Sunday, January 10, 2016

Five Years Later

January 10, 2011

I didn't cry when the dermatologist told me the mole was melanoma. I left that appointment, made the calls to my family, and reassured everyone that we would proceed with the surgery, and everything would be fine. I vaguely remember saying something about how they surgeon would remove a little bit more and that would be that.

No one corrected me.




I didn't cry as the oncologist told me that melanoma had spread to lymph nodes on both sides of my body, in 3 out of the 4 areas, and to prepare myself that the PET scan would show that it had already spread to my organs. I asked for the treatment options. I heard that Interferon would be "enough" and I left the appointment.

I sobbed in my dad's arms in the backseat of the car while my mom and stepdad cried as they drove me back to my apartment.

My mom was determined enough wasn't good enough for her 23 year old daughter. Off to Memorial Sloan Kettering we went where I met "The Wizard" and "Glinda, The Good Witch." 

Another surgery.







I was healing in my hospital bed when my surgeon came into my room, sat on my bed, and told me that the FDA had approved Yervoy for melanoma stage IV patients. This was breaking news for the melanoma world. 

I cried--alone in the middle of a busy waiting room--when the surgeon told me that there was zero melanoma detected in the remaining lymph nodes that were removed during that surgery. Finally, some good news.

As my doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering agreed there was no point in doing Interferon, I entered a three year clinical trial in May 2011.



 Round one

 Round 2, 3 weeks later

 Round 3, 3 weeks later

 
Round 4, 3 weeks later.
Then I got a break for 3 months.

January 2012:

I was fortunate that minus a few hiccups here and there, and the trips to New York for scans and treatment every 3 months, I was able to live like a normal 24 year old girl. I started a new job, I continued to date "Mr. Spots" and I lived my life. Oh, and I celebrated my one year Cancerversary thanks to my special friends.


I really jumped into advocating for melanoma awareness in 2012. I blogged. I tweeted. I facebooked. I was on Dr. Drew and Headline News, and I worked on a great program with the Skin Cancer Foundation. I put a lot of time, effort, and heart into sharing exactly what I was going through with hopes that it would cause someone to cancel their tanning membership. I was shocked how many did.




A major highlight from 2012 was the opportunity to speak at the Skin Cancer Foundation's Gala held at The Plaza Hotel. I shared my story to lovely people like Brooke Shields, Sam Champion, and the Real Housewives of New York. Intimidating, yes, but it was a night I will never forget.









2013:

Melanoma decided to reappear this year in March; however, thanks to my fantastic doctors, we caught it in the earliest stages.


I continued on with my clinical trial every 3 months.


I got engaged to "Mr.Spots!"





...and then I married him!


2014:

Once again, melanoma decided to sneak back onto my body; however, once again, my fantastic doctors caught it in the earliest stages.



The major thing that happened in 2014 was I completed the 3 year clinical trial! No more infusions!

2015: 

Thinking back to that day, January 10, 2011, the chief dermatologist asked me if I had children. When I replied no, the dermatologist made a comment that I would need to think about my family planning. I cried. Would I never have my own children? Would I never get the opportunity to feel the kicks and punches from the inside? Would my number one bucket item never be fulfilled?

Well, in July 2015, after many conversations with my oncology team, I found out the news: I am going to be a momma. 


30 weeks

I have 8 weeks left until I'm due to meet my precious baby boy, and I can already tell you, no child will be as loved.

Regarding my life with melanoma these days, celebrating my 5 year Cancerversary today is something I don't think I ever expected to do. I've lost so many friends in the last few years. I watch so many of my friends continue to struggle. I know firsthand how precious life is. Maybe that's why I'm determined to live to the best of my ability. I've backed off on advocating for melanoma awareness. I blogged once during 2015. I haven't shared the amazing advances in melanoma research. But I needed to live. For 4 years I lived and breathed melanoma. I enjoyed life, too, but I knew it was time for a break. I owed it to myself, my family and friends, and those no longer with us, to live life. Without melanoma.

No day is promised, there is no guarantee that the ugly beast won't reappear, but until it does, I'm going to keep on keepin' on.

And as always, thank you for your continued love, support, and friendship during this rollercoaster we call life.



 

7 comments:

Andrea Long said...

Chelsea, I started following your blog and FB when my beloved was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma. I lost him in 19 short weeks. You were there for me as a virtual comfort during those days and you did give me hope.
Of course I don't know you personally but I want to thank you for doing what you did when you did it.

You are going to be a wonderful momma. Congratulations to you and your man.

Andrea

Les said...

Congratulations.....on EVERYTHING! Enjoy.

Vanessa said...

Thank you for sharing with us. When I was diagnosed with stage II Melanoma in the spring of 2013, it was a comfort to find your blog to have the support and kind words of someone who went through the same thing. And you went through so much more! God bless you. I learned a lot, became more aware, and am happy to be skin cancer free today. Pushing through and living our lives, living in the moment. We must focus on that always, no matter the circumstances. Glad to see you are healthy, happy, and you are an adorable pregnant lady. Best of luck :) Thank you for sharing your story.

-Vanessa

Karen Gellis said...

This was an amazing story....

Thanks for sharing
Swimlids

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to introduce myself. My name is Brent. I live in NYC. 58 years old.
I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma a year ago...I have a scar on my back that looks a lot like yours, a bit longer, as mine was a subcutaneous tumor of about two inches -- golf ball sized -- that popped up almost overnight it seemed. Columbia did the surgery. 3 lymph nodes were removed and were negative. All clear. Good to go. No Interferon.
Had 10 months of clean scans and then in January a PET turned up 3 small spots...left hip, lower right leg and activity in left lymph node. Yes, it's back. So now stage IV. But C1a, very early and very small...but back all the same.
Met with Jed Wolchok and Charlotte Airyan last week...really liked them a lot. Starting PD-1 next week. They are very optimistic, as am I. Wanted to thank you for doing the trial. We all benefit in one way or another from the trials.
Also, I make my living in communications and marketing. If you are still involved with the Skin Cancer Foundation I'd be happy to get involved and use my skill set to help the effort.
Cheers

Brent

Megan Swanek said...

You are an inspiration. I was "JUST* diagnosed with stage 1b or 2, depending on doctor. I am following you now - congrats on being a Momma! http://megandewitt.blogspot.com/2016/03/my-oncologist.html

Haleigh Terwilliger said...

Chelsea, thank you for sharing with us! My momma was diagnosed with stage II melanoma a little over a month ago, and we just recently found out it has spread to her lymph nodes. It has been a struggle emotionally and mentally for all of us within the family. The best thing I have found to help support my mom is to just be there for her. Reading through your blog has definitely shown me that this terible disease can be battled and won! I am going to show my mom your blog, t is full of inspiration. Thank you!