Ask me before 2015 what melanoma was and I would of shrugged with no idea. I had never heard of it, like so many now still don’t.. People don’t realise just how much of a nasty and cruel form of cancer it is..
This is my story.. 💗
At the age of 15, a pimple appeared on the side of my face, soon turning into a mole. After having it checked by a dermatologist, I was told it was okay but could have it removed if i wanted too, being scared of how she said she would remove it, i quickly declined and forgot about it. Roll forward to 2015.. My mole is now actually quite big, Not realizing at the time just how big it had gotten, i made the decision to finally get it removed. I was catching it a lot. From brushing my hair to removing a top. So, on the 27th August 2015, 3 days after returning from our family holiday to Benidorm where my now fiance Paul, proposed to me, i had a simple procedure to remove my mole. 20 Mins in and out.. So I was back to happily enjoying our engagement, my birthday in a weeks time. Which unfortunately was the date of my stitches removed. My birthday came, my stitches came out and Paul had bought me a surprise weekend away to Amsterdam.
Little did i know, my stitches had been removed too early, my scar would burst open whist in Amsterdam leaving me with a open circle wound and no one wanting to help as it could only be touched by the surgeon who did it.. We managed to keep it covered whist away and as soon as we stepped foot of the plane, we were in our hospital waiting to be seen, thankfully i was able to get it stitched back up and everything was ok. A few weeks had past and now were on 3rd October, My results day.. Now because all moles get sent off for a biopsy, I wasn’t scared, I even planned to go back to work an hour later.
He told me there that the mole was cancerous and I had stage two melanoma.
But because of the size and thickness they had removed the mole but my skin around it still needed to be removed too as there was a 95% the cancer could be there too or if not quickly develop there. One word-Devastation. Sorry was he talking about me? Surely there’s something not right.. me? My world crumbled around me, being told the word cancer isnt easy, its the one word everyone is scared of. For the next 10 mins i couldn’t hear what he was saying, i could see him, he was talking at me but my ears were only hearing silence. Its a moment in my life i will never be able to forget. Thankfully Paul had 21 questioned him, his arms wrapped around me as i sat there completely in my own bubble, sobbing like a baby.It was a complete shock to the both of us. There is nothing that can prepare you. Its only later i was able to understand they always take more skin anyway as a precaution but I’ve have had to have 3cm diameter removed.. Doesn’t sound a lot but when it’s on a small face… It’s a lot!
Once again because of being stage 2 I’ve had to have a sentinel lymph node biopsy to check if the cancer has spread. This is where Radioactive fluid is injected into the area, (mine being 4 injections into my scar from my first procedure) and laying down in a machine where it takes pictures with a special camera that shows where the primary lymph nodes drain too. All very fascinating. My Lymph nodes where then marked, Kind of like a x marks the spot so that whist having my skin surgery they could remove the nodes at the same time, making the operation more serious and longer but better in the long run. My surgery was a success and i awoke, groggy, in pain and very, very tight to the lovely faces of my family and fiance. At that moment i was too out of it to know what had happened to my face but my family had been told that they were able to pull my skin back together, there was no need for a skin graft, but my wound was yes, longer but very neat. My scar runs from a few cm of the top of my ear down to my throat and a little round my ear. I’ve basically had a face lift on one side. I then had the agonizing wait for my lymph node biopsy results, taking each day as it came, trying to deal with the physical changes in my appearance and coming to terms with everything that had happened in such a short period of time.
On the 25th November 2015, I, with my fiance and mum besides me, We were told that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and I was now, Stage 3.. Once again my world had been turned upside down, I found myself sat there again questioning myself, can this be happening? We were so sure i was going to get the all clear. I felt numb, watching the look on their faces, i felt sick. Stage 3? I cant be stage 3..
I had CT and MRI scans which they did to rule out that the cancer wasn’t already spreading to the brain or lungs etc, they use these as future reference too when it comes to my 3 monthly checks..
