Sunday, April 26, 2020

Finding out I have melanoma

As many of you know, I received a stage 3 melanoma diagnosis a few days ago. It came as quite a shock.

At the start of the week I actually thought I had a stage 0 diagnosis, because the only information I had received was a text message with a cryptic initial pathology report that mentioned the words melanoma in situ. I had googled that phrase and seen it meant pre-melanoma or stage 0 melanoma, so I had thought I was in the clear and would just need one more outpatient surgery to have a larger 0.5cm margin taken to ensure I stayed free from melanoma.

I had been waiting for around six weeks to speak to someone who could confirm that for me.

Two weeks ago, I received a phone call from a hospital booking clerk telling me to keep my phone handy because a doctor was going to call me, but the promised phone call never came. And then I received another phone call from the booking clerk asking me if I could come into North Shore Hospital for a face-to-face consultation with the surgeon. I could.
That meeting took place last Tuesday, 21 April.
Because of the pandemic, I was the only person in the waiting room. It was kind of eerie. Most of the chairs had been stacked against a wall. Despite that, I still had to wait an hour to see the surgeon, who was apparently working in another part of the hospital and hadn't expected my particular clinic to start until later. Because of the pandemic, she was meeting me in an outpatient area that is usually only used for medical queries, so things were a bit scrambled.

I figured the meeting was to discuss the larger 0.5cm margin surgery, but I asked the surgeon, just to double-check, that the excision had shown a melanoma in situ. She told me that no, it was a level 1 melanoma, otherwise known as a thin melanoma. Still very treatable with a 1cm margin outpatient surgery and the only reason she had wanted to see me face-to-face rather than doing the planned phone consultation was because she wasn't sure how close to my ear the site was and wanted to get a good look in case we needed to do a skin graft or pin my ear.

Well, that turned out to be not a problem. The site was far enough away that there would have been plenty of skin for that simple surgery.
It was lucky I did see her face-to-face, however, because a couple of weeks before my appointment, the lymph node next to the melanoma site had begun to swell. The surgeon was able to do a needle biopsy then and there, which she hoped would just show that the lymph node had swollen from the trauma of the excision.
That was my hope too.

Because my lymph node was swollen, the surgeon booked me in for a CT scan to get a good look inside the lymph node, but she told me this would be upgraded to a PET scan if the biopsy contained melanoma cells.

Two days later, I got the phone call no one wants to get. My surgeon had just ordered a PET scan for me. The lymph node did indeed contain melanoma strands.

I was trying to get my head around this and still remain sentient enough to ask her questions while I had her on the phone. I managed to find out that the PET scan would be a full-body one and that I would be injected with a glucose-based substance for it.
And then I started crying. I had to apologise and explain that I was feeling quite overwhelmed. She then started apologising about the fact she had to tell me all of this over the phone, but she hadn't wanted me to get alarmed when I saw that my booking was now for a PET scan.

To be honest, I preferred hearing it over the phone, because I didn't have to go through the ordeal of getting to the hospital by myself, waiting for an age in the waiting room, all the while trying to tamp down my growing anxiety. Instead, as soon as the phone call was over, I was able to walk downstairs and hug my husband.

The surgeon did put me in touch with a melanoma nurse, who I can reach out to and ask any questions I may have. The nurse will also follow up on my case to make sure all the scans and procedures happen as they should. I haven't thought of any questions yet. Really, I'm just waiting to see what the PET scan shows - if any other areas light up with cancer, to see how extensive my general surgery will be.

At this point, I haven't received my PET scan booking. I imagine that won't come through until after the long weekend. I am scheduled to meet with my surgeon on 6 May and she's hoping my PET scan results will be back by then, so I hope she's right and the wait won't be too long.

However long the wait does turn out to be, I plan to use this time in drawing closer to my Lord and appreciating my precious family.

I have chosen to make all of this public because I would love for as many people as possible to battle for me in prayer.

Thank you my friends. I will keep you updated on any further developments.

Emma xx


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  2. Very scary to hear this news, I had a level 2 melanoma removed last year with a 12 cm scar and my sister had a level 3 melanoma which she is on tablets for for 12 months to make sure everything is okay. You are in good hands and finding out you have it now rather than later is the best news because they can treat it now. Stay safe. Kathy, Brisbane

    1. Thanks Kathy. That’s encouraging news!

    2. I will continue praying, I'm sorry for your situation, thanks for sharing.

      Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the LORD. (Psalm 31:24, NASB)

    3. Thank you for praying Sharona. And thank you for sharing that Psalm.


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