Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Last 6 Months...Picture Telling

Six months ago my lifelong partnership with melanoma began. Yes, lifelong. Why? Melanoma is a terminal disease. (Yeah, I didn't know that either...) I figured I would tell my story this time through picture form. It has been one hell of a journey so far...

These were pictures from the surgery in January 26, 2011. (Minus the other armpit & other side of my neck...I was seriously cut up!) My sister teased me that I looked like Mrs. Frankenstein, but she was right. I totally did.

This was the girl who got me through the lonely days after my family brought me home following the first surgery. She has been my best friend since 4th grade. It's true, people you have grown up with know you better than most...Even though some believe I should hate the beach, it is still the one place I always go to clear my head.

These pictures were from the first trip to NYC when I first met my new oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. That was one of the toughest appointments because I was told that without surgery, I was not sick 'enough' for any of the clinical trials. My options were "watch & wait" or Interferon.

If you find yourself in NYC, go to Serendipity 3 for their Frozen Hot Chocolate. It is so good. 

These were taken about a month after surgery...The armpit scars are hard to see in pictures.

When finding out that I was in fact having another surgery, I decided I needed a vacation. I also needed to see my Gran & Pop. Off to Florida we went...

Mr. Spots & I had a great time in Florida, followed by a wonderful romantic stay in Savannah, GA.

Then it was time to let the surgeons slice & dice me again. On March 24, 2011 I checked into Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's main hospital for a full lymph node dissection of my neck & a full lymph node dissection of my left axilla (under my arm.)

4 nights in the hospital, 3 drains coming out of me, a severe allergic reaction to something, and a lot of stress for my family, I believe. At least I had amazing nurses who kept me nice & drugged!

I was released into the public with my two arm drains, returned the next day to have them removed, and was told that my pathology report came back...Out of all of the nodes they removed, ZERO were positive for melanoma.  I cried.

The end of April---Melanoma benefit organized by the best band in Roanoke: PolyChrome. I will never be able to thank the bands who participated or the community who supported us. It is a day I will never forget.

My story got published in a local magazine! (I have a 3 page spread coming out in the latest edition of my sorority magazine THE CREST. I am very excited to read it.)

Being sun safe even while out having fun!

Other NYC adventures!

So, that's where we stand right now. 2 surgeries, countless appointments, 3 sessions in the chemo suite, and suddenly, my six month anniversary with melanoma has arrived.

Protect the skin you're in...


Ranisa said...

6 months out!!!! YEAH! You are doing it! NED right? Way to glad you took pictures. I didn't.

Tim said...

Wow... seeing it all laid out like that is really powerful Chelsea.

It's odd isn't it?. For me, the time since diagnosis seems like both the longest and the shortest periods of my life. You look back and say "jeez... it's only been 6 months?!! It seems like forever..." and then in the next moment you really can't believe that 6 months have already passed...

I'm at almost a year and a half now. I don't look back and count it or anything but when you've got scans scheduled every 6 months, it's kind of like a clock... tick, it's February, time for a scan... tock, it's August, time for a scan...

Assuming you stay NED, you're approaching a point where things are going to loosen up quite a bit. I remember "celebrating" my 100th scheduled appointment at somewhere around 9 or 10 months. This year my goal was to keep it down to an average of around 1 a month though and I'm pretty close to making that a reality (June was Onc followup, July is skin check, August is scan month). That's a pace where you can actually carry on a relatively normal life.

You're almost there... a few more hoops to jump through and you just might find yourself in a situation where you're able to forget about this crappy disease long enough to actually feel pretty darn normal.

All my love to you Chelsea.


Al said...

OMG! You met the Cake Boss? SO COOL! :)

But on a serious note (although I was serious about my Cake Boss excitement)...this is a great posting to document your journey. It's always very powerful to share the ugly, Frankenstein photos because people just don;t understand what's involved with "simply cutting it out."

Thank you for your continued sharing, and congrats for your success after 6 months!

(Wow...Chelsea met Buddy)

Kate said...

You were so smart to document everything -- the good, bad and ugly. Thank you for sharing and all my best as you hit this 6 month milestone!!

Al said...

Hey Chelsea, I wanted to mention something else. My 9-year-old daughter loves Cake Boss even more than me. She looks forward to Mondays more than anyone should. Before tonight's repeat episode at 8:00, I told her that I knew someone that had their picture taken with Buddy. I logged into your blog and scrolled down to the photo and she was delighted. Then she asked "what are all those other photos?" I explained your story and she asked to see the other pics. I told her that some of the photos were pretty serious (she gets upset easily) but she wanted to see. I told her your story as I showed the photos and she stopped me and said, unprovoked, "Daddy, I want to use sunscreen every day!"

Of course, MY daughter's going to use it anyway (lol)...but this goes to show, Chelsea how your posts do have a positive impact. Keep it up!

Now if only you'd compete on "Wipe-Out" and then maybe her twin brother would pay

Sisico72 said...

Chelsea, where did you get all that strength from ? you're indestructible !!!