Through our Beca’s Care Program, Blackout Melanoma provides emotional and financial support to individuals currently diagnosed with stage III/IV metastatic melanoma. As patients and their families go through the challenges of life onset by metastatic melanoma, it’s important that we continue to provide security and hope to them. Currently, Blackout Melanoma is sponsoring a young family from Wentzville, Missouri.
Meet Samantha and Kyler!
My fight against cancer started with me drying off after getting out of the shower. As I was drying off with a towel, I scratched the back of my left arm, right on top of a mole that has been there for years. It began to bleed and the nurse in me doctored up the spot and placed a band aid over it. After a few days it wasn’t looking any better. When it comes to me getting a cut or scratch I tend to pay extra attention to it, because being a type 1 diabetic, it tends to take me twice as long to heal. After about a week and a half with no improvement on how the area was looking, I decided to go to the dermatologist, which I see on a regular basis. I made an appointment with Dr. joseph DuVall, and he biopsied the area right away. The dermatologist who I had been seeing for years prior had refused to remove the mole. In the years before, I asked her to remove it as I did not like the way it looked and where it was located. The response I got from her was “It appears to be ok and doesn’t look worrisome, so we can just keep an eye on it.” Thank goodness she did not accept my insurance anymore and I was able to see a new dermatologist, who was actually interested and took action on my concerns. After the biopsy was taken I was called on February 13th, 2014 that I had Melanoma and I needed to go see a surgeon. They recommended Dr. Neff. Nonetheless, I drove straight there. Dr. DuVall said he was expecting me and was aware of my situation.
After visiting with Dr. Neff, I was informed that I had at least stage 3 Melanoma and scheduled the surgery to have it removed, as well as, a sentinel node biopsy to see if the Melanoma had spread. My surgery was scheduled for February 22nd. During the surgery they removed 2 lymph nodes and a large portion of the back of my left arm. They informed me that they had to take more tissue than expected because my margins were not clear and ultimately it measured 2.8 cm. That following Wednesday I received another call from Dr. Neff’s office stating that my sentinel node biopsy came back positive and there was cancer located in the 2 lymph nodes they removed. They rushed me in for a PET scan that Thursday, and scheduled me for my second surgery March 1st to remove the remaining lymph nodes left under my left arm. The week following surgery, they called again with the results of the other 23 lymph nodes which all came back negative. So the melanoma only metastasized to the first 2 lymph nodes that they removed, which was the first piece good news I’ve gotten since the beginning of this journey.
After the surgeries were complete, I started my one year treatment of interferon, 30 days of high dose infusions and then after the infusions were over, I did a shot every other day for a year. That was the longest year of my life. I was counting down the days until I was done giving myself shots and making myself sick feeling like I had a bad case of the flu x10. It was absolutely miserable but I pushed myself everyday because I had my son that I had to be there for. After many hospitalizations from being neutropenic and sick, Losing my hair, extreme body aches and pains, I finally was done with treatment on April 28th, 2015. I was told the cancer was gone and I would now only see the doctor every 3 months for annual checkups.
In June, I was admitted to the hospital for C-Diff. I ended up with c-diff because I was in the hospital in May, over Mothers Day with sepsis and they loaded me up with a bunch of antibiotics. I received a CT scan during my admission in June, which was unremarkable and perfect. I was finally healthy again and normal. I felt great and was excited to get back to my old routine and do the things I use to do before I got sick and that is what I did.
I had a check up with my oncologist and blood work done in August and everything came back ok. Dr. Bandi, who was my oncologist at the time said everything was looking good and even asked if I would be willing to talk to some of his other patients who were recently put on interferon and tell them my experience. I was more than willing to help and I told him I would. My next Follow up with Dr. Bandi was in December and once again my blood work was great, and physically I felt fantastic. I asked him about routine scans and should they be done and he said that they could schedule me for a routine CT scan. I had the CT scan done on December 18, 2015 and on Monday, December 21st I was told that I had a 5.2 cm lesion on my liver and nodules on both of my lungs. My heart sank and I busted into tears. I could not believe what I was hearing. I had to go through this all over, for the second time. I was speechless and numb.
I began to see Dr. Beattie, who immediately got me in for an MRI of my brain on Wednesday, which was negative, and a liver biopsy on Christmas Eve. A week later, my nightmare became reality. The melanoma was back and it metastasized to my liver and lungs. I waited until after the holidays to tell my family because I didn’t want to ruin the holidays. I got in more trouble for not telling them when I first found out.
Dr. Beattie did not hesitate starting me on treatment. He started me on a chemotherapy consisting of Nivolumab and Ipilimumab, which are infusions that will hopefully target the melanoma. Dr. Beattie did test me for the BRAF mutation which did come back negative, so with that being said, Being BRAF negative leaves me with less treatment options. As for treatment, My first infusion was on January 12th and I will continue with these infusions every 3 weeks for 4 cycles. Then I will continue to only take the Nivolumab by infusion every 2 weeks indefinitely, until there is remission, my body cannot take the side effects any more, or the drug quits working.
I do not have a choice but to fight. I am a 29 year old single mother of a beautiful 5 year old boy who is my world and my number one reason to keep my head high and to keep pushing and to NEVER give up. He IS my inspiration and he gives me my strength. It is unfortunate that this happens to anyone and honestly unfair because no one deserves to go through this, but I will go through it because of him and I refuse to give up. I have been through a lot in the past 2 years, I was diagnosed with cancer , I lost my best friend and cousin, I lost my grandpa and my childhood best four-legged friend on the same day, and was diagnosed with cancer…again, all on top of me being a type 1 diabetic since the age of 5 years old. Yes, it is a lot and sometimes I ask myself why but I know that I will never be able to get the answer to that question, but what I do know is, that I am going to keep fighting and not give up.
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