My Story

I was using Chanix to quit smoking and my company provides a clinic that all employees can use. In order to get the second prescription I needed to have a blood test performed to make sure its not affecting my liver. The first vial was a wellness test and they had to take another sample in the correct vial, but had decided to send off the wellness one anyway. The nurse was late and I didn’t have time to talk with her concerning a spot on my arm.

About a week later I receive a call that they would like to see me again that day. She explains that my cholesterol is high 330, high white cell count 16k and something about having a elevated enzime in my liver. I show her the spot on my arm and she makes me an appointment with the dermitologist.

I meet with the dermitolgist and a biopsy is done. Week later I receive a call informing me to contact a surgeon to have the spot removed and that it is melanoma. He said to call him and he will help me choose a surgeon that is available under my health plan.

I found a surgeon and scheduled appointment to discuss having the melanoma removed. I am told that I am stage 4 which is the worst stage to have. At this point I have done limited reading on the subject. He explains that he will remove about the size of a silver dollar from my arm to try and get it out within the margins and that a SLNB will be done to see if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Surgery is scheduled for that Friday, which will allow me 4 days to recover before going back to work. Surgery went well, considerable amount of pain, but I manage just fine. Told to schedule appointment with 7-10 days, I schedule it for the 10th day. Now my knowledge of melanoma has greatly improved. I was wondering how he could say stage 4 when it wasn’t known if it had spread to other parts of my body.

Now comes the time when I find out what is the next step in this process. The site on my arm was removed within the margins, it was one gnarly sight as I would say. It did have to go, so what I have is what I have, I will survive. Then we discuss the SNLB, I am told they found 9 malignant cells, later it changes to 11. So now I will need a second operation to remove 9 more lymph nodes to see if it had spread. Surgery is scheduled for that Friday, everything goes well, except this time the pain is much worse. I don’t really like taking medicine, but I definately need the pain killer. I know that I must have the additional lymph nodes removed since the first one was positive for cancer.

I am referred to the oncologist for further treatment. I don’t understand why you can’t meet with this doctor during the start of this, but everything is a referral. In discussing with her my current condition, she tells me I am not stage 4 but stage 3b, not alot of improvement, but is alot better then stage 4. She tells me my options are chemo with interferon 4 weeks of 5 days per week of high dose interferon, then it will be 11 months of self injected shots 3 times per week at a lower dosage, or wait and see. By this time I have already started a novel treatment of curcumin, quercetin and EGCG with the approval of my surgeon. I discuss this with the oncologist, I am told that it is fine to continue. I ask for a referral to MD Anderson for possible clinical trials and to learn more about chemo.

My appointment was made and I was told that I would be there 2-3 days, so I make arrangements for my trip there. I ended up driving because it was just to hard to get a flight with the days I required, it wasn’t bad 6 hours of driving.

I arrive at MD Anderson and fill out paperwork (why can’t they fax all the other paperwork you have supplied to every other doctor?) I am sure tired of filling out paperwork. I meet with the nurse and doctor. Again my options are chemo or wait and see, I had started to believe the other doctor before I went to MD Anderson because others had said the same. I was not qualified for any clinical trials and they recommended that I start chemo within 60 days of the orginal operation which was closing in. My 2-3 day trip just changed into, might as well just drive home. I was given paperwork and the email of the nurse to answer any questions that I had. By the time I arrived at my home I had alot of questions because I was preparing myself to enter chemo.

Two days later I am asked to page the nurse so she could call and we could discuss something. Well, I thought it was going to be about chemo or maybe there was a trial that I could enter (hopefully a phase 3). She called me late that afternoon, and informed me that I wasn’t stage 3b but stage 2b. I didn’t require the second operation that removed 9 lymph nodes. Now chemo isn’t part of the treatment for my stage, but there is a clinical trial being conducted with high dose interferon in patients that have had the cancer completely removed. At this point I believe I will continue with my novel approach since chemo doesn’t have a very high success rate.

The part about chemo and my thoughts are just that my thoughts, don’t use my opinoin to help you choose yours, this is only for you to decide. Don’t begin any novel treatment without discussing this with your doctor.