J and I went on a vacation down to Florida to play like children at Universal Studios and visit family and friends along the drive. We had the most magical time together. I was practically teary-eyed our last night at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We'd laughed and run through lines to ride roller coasters and see cheesy shows. Standing in the cool evening air with a Butterbeer in hand and HP music drifting all around I did not want to leave. All my cares had been tabled for the week, we were consumed with each other and our happiness. I can't remember so many days in a row of being filled with so much gratitude for the life I share with my husband.
As we drove from Orlando to Savannah for the last evening of our private getaway, my dermatologist called. I had been referred for a skin screening by my PCP in the Fall and had finally made an appointment for 2.12. The derm removed a spot on my head that he said was most likely just a patch of rough skin as well as a mole on my back that he said was a bit darker than the others. "don't wait for bad news, I don't think they'll turn out to be anything." Now I was suddenly being told that my biopsy results were not as assumed, "You have melanoma. You need to call Dr Glasberg to schedule surgery."
Less than a week later and I feel like I've aged 15 years. Since that initial call I have also been informed that the spot on my head is a Basal Cell Carcinoma. That's right, I've got TWO forms of skin cancer. I guess they were having a BOGO deal at the pathologist's office? I've met my surgeon and will be going under general anesthesia for a 1.5 hour surgery that will include two Wide Local Excisions to remove the cancers and surrounding healthy tissue as well as a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy. Basically radioactive blue liquid will be inserted to determine which lymph node(s) my melanoma would most likely have been able to infect with cancer cells. They will be biopsied during surgery and removed if cancer is found.
My heart is broken. How did we get here and what will come next keeps rolling through my mind. Surgery risks, scaring, recurrence, mestasis....death.
This day last week I was laughing