Monday, June 22, 2009

Three of Three....

THREE – Diagnosed with Cancer and Conquered Cancer!

A little history here: in February my brother-in-law was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He is currently going through bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments and the scans are showing that it is helping rid his body of cancer. In March, my mom called me and told me that she had an abnormal spot on her upper arm and it was diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma (a very common form of skin cancer). She is a very strong woman and dealt with it all very well, even noting that the hardest part was the sores she was getting from the band-aids. This surely upset my sister and much as it did me, so I scheduled myself for a full body mole check at my determatologist.

On March 31st the determatologist removed a mole (that I have all of my life on my lower right shin) in order to perform a biopsy right then and there at the first ‘scan’ appointment (the photo is after the biopsy healed and before the surgery). Meanwhile, I was wondering if it would hurt at all when I ran the following Saturday – my second Yakima River Canyon Marathon – guess you could say that I wasn’t too worried (especially since the biopsy three years ago was benign)! Well, much to my surprise, the doc’s office called a week later and told me that the test showed that I had melanoma skin cancer (don’t go and google quite yet, ‘cause those sites will scare the crap out of you). I went through some pretty insane emotions – it is hard to hear that you are sick when you don’t feel sick. I continued on to a full work day after I got the news (I didn’t know what else to do). I had a lot of appointments to get me ready for surgery – yes, in order to get rid of my melanoma they had to perform a wide excision of a 2-1/2” diameter circle of skin from my shin (i'll spare you those photos - only a handful have seen the surgery site - it will still be a few months with compression before it can be exposed - also note my stripped sock in later photos).

Melanoma is no skin cancer to mess around with, it is the most deadly form of skin cancer and only 4% of skin cancers diagnosed are melanoma. In order to get my shin to heal they had to close the area with a skin graft from my tummy (and no it didn’t act as a tummy tuck, even though that wouldn’t have been so bad). The surgeons also had to do a sentinel node biopsy to make sure the cancer had not spread, another opening in my upper right thigh. My surgery was on May 6th and I was on bed rest, with my leg elevated at all times for 3 weeks with crutches and wheelchair transportation.

We received the wonderful news on May 14th that the cancer did not spread into my lymph nodes and that the wide excision removed all of the melanoma cells (even though they had began to spread). It was a very topsy-turvy month for me – yes, just about a month from diagnosis to the ‘all clear’ – which makes me a very happy cancer SURVIVOR! I am very grateful for so many things; my amazing husband (and caretaker), my family, my friends, my kitten and puppy, my doctors, science, faith, even sunshine (because even with it I got sick, but without it, my flowers would never grow).

Looking ahead, I had to postpone my Team in Training marathon in Anchorage, but instead will get to run the Nike Women’s Marathon in October in San Francisco (I will even wear flowers in my hair)! I am ready to get back on my feet and make a difference! I would like each and everyone one of you to realize how grateful we all are and to go and get yourself checked out by a dermatologist. It is really easy, and as I am now fully aware, a life-saving appointment. Oh yeah, and use sunscreen!

I have started running and on Sunday the 21st of June I ran my first 5k – the LIVESTRONG Challenge in Seattle (brian even ran the 5k with me). I cried when I crossed the survivor finish line and they handed me a yellow rose – the last time I cried crossing the finish line was my first marathon – and I guess you could say that this really was my first ‘marathon’ since the surgery. My life is slowly making it’s way back to normal and I still have days that I am down and days that everything hurts or I feel crappy, but mostly I am happy to be alive, healthy and moving!

Thanks to everyone who has gotten me through this tough time!

One, Two, Three – and on to many more……


Backofpack said...

I'd say these past few months have been an ultra and that you rocked it! You are recovering quickly and well Jessica. I'm sure this whole experience has changed your perspective and consequently, your life. You are an inspiration - actually, you always have been, with your great attitude and go get'em spirit. Way to go!

Cyndi said...

Thanks for sharing this. I am scheduling a dermatoligst appointment right away! I have many moles - nothing that looks wierd, but you can never be too careful I guess!

I'm glad all is well now and you are back to running again!

Miss Melanoma said...

Just found your site and love it. Please keep blogging!

I am just now able to run about an eighth of a mile after several surgeries on my leg 4 years ago. Even now the lymphedema gets pretty bad, but I have no lymph nodes whatsoever in my R leg or groin after melanoma. Your post is a real eye opener to people who need to see how dangerous this disease is! Even though I know I'll never be the runner I was years ago, I have now learned to love walking enough to get out there and run when I can. Life is never what you expect but it certainly is an adventure. :)

Thanks again and take care!

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

WOw what a story... Yes Shannon Donnovan...we played basketball against eachother for years and together on a select team. I LOVE Shan and have been pestering her on Facebook to start running..

I NEED to go to the Brooks Outlet, thanks for the reminder.

I am generally under 9 minute miler...but we may be able to see if we can work it out. What are your long runs at right now?

I really want Marathon redemption, but on one income it is tough to find the money... So no Portland this year.

UPDATE your Blog :)

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

Would it be OK if I sent your comment about Recovery Socks to Marco? I really think he would love to hear your story. And 1/2 Marathon this weekend?

Which one?

EMail me:

Jess said...

Wow, that's an inspiring story!

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

Hey how did your Half Marathon go??