On the 15th of December i had another operation called a lymph node dissection where they removed all my lymph nodes on my neck, on the left hand side.. It was a bigger op and once again i have another big scar, on my throat and behind my ear where they did a U shape flap to operate under. I had to have a drain in for 5 days to drain the fluid out- doing the job of my lymph nodes. Until the toxins find another lymph gland to drain too. I was discharged a couple of days earlier as i basically begged them to let me home. so was discharged on the Sunday which was the 20th, just in time for some Christmas time healing before the big day. I’m in quite a lot of pain, and cant actually describe how tight it feels, its like having someones hand round your neck 24/7. -Not nice. I had my stitches removed on Christmas eve along with some physio as there was damage to my left arm, not being able to lift. They said this was normal as some of the tendons have been damaged. I’ve had a lot of nerve damage in my left side too, they said they have been able to save my important ones there just numb so will return in time. But I’ve lost movement in the left side of my mouth which isn’t fun whist trying to eat, talk or smile.
On the 13th of January 2016 my results came back that none of my 22 lymph nodes removed from my lymph dissection contained melanoma!! I am now at this moment in time CANCER FREE! In 13 small weeks I have caught it, fought it and beaten stage 3 cancer! I couldn’t be been more happy if I tried! The look of joy in my families faces, the tears of happiness and not heartbreak..
After my results on the 13th started my 5 years of 3 monthly checks, including full body mole and lymph gland/node checks. These are so important and will need to be done at home, the reacurrence rate is really high in the first two years.. So it’s vital they keep on top of you and that anything your not happy with gets checked out..
Since January I’ve had two scares, the first one came from a lump under my chin which I had needle biopsied during a ultrasound appointment.. The results came back okay with slight abnormalities.. We decided there to just watch and wait.. Deciding surgery wasn’t the best option at this time.. So I went back to normal (ish) life, I went back to work, but started feeling the same, low mood, fatigue, sleeping a lot and being sick quite a lot of the time.. It was around this time I noticed a purple, raised bruise form on the left side of my cheek.. When I first saw it I didn’t think too of it. Being a girl- I studied it in my mirror, thinking have I caught myself? Not recalling anything I just left it.. Covering it up with my make up..
A few days later, 3rd July, it was still there only looked more purple.. When I pressed it, there was a small lump behind it, but it didn’t move and didn’t hurt.. Something deep down didn’t seem right, so I asked for opinions on a melanoma page I’m part of.. GET IT CHECKED.. So I did, I made an appointment with my surgeon for Tuesday 12th July. My surgeon checked my scars, all okay.. I mentioned this bruise. This is a moment both me and Paul didn’t like. He got up looked at my cheek and pressed down on the lump.. He face sort of changed and the expression said it all.. “That could be cancer” “oh shit, what?” A very small voice ran out my mouth, that’s all I could muster.. “Right, I’m going to have to re-schedule someone one Monday, can you do Monday?” He asked, Monday? This Monday? Panic started to set in, usually it’s about a 2/3 week wait for surgery, not 6 days! He told me that I would take the place of someone on Monday so that I can have it removed ASAP, whist I was under he would also be removing the lump under my chin from my last scare.. I left feeling numb. Expecting him to say, “noooo, everything’s fine, it’s nothing” neither of us were at all prepared for the fact I would be having another operation.. I tried to keep that week as normal as possible, I went back to work, although pretty useless.
Monday 18th July, another op date.. Plastics ward 3a was busy, very busy, so much so that we didn’t get a room until the afternoon and then it was on a different ward, the burns ward the floor above. I didn’t go down to theatre until 4:20pm, but this time..(I’ve very proud of this) I didn’t cry when getting put asleep.. Which is a miracle because there was a bit of a wait for that too.. Lying in that bed, in that room next to theatre, your heart beat getting faster and faster,people running around you.. Knowing that any minute you will be asleep and your neck cut open.. It’s quite surreal and quite scary. I woke in agony! So much so I just remember them pumping that much morphine into me that my body didn’t feel my own.. I was out of it, I didn’t even realise I was back on the ward with my family. The thing I remember the most after that is trying to drink and my mouth not working, once again very surreal.. The next day, I was allowed to go home.
I’ve had an amazing privilege of working with some fab charities and companies, I am part of the FakeBake Collective, I work along side sunsense, I do a lot of work for CancerResearchUK, I appeared as a guest speaker for a charity ball in Essex, in June, which was fabulous and I even had the amazing job of opening the 2016, Race For Life in Aintree, with a lot more planned. More than ever that awareness is so important! Caught early it’s treatable, caught in the early stages it’s curable. That’s why it’s so important to get the awareness of melanoma known, the dangers of sunburning, sunbeds, the importance of checking your skin, checking your moles..