KimKDVM's Journey with Skin Cancer - Melanoma

Survivor: Skin Cancer - Melanoma

Patient Info: Finished active treatment less than 5 years ago, Diagnosed: almost 15 years ago, Female, Age: 49, Stage IV, BRAF mutation positive: Yes, c-kit positive: No

  1. 1
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
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    Simple removal surgery

    Procedure or Surgery

    I had destroyed my ACL during a wakeboarding accident. Since my upcoming surgery meant my co-pay will be down to 0, I decided to have an irritating mole on my shoulder / back on my braline removed. It was black, but did NOT meet the ABCD's of melanoma. It was in an inconvienent location and my lifejacket kept irritating it so I decided to have it removed before my upcoming knee surgery. Even the dermatologist didn't think it was cancer. The only reason he was going to remove it and send it in for testing was because it was "black" therefore he could justify it to my insurance company..... I had an excisional biopsy performed. Once removed, I looked at the mole and a chill went down my spine. It looked like a papaya seed and I was happy to have it out of my body. Something just didn't sit right with me......

    Went as Expected: Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  2. 2
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
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    Diagnosed

    Oh No

    As I was leaving the hospital from my knee surgery I got a call from my dermatologist's office requesting I call back ASAP to speak with my doctor. I was placed on hold forever which gave me a bad feeling. I was diagnosed with level 4 melanoma, needed to see an oncologist and did I know of one. "But you folks are the dermatology AND skin cancer center?!, Why on earth should I know an oncologist!" Being a veterinarian, I requested a copy of my pathology report. Being on strong pain drugs made my mind fuzzy and something bothered me about level 4, I mean how did they know just from a biopsy that it had spread! Poor communication - Clark level 4 is NOT the same as stage IV! The part I really hated was when my husband went to pick up the report. The staff looked at him with symathy and spoke in hushed tones and said how sorry they were, and how young I was. The poor guy was convinced I was a dead person walking. I just got XXX off at the whole situation, while at the same time mourned the fact I never did have a chance to have and start my family. (I was on the verge of seeing a fertility clinic). I felt robbed. Then I had to call my parents...... How exactly to you break that kind of news to someone? Oh BTW, the biopsy came back as melanoma. That is sort of how I said it I think. I was relying on the fact my parents aren't medical in nature and like most people thought - oh, its just skin cancer. Do the wide excision and you will be fine right? That worked for 2 days until mom googled melanoma. She asked if I really did say the "M" word, and I did. Then she freaked out. Fortunately by then I had begun my research and had rapidly moved into fight mode. My biggest savior was a little online site called MPIP. It is currently known as MRF.org. I got myself educated pretty quick, although I still was in the deer in the headlights mode. It was all I could do to push past the Oh XXX, now what do I do with my life - and why did I bust my butt in organic chem and vet school only to have the rug pulled out from under me now! NO FAIR! I was only 34.

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  3. 3
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
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    Wide excision surgery

    Procedure or Surgery

    I was becoming skeptical of my care after doing my research and sharing my pathology report on MPIP. (You aren't supposed to trust the internet right?) I went ahead with my WLE because it was what my doctor said I needed. He then sent me to a medical oncologist. The medical oncologist wasn't sure why my dermatologist sent me to her as I still hadn't been staged and would need a sentinal node biopsy. All she could do for me at the time besides give me a stage 2A diagnosis and possibly interferon, was show me survival curves, all of which were going down fast. I was told that I had a 65% chance of still being alive at 44 and I should take the INF. It was "easy" and you only get flu like symptoms. I had an appointment with the surgical oncologist later the next week. By the time I saw the surgical oncologist I was loaded with questions on my treatment plan. The deer in the headlight stage was wearing off, and so were my pain meds from my knee surgery. For the first time I met someone who seemed to be on my team, and very knowledgeable with my disease. He confirmed the fact the dermatologist NEVER should have done the WLE on me and instead should have sent me directly to his office to be schedulded for a sentinal node biopsy. The WLE prior to the SNB potentially will nullify my results. Fortunately the dermatologist didn't take wide enough margins so we went for it and I had the SNB.

