It’s an honor on this “Melanoma Monday” to kick off some personal accounts of melanoma with a close friend of mine’s story. Greta is an amazing friend, wife, mother, and girl after God’s heart. It’s a priviledge for me to share her story of her husband, Shane’s, battle here on the blog. I love you girl, keep up the great work raising awareness and doing the “dirty work” of endless research for people like myself and Shane and undoubtedly many others who your story has touched and will continue to touch.
October 2011 our lives changed forever. My husband Shane was diagnosed with Stage 3C melanoma. I remember leaving the doctor’s office and googling Stage 3 melanoma. I couldn’t breathe when I saw the prognosis. All I remember is thinking, my husband is so young and he is going to die, leaving our 2 young children without a father and me without my husband, the love of my life since I was 16 years old. I remember tossing and turning, crying my eyes out all night begging God to please let him live.
A few days later Shane had major surgery that involved removing 19 lymph nodes from his right arm. He then underwent high dose radiation and months of physical therapy. He will never have full use of his right arm and has no feeling under his arm and down his right side. After all of this Shane took part ina clinical trial, hoping and praying that he would get the drug ipilimumab (Yervoy). I’ll never forget the day we got the call that he was randomized to get the ipilimumab. Tears of joy when we hung up the phone, God definitely answered our many prayers.
He was scheduled to get 4 doses of the ipilimumab every 3 weeks and then go on a maintenance dose. After the 4th dose Shane experienced a life threatening lung reaction. The drug began attacking his lungs and he almost died. After another surgery to confirm it was not melanoma metastasis Shane had to take high dose steroids for months. Thankfully the steroids worked and the situation resolved. Long lasting effects of the drug are still unknown but we truly believe ipilimumab and faithful prayers saved his life.
Shane still has to go for PET scans, CT scans and brain MRI’s every few months. We always get nervous around scan time. Melanoma isn’t curable once it reaches a later stage (stage 3 and 4) but thankfully Shane has remained NED.
Some common misconceptions regarding melanoma that drive me crazy:
It’s “just skin cancer”! No, actually it’s not! It one of the deadliest cancers there is and up until the last few years there weren’t many successful treatment options available. If you need more info. “Google” stage 3 and 4 melanoma.
Unlike other cancers you are never really in remission, melanoma can come back at any time.
Melanoma doesn’t discriminate and it isn’t always from the sun.
Life will never be the same but in some ways it is better. Our relationship with God was strengthened, you have no other choice but to give it all to God when facing a situation like this. Before all of this Shane worked 6-7 days a week for 13 years. When something like this happens you quickly realize that time is precious and you can never get that time back.
God placed amazing people in our life during this journey. The doctors at Fox Chase CC have been absolutely wonderful, treating us like family. We are so thankful for family that has been wonderful taking care of our children whenever we needed to go to Fox Chase or the times Shane was in the hospital. We are so thankful for all of our friends and the Andrew family. We are blessed! My husband is a walking miracle. I struggle with anxiety regarding all of this but I try not to let fear take over. Life is short, go on vacation, stop to smell the roses and enjoy the view.
And most of all, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Please keep our family in your prayers as well as all the other cancer warriors. Thank you to everyone that has prayed for us and walked along side of us during this difficult journey.
Shane you are amazing (toughest guy we know) and you are our rock! We love you.