Sunday, January 10, 2016

Five Years Later

January 10, 2011

I didn't cry when the dermatologist told me the mole was melanoma. I left that appointment, made the calls to my family, and reassured everyone that we would proceed with the surgery, and everything would be fine. I vaguely remember saying something about how they surgeon would remove a little bit more and that would be that.

No one corrected me.

I didn't cry as the oncologist told me that melanoma had spread to lymph nodes on both sides of my body, in 3 out of the 4 areas, and to prepare myself that the PET scan would show that it had already spread to my organs. I asked for the treatment options. I heard that Interferon would be "enough" and I left the appointment.

I sobbed in my dad's arms in the backseat of the car while my mom and stepdad cried as they drove me back to my apartment.

My mom was determined enough wasn't good enough for her 23 year old daughter. Off to Memorial Sloan Kettering we went where I met "The Wizard" and "Glinda, The Good Witch." 

Another surgery.

I was healing in my hospital bed when my surgeon came into my room, sat on my bed, and told me that the FDA had approved Yervoy for melanoma stage IV patients. This was breaking news for the melanoma world. 

I cried--alone in the middle of a busy waiting room--when the surgeon told me that there was zero melanoma detected in the remaining lymph nodes that were removed during that surgery. Finally, some good news.

As my doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering agreed there was no point in doing Interferon, I entered a three year clinical trial in May 2011.

 Round one

 Round 2, 3 weeks later

 Round 3, 3 weeks later

Round 4, 3 weeks later.
Then I got a break for 3 months.

January 2012:

I was fortunate that minus a few hiccups here and there, and the trips to New York for scans and treatment every 3 months, I was able to live like a normal 24 year old girl. I started a new job, I continued to date "Mr. Spots" and I lived my life. Oh, and I celebrated my one year Cancerversary thanks to my special friends.

I really jumped into advocating for melanoma awareness in 2012. I blogged. I tweeted. I facebooked. I was on Dr. Drew and Headline News, and I worked on a great program with the Skin Cancer Foundation. I put a lot of time, effort, and heart into sharing exactly what I was going through with hopes that it would cause someone to cancel their tanning membership. I was shocked how many did.

A major highlight from 2012 was the opportunity to speak at the Skin Cancer Foundation's Gala held at The Plaza Hotel. I shared my story to lovely people like Brooke Shields, Sam Champion, and the Real Housewives of New York. Intimidating, yes, but it was a night I will never forget.


Melanoma decided to reappear this year in March; however, thanks to my fantastic doctors, we caught it in the earliest stages.

I continued on with my clinical trial every 3 months.

I got engaged to "Mr.Spots!"

...and then I married him!


Once again, melanoma decided to sneak back onto my body; however, once again, my fantastic doctors caught it in the earliest stages.

The major thing that happened in 2014 was I completed the 3 year clinical trial! No more infusions!


Thinking back to that day, January 10, 2011, the chief dermatologist asked me if I had children. When I replied no, the dermatologist made a comment that I would need to think about my family planning. I cried. Would I never have my own children? Would I never get the opportunity to feel the kicks and punches from the inside? Would my number one bucket item never be fulfilled?

Well, in July 2015, after many conversations with my oncology team, I found out the news: I am going to be a momma. 

30 weeks

I have 8 weeks left until I'm due to meet my precious baby boy, and I can already tell you, no child will be as loved.

Regarding my life with melanoma these days, celebrating my 5 year Cancerversary today is something I don't think I ever expected to do. I've lost so many friends in the last few years. I watch so many of my friends continue to struggle. I know firsthand how precious life is. Maybe that's why I'm determined to live to the best of my ability. I've backed off on advocating for melanoma awareness. I blogged once during 2015. I haven't shared the amazing advances in melanoma research. But I needed to live. For 4 years I lived and breathed melanoma. I enjoyed life, too, but I knew it was time for a break. I owed it to myself, my family and friends, and those no longer with us, to live life. Without melanoma.

No day is promised, there is no guarantee that the ugly beast won't reappear, but until it does, I'm going to keep on keepin' on.

And as always, thank you for your continued love, support, and friendship during this rollercoaster we call life.