Hello ATS, I am usually content to just read and make the occasional post on here, but a little voice (I've learned to listen to) is telling me to
start this thread to bring awareness and information about a horrible disease that almost killed me recently. Metastatic Melanoma is quickly becoming
the most common cancer especially with young people. I was talking to my dermatologist one day and she said that the most prevalent cases that she
sees are young women age 20-30. Men it usually appears on the torso or head, women usually on the legs or feet. I would take a guess and say that
tanning beds are one reason for this uptick, but also people getting out in the sun with no protection and getting burned bad is another. I read
before that all it takes is 1-2 sunburns to dramatically increase your chances of getting this disease. I was first diagnosed in 2007 with a small
mole behind my left ear maybe the size of a pea. A month later it was about the size of a nickel, so I went to my dermatologist to have it checked.
Long story short, I went to MD Anderson in Houston to have it removed because Louisiana does not have any facilities to treat this type of cancer. So
I had the mole removed, as well as some of the lymphnodes on the left side of my head to help keep it from spreading through my lymph system. The
surgery was a success and I just thought that I was really lucky that it was caught early and went on with my life not thinking much about it. And it
was this complacency and lack of educating myself about this disease that almost killed me.
First, a little background information on Melanoma is important here. Yes, it is a skin cancer. The Melanocytes are the skin cells that give
color to your skin. People with fair skin are more at risk than others as well as people that spend alot of time in the sun. As a land surveyor and a
person of scandinavian ancestry I immediately had those two strikes against me. And if you are a black-skinned person you are still very susceptible
to it, in fact it is usually worse with dark skinned people because it is often not noticed until it has grown to a very noticeable size. It is one of
the most aggressive types of cancer and I can personally attest to the speed and ferocity of this disease. In May of 2011 I started having nosebleeds.
Not much, and not all the time, I just thought that it was being out working in the dust and pollen and dryness of Louisiana last summer that was
causing it. So I did not think much of it. A few weeks later I started having headaches. Not real bad at first, nothing that a little aspirin or
motrin could not fix, but gradually got worse and a few weeks later, I was taking 3-4 BC powders a day just trying to manage the pain. You have to
understand that I was 6 " 2 and 200 pounds and never had anything more serious than the occasional cold and the most serious operation I had was an
appendectomy with a two day hospitol stay. I was generally very healthy and a big strong guy. I got my wife to take me to the emergency room finally
because I had just started with a new company a few months before and did not want to ask to take off work not having worked long for them. At first,
the Nurse Practitioner on duty was just gonna give me some headache medicine and send me back home, until she noticed the scar on my neck and asked
what it was from. I told her I had a mole removed and some lymphnodes 4 years ago at MD anderson. They put me on a morphine pump for pain management
and she ordered a CT scan and they found a mass in my sinus cavity a little bigger than a golfball, as well as one in my lung 5.5 centimeters. As well
as maybe 20 or so subcutaneous tumors along my head, neck, shoulders, abdomen. These tumors were popping up daily while I was in the hospitol and
biopsies confirmed it was all melanoma. I went through 5 months of intensive biochemotherapy which is like regular chemo, but with worse side effects.
After this, a spot on my brain was found about the size of a pea on the right upper lobe. The biochemo does not penetrate the Blood brain barrier all
that well but treats the rest of the body. The treatments are very very rough. I was taking IL-2 as well as regular chemo, also temodar, cisplatin,
lovenox and a few others. A weeklong hospitol stay is required every treatment because you must be monitored while recieving it. After that they send
you home for 2 weeks to heal up, then back for more. I lost all my hair, I turned red as an apple and swelled up like a balloon, My skin started
peeling and falling off like a sunburn does, I could not eat, even smelling food or watching a Sonic commercial made me sick to my stomach. Which is
bad because the cancer takes it nutrients out of the bloodstream first before the rest of your body can recieve any nutrition. My legbones ached
constantly from the marrow getting slammed from the biochemo and the chemo damaged nerve endings in my hands and feet so I could only shuffle around
like an old man. My hemoglobin dropped severely and blood transfusions became the norm because I was basically anemic. I had severe diarrhea when in
the hospitol and then severe constipation when I got home. Funny thing, my hair has been growing back since November when I finished my last round of
chemo and my hair on my head is now black and fine. (used to be blonde and course.) Its crazy to think that this stuff is so toxic to your body that
it actually changes your hair color and texture. I got down below 160 pounds and they almost had to stop the treatments because I became so skinny and
frail. The doctors told me that most people cannot take all 6 rounds and they usually have to stop sometime because of sickness and delirium. About 10
percent of people that recieve this treatment have a response like I did. And they told me that usually people that respond like me have around 5
years before any recurrences. 10 percent is not a very hopeful number but it is all they can do once it reaches stage 4 for melanoma patients. They
are researching more into melanoma treatments because it is becoming so prevalent especially in young people.
My point is this, If you or a loved one has ever had a melanoma removed from your skin, you must be vigilant in keeping track of what is going on in
your body. Don't think that just because you had a mole removed you are cured. The things they use to treat "normal" cancers do not work for Melanoma.
All it takes is for one little melanoma cell to lay dormant until it feels the time is right and then it explodes with the aggressiveness of a
blitzkreig. I never in a million years would have believed that skin cancer can go to any part of the body. If I had known this the moment I started
getting nosebleeds would have thrown up a red flag for me. My wife has kept a blog on everything that has happened since june and if anyone would like
to they can read about the treatments and procedures right here. www.sinuscancer.blogspot.com...
If you have friends or family that have had
melanoma please convince them to educate themselves on this disease as well as get regular scans at least twice a year to keep track of any metastases
that appear. It is also important to realize that once you have this disease, even if it goes into "remission" it is never gone. You will always have
it, and it can attack at any time. If anyone has any questions or would like to know more about the treatments please ask or U2U me.
29-2-2012 by Cancerwarrior because: added more