HOLY CRAP. OUCH IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT. And it obviously wasn’t even worth the pain. Tic tock…. tic tock September 28th (10 business days later): I call the office to ask about results. I am told there are none. Sometimes these things could take up to a month they say. Of course, I argued that and said that the doctor told me 7 to 10 business days. They shrug and say they hope it’ll be in next week. HOPE?????? Mind you, I struggle with anxiety and unknown things are huge a trigger for me. Ok. Sigh.
October 5th 2018: Ring ring. Hi, this is Stephanie Heart. Calling to see if results are in. Nope. What the hell????? Ok. This is science. Deep breaths. October 17th 2018: Cell phone rings. I’m in middle of something and can’t answer my phone. Voice mail says: “ hello this message is for Dr. B…, this is so-and-so from the pathology lab in Maryland and I need to speak with you directly about one of your patient’s biopsies” UMMMMM….. what the hell? Now I’m freaked out. So of course I call back and leave a message. No response. Text— no response. Call doctors office and leave urgent message with answering service. Call doctors office again first thing in morning and start pushing. Hard. Turns out the initial abnormal results were in a couple weeks ago and lab was doing further testing. WHICH NOONE INFORMED ME OF. The lab certainly broke some rules by accidentally calling me directly. They say they will have doctor call me. 15 min later he does. Tells me same story. Says he is trying to get in touch with pathology lab and will get the results for me and I can pick them up in office tomorrow. Ok. Fine. Instantly google cancer on toe, because why else would a lab be trying to reach the doc?
October 18th (my cancerversary, I guess) I arrive at the office and go to desk and say I’m here to see the doctor about my results. They tell me he gave us this for you and hand me a sealed envelope. Um. Alright. I leave office and am in lobby. Remember, I’m impatient. So I open envelope while alone in the lobby. And all I see is MALIGNANT MELANOMA and I am alone. Frozen. Oh. Also a note with a referral to a dermatologist. That bastard let me read that alone. Ok. Now it’s a search and destroy mission. I immediately call this dermatologist and fax over results while I am on the phone. While scheduling the appointment with the receptionist, she asked me to hold on and out of nowhere this doctor gets on the phone. He tells me that he would gladly see me, however, he would be telling me immediately to get to a surgeon at Fox Chase Cancer Center and gave me the name. He told me that this was a deep tumor and it would have to be removed. Holy shit. This is serious. Like WAY serious. My fingers instantly started dialing the number to the doctor he referred me to. They were amazing on the phone while I cried and they got me set up for an appointment with the chief of surgery in less than a week. Begin massive anxiety attacks. Google. Bing. Explorer. Knowledge is power.
October 25th, 2018 Appointment with surgeon. The guy who saved my life. Tells me that the depth on the report puts me at a stage 2. Which means they remove it and then do a sentinel lymph node biopsy to check the nearest lymph node to see if it spread. But only 20% chance it would have. And then he tells me that to remove it, they have to amputate the top half of my big toe. Wait. WHAT??? Alligator tears begin flowing. Sends me on my way to schedule surgery.
November 2, 2018 Surgery day. Maybe after today I won’t have cancer anymore. Ativan on board I head to the hospital with my army. Long day of waiting and tests. Blood work. They do the injection for sentinel lymph node biopsy. Waiting and scans. Then it’s time to head back. I don’t remember any of it. Wake up. Foot is wrapped and I have a nerve block. They said they were sure they got clean margins. So as long as lymph node comes back clean, I would be cancer free! Remember only 20% chance of the lymph node being malignant. They send me home same day with healing instructions and tell me results will be in in 7-10 days. I’ve heard this before. Anxiety is in high overdrive. My family and friends took amazing care of me. But in the midst of this I told the boyfriend to take a hike. Zero empathy and he couldnt understand my fuss. It was only a toe. Not even a whole toe. It wasn’t like it was a boob or a lung. I’m sorry…. you’re out of my circle now. Piss off.
1 week later: Still no results. Tic tock. All I can think of is just getting back to work and I did. I work from home so was able to do some work and elevate.
About 12 days post op: Guess who is in the 20%???? Of course I am. Worst news I could have gotten. I now have stage 3 melanoma. Stage 3. Are you kidding me? You have to be. Now what? Time to have a PET scan of my entire body to see if it has spread anywhere. This would place me at stage 4. Thank goodness, it had not spread. I remain stage 3, but now I have to face a year of immunotherapy treatment with CT scans, skin checks, MRIs, ultrasounds and a slew of other tests every 3 months or so.
November 28 First meeting with medical oncologist. He details the plan of action to do everything we can to make sure the beast stays away. Melanoma is really sneaky and can just show up anytime anywhere. Sigh. A lifetime of anxiety. There is no cure. We set up the treatment plan.
December 5,2018 Treatment day. Lab work first to see if my body can handle it. Meet with oncologist again. Then head to the infusion room. Walk in and there are a ton of cancer patients in their chairs hooked up to IVs. Not gonna lie. It was scary and I couldn’t believe I was there. They begin the infusion after mixing the medicine. They have to wait for doc approval for this as they bill my insurance company $115,000 a month for this drug. Yes, the comma is in the right place. Infusion begins. And ends just as fast. Only about 30 min. And they send me home. Almost instantly, my entire body is hot and so itchy. A normal side effect. Any type of “itis” is. I’ll take that over chemo though. The itch continued for 2 months. My first 2 treatments.
Wash rinse repeat. I just completed my 6th of 12 treatments. I’ve had some scans and skin checks in between. So far…. I am FREE of cancer. We call this NED. No evidence of disease. And we celebrate this.
A few things I have learned:
Not all melanoma comes from the sun, but most does. Mine didn’t. I am now susceptible to any and all skin cancers as well as having an increased risk of developing other types. I must be diligent with protecting myself from the sun. When in doubt, get it checked. Schedule yearly dermatology appointments. ADVOCATE for yourself for fast treatment and diagnosis. You are never too busy to take care of your health. In times of crisis you really learn who your true circle of people are. Mine is huge and I am truly blessed.
I am so thankful for the care I have received and continue to receive from everyone at Fox Chase Cancer Center. They literally have saved my life.
I still struggle with anxiety and depression and some pain and swelling. But I’m managing it by staying informed and positive and laughing at things. That’s how I deal. Gotta laugh. My side effects haven’t been horrible from treatment. I hope that my story can help at least one person to get help if needed. Early detection is KEY to surviving melanoma.
I am a melanoma warrior. A survivor. And I plan on keeping it that way.
GET CHECKED PEOPLE!!!