A year ago I woke up each and day and knew how lucky I was. Every single day. I watched my children and smiled knowing that I had been one of the lucky few to be diagnosed with melanoma and walk away with my life and without chemo treatments that would ravage my body. Lucky that my children were blissfully unaware of the scary path I had been on. Lucky, lucky, lucky.
You would think that after a cancer diagnosis while pregnant I couldn’t be surprised by much else that life could throw my way. Wrong. I was completely blindsided by my recurrence this past month. I had been going for scans every 3 months and each time I heard “clear” I again rejoiced in my luckiness. On my September scan they told me they saw dense fluid at the surgery site. That didn’t sound too intimidating after everything else we’d been through. I went for the PET scan to verify the seriousness of what we were looking at and waited for the results.
They arranged for me to get the results the same day. I sat in my car and waited for the nurse to call us back into the building with the news. I couldn’t stand to sit in the waiting room with all of the “sick” people and wonder if their differing stages of misery were about to become mine. When she called and said “I’m sorry but we won’t be able to continue your normal treatment, can you come back to the office?” I mumbled “yes” and opened the car door. I’m thankful my husband was more in control than me because as I started that walk back to the building my knees began to buckle. “Please don’t let it be in my brain, please don’t let it be in my brain,” was all I could think. I felt like I could handle the news as long as they didn’t tell me it was in my brain.
I am lucky that it is not in my brain. It’s not in any of my organs but it did spread outside of the original area it was found. I still haven’t asked if my staging has changed from 3 to 4. I don’t want to know the answer. I, unfortunately, have the statistics embedded in my head and they aren’t pretty. I never look anything up anymore. I ask questions with very direct answers that don’t leave room for speculation. Melanoma is one of the fastest spreading cancers, that’s all I need to know. It has also had a couple of breakthrough drugs that have been released recently and that is the positive that I choose to focus on these days. If I had a recurrence a year ago these treatments wouldn’t have been available to me.
Last week was my first official chemo treatment. I feel good. I feel normal and healthy, the same as I felt before they told me the cancer was back. I came home from treatment and made dinner for my kids. I kissed them goodnight and stared at them a little longer than I normally do. Other than the IV that had just been emptied in my arm it was a normal day. That’s one of the most mind boggling parts, I feel fine yet I’m not. About twenty times a day my hand trails to my neck where I can feel two lumps. It’s the most unnerving thing to know that I’m touching tumors in my neck. Me. I have tumors in my neck. How the hell did this happen? And why? Why?
I had visions of my children learning my story at some point down the road and being in awe that all of that went on under their noses and they were completely unaware. I’m not sure that vision will come true. There is probably going to be some side effects that will take me out in some capacities. I want them to live in a house filled with joy and security. I can’t imagine a place where my children have a need that I’m not physically able to meet. I’m horrible at asking people for help; my husband calls it stubborn but I call it independent.
So here we go again. Another round on a path we didn’t choose. I feel better prepared for it this time but angry that I have to do it all. My children don’t deserve this. My husband doesn’t deserve this. I don’t deserve this but this is what we got.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel sorry for myself. I never cry this time around. Perhaps the pregnancy hormones overloaded me the first time but I felt like I cried all the time. Regardless of what this brings I still consider myself a lucky one. I know people with similar melanoma stories to mine that are no longer here to fight. They left behind young children and families and friends that loved them just as much as mine love me.
I will continue to fight for my life and for the mother that my children need to have in their lives. I’m scared some days but for the most part I’m just feeling solid in my belief that I’m not going anywhere. Like all stubborn/independent people I firmly believe that no one can do things better than I can so giving up will never be an option.
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