    Went as Expected: Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
    1 Comment
  4. 4
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
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    Sentinel lymph node biopsy

    Procedure or Surgery

    For those who have never endured a SNB, the technitium 99 hurts worse than a combination of a venomous bee sting with the sensation of being burned with hot oil all at the same time. I was cursing my derm since the oncologist had to inject all around my WLE incision site. I almost passed out from the pain, it litterally took my breath away. I was then put into a scanner to trace my drainage bed. I felt like the middle of an ice cream sandwich. The two square detectors were a mere inch from my face and I couldn't move during the scan which lasted almost an hour. I studied the patterns of the acoustical ceiling tiles wondering what mundaine things other 34 year old women were doing with their lives, and wishing it were me. The patterns on the ceiling kept on shifting and swirling to keep my mind occupied. Then I was placed back into the surgical holding pen as I like to call it. They hook you up to IV's then remove your clothes. To make extra sure you don't escape, they locate the holding pen deep within the bowels of the hospital. I was then tortured by being forced to listen to my MIL go on and on about stupid stuff. I know she was trying to be helpful when I only wanted to be alone with my thoughts and not have to worry about keeping those around me "upbeat". Almost a day passed and still no surgery. I was irritated by now. My doctor came in to apologize and said they still don't have a gamma probe to use, it was still in Atlanta and hadn't been shipped. (Like heck I'm going through another injection like I just did! The person who didn't check ahead of time would be forced to endure the same injection if I had to!). Fortunately they were going to borrow the one from the hospital next door. "At least make sure they wash it off before you use it", I quipped. On my back I wrote in sharpie - No gold here, already excavated, in reference to the WLE that never should have been done in the first place. When I finally woke up from the procedure, the first thing I did was reach for my armpit. If I had drains it meant it had already spread and would be at least stage III. Fortunately there were none, and for the time being was still a 2A. I forgot about the smurfy blue pee after surgery. It was sort of pretty really, but scared my husband until I told him it was from the blue dye used in surgery to further locate my sentinal node. I went to work the next day. I was still on crutches from my knee surgery and now also had stiches in my armpit. I was told not to shave or use deoderant. Yeah, that lasted 3 days max. Does anyone have an idea what 3 day stubble with no deoderant, stiches and being on crutches feels like?! I gently shaved and plucked my pit hairs and put deoderant around my incision. I had minimal swelling but felt like I had part of my shirt wadded up in there. I realized it was due to minor swelling only. I don't think my oncologist had a clue of what it is like to be in South GA during the hot muggy August summer below the gant line, let alone with 3 day stubble, BO like a man, and on crutches. I HAD to take matters into my own hands - LOL! He did say I healed well and the inital tests were clear.

    Went as Expected: Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  5. 5
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
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    Sunbelt Melanoma Trial

    Clinical Trial

    This person has yet to add any details about this experience.

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  6. 6
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
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    Cancer has spread/Metastasized

    Oh No

    This person has yet to add any details about this experience.

    0 Comments
  7. 7
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
    KimKDVM's Avatar

    Procedure or Surgery

    This person has yet to add any details about this experience.

    Went as Expected: Disagree
    Minimal Recovery: Neutral/NA
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  8. 8
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
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    High dose IL-2 or clinical trial

    Decision Point

    This person has yet to add any details about this experience.

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  9. 9
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
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    Immunotherapy

    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    This person has yet to add any details about this experience.

    Easy to Do: Strongly Disagree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Disagree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  10. 10
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
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    Side Effects

    This person has yet to add any details about this experience.

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  11. 11
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
    KimKDVM's Avatar

    Celebration

    Just finished my PET/CT, chest CT, and brain MRI - still no evidence of disease 30 months after IL-2. No one will ever use the "C" word with stage IV melanoma, but I am pretty much there. My docs are trying to figure out what to do with me next as far as follow up exams etc. How nice to be in that no man's land situation of "Huh? We actually have a survivor on our hands that is helping to set the survival curve heh heh heh. Now what do we do? LOL

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  12. 12
    • KimKDVM
    • Experience with Skin Cancer - Melanoma
    over 4 years ago
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    Complete Responder, No evidence of disease! Joined the 3% club!

    Celebration

    This person has yet to add any details about this experience.

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