The year I turned 53 (2011) I noticed a small lump under the skin, near my left knee. I really didn’t think much about it, we all have odd bumps on occasion. That was in the spring… by fall, it had grown from a small pea, to a marble sized lump. Again, I knew it was there, but we had insurance (that we were already paying nearly $1300 a month out of pocket for) that would not have paid for much, and truth be told, I am a coward when it comes to pain, so I ignored it. UNTIL, by Christmas, it had gotten even larger, and by now, I was bumping it constantly. After the New Year, I saw my family doctor (and here is the number one lesson I learned) who basically blew me off “it’s a fatty tumor, and you don’t need to do anything with it” — thankfully, after a week or so of mulling that over, I demanded a consult.
He sent me to a orthopedic doc, since it was near the joint. He did an MRI, and the results were all “could be…….” some sort of cancer. The next thing I knew, I was with the receptionist, who was on the phone setting up an appointment for me to be seen in 2 days, in Philly. I was set up to see an Orthopedic Oncologist, and those words struck terror in my heart.
We saw her in 2 days, and she set me up for a needle biopsy the very next day.
The day before I turned 53, I got the phone call “it is Melanoma” — I am still a bit miffed by the offhanded way the nurse on the phone dismissed it, “it is treatable” — yea… not so much 😦
The next few weeks were a blur of seeing my family practice doc for medical clearance, seeing a local oncologist, and having my first PET scan to be certain it was not anywhere else.
I am thankful that I have my faith to cling to, because I would have fallen apart much farther than I did. I had a very good friend from high school, who she herself is a breast and cervical cancer survivor, who told me, cry, scream, pitch a fit if you have to… then pull up your bootstraps and move forward.
That March, I had my first surgery. Almost 5 hours in the OR. They removed a golfball size tumor, pulled part of my calf muscle over the knee to fill in the hole (a HUGE scar down my calf from that) took skin from my thigh to do a skin graft to cover that hole, and did 2 lymph node biopsies in my groin/thigh. When I woke up, I was in an immobilizer, and the next morning when they opened it to look, and I realized how big a deal it was, I was truly scared! They had removed about 8 lymph nodes, 3 of which were “hot”
The result of all of this was, I was now, Stage 3C…
After a long 6 months of healing, and rehab ( I basically had to relearn to walk because that knee was frozen after being immobilized for 5 weeks so that the skin graft would “take” and the donor graft site, took FOREVER to heal (made me realize what burn patients endure) I returned to my “new normal”
2014, 2 yrs later, almost to the day, I had my second big surgery. They reopened the scars from my first biopsies, and joined them into one big scar and removed 6 or so more lymph nodes with them being ” hot”
Later that summer, there were 2 more smaller nodules that showed up on a PET scan.
Thankfully, my last 2 PET scans were clean, but only after having a needle biopsy on a lymph node in my neck this past February. I was so scared that that node would test positive, and that would have catapulted me into Stage 4. Thankfully, after lots of prayers, it was only showing a sign of infection that they didn’t know where was, could have been as simple as a cold or sore throat.
I will have another PET scan the end of April, and am praying that nothing shows up, however, I have now noticed a small lump on my right thigh…