Thursday, November 5, 2009

Front Porch Friday: Thankful

This time last year, my pediatrician and internist was sending me to the dermatologist just as a precaution after delivering a healthy baby girl 9 months prior. I went in, and the dermatologist decided to biopsy two of them that they thought were questionable. Mind you, none of us were terribly nervous about this because they had only changed when my hormones changed, they looked nothing like the pictures you see online, and I did not have a family history. However, I got a phone call the day before Thanksgiving that forever changed my life.

My precious baby girl

I answered the phone, and the physician's assistant was on the phone. She said, "I am so glad you came in when you did. One of the moles we biopsied is a malignant melanoma." She didn't have to say anything else. I knew what malignant meant, and I knew what melanoma was. I had been to a visitation for my friend's aunt who died of melanoma. The rest of what she said was a blur. I fell to my knees and just stared at my baby girl sitting on the floor, wondering if she would grow up without a mother. The rest of the conversation was a blur. I think I managed to ask some good questions, but I am not really sure. The only thing I was sure of was that I would have to wait until after the holiday weekend to know how bad it was and what the prognosis was.

My neighbor Liza who always makes us feel like family.

The hours and days that followed were torturous. I called my husband and told him first, but we couldn't talk long because he was finishing some things up at work so he could go ahead and come home for a long weekend. Next I called my mother. I told her, "Mom, you can NOT get upset. I feel like I am going to throw up. The doctor's office called and said I have melanoma." My mom was also very familiar with what melanoma is. She had been to that same visitation and had watched her quick decline before her death. To her credit, my mom remained calm and got as much information out of me as possible before telling me to call Liza, my neighbor across the street that has a son my age. Liza came over, prayed with me, and took me and Jessica back to her house where her mother-in-law and sister-in-law were very kind and encouraging to me to until David got home.

My awesome Dad, who flew down for less than 24 hours to talk with me and do dishes, drinking "coffee" with Jessica at Christmas.

My mom got busy and called my aunt who explained that what I had been told on the phone actually sounded like it was probably a good prognosis. A friend whose dad has had melanoma multiple times called, and we spent Thanksgiving with them. Friends from church called as well, including a melanoma survivor. Up until Thanksgiving Day I had not known anyone who had survived melanoma. Now I know tons! When I still was unable to get out of my cycle of panic attacks, my dad flew down, and David took me to the ER. The hospital gave me some pills for the panic attacks. I took one, and it knocked me out cold for 6 hours. By that time, my dad was there - doing dishes, because that was the last thing on our minds at that point. I was rested. The chemicals in my brain had been reset, and I was ready, with the help of my dad and David, to start dealing with what we had been dealt.

Mom pushing Jessica around the hospital during the surgery.

As it turned out, I was in one of the earliest stages so I needed surgery asap, but I would not require any radiation or chemotherapy. They performed the surgery in office under local anesthesia. They took out both of them to make me happy. (I didn't want them accidentally taking out the wrong one! I am a little paranoid that way, but the doctor said if you can make a little paranoia work for you so that you are cautious but not controlled by it, then great!) The scars were about 4 inches long but not deep. However, I was not allowed to lift anything for 6 weeks after the surgery, and they told me to be very careful about bending my back. We did not want the stitches coming undone. My mother came down and stayed with us for a week until my sister and her boyfriend could drive down to get all of us and take us back to Memphis.

A picture of one of my scars 6 weeks after the surgery. Apparently, I am somewhat allergic to adhesive so we had a difficult time keeping me bandaged the entire 6 weeks.

This part was difficult for me. Although I enjoyed having all of the quality time with my family, it was Jessica's first Thanksgiving and first Christmas, and it was not how I had wanted it to be. My husband had to stay home and work most of that time, and he has become a very important part of my support network. It was also so hard not being able to pick up my baby girl; however, I must admit she is now a very independent little girl and she figured out ways she could comfortably nurse even though I was rather limited in my range of motion. I was also difficult to care for because I was having a very difficult time emotionally and was in no condition to be solely responsible for a child. My mother was trying to let me be as independent as possible but realized towards the end of the 6 weeks that I needed someone to tell me what to do because my head just wasn't there. She probably bore the brunt of it, placing her life on hold to care for me and Jessica, both of which were quite a handful).

The other side.

At the same time, I also felt very blessed. First of all, I was going to be a melanoma survivor! Secondly though, I'd had yet another life experience, which taught me more about the world and the Creator who put it into motion. I try to remember to thank God for the "good" things and the "bad" things because we learn something from all of them. I now go to the doctor every 6 months for a full body skin check. At my first re-check which was only a couple months after I healed from the surgery, they found a precancerous spot that needed to be taken care of in the office. However, at my last skin check, I was clean! My doctors are wonderful, and I have so much to be thankful for this year: my health, supportive family and friends, and getting spend each new day with my sweet baby girl and amazingly supportive husband.

What more can you ask for? (Besides more children!)


  1. Wow! I never knew this whole story. What a terrible ordeal to face, but I'm so thankful it was caught early!

  2. It felt very traumatic, especially to me, but we do have so much to be thankful for! Looking back now, I can see the good things that have come out of it: learning so much about melanoma, getting skin checks every 6 months, being more knowledgeable and aware of protecting Jessica's skin, and seeing yet again that when we feel like we are being pressed on every side and feel that we can't make it, that God has already given us the tools to make it in this life. You just have to hang on to what little you feel like you have left to hang on to! The sun will rise from the night sky once again. We just have to wait and watch the stars as they slowly guide us to a new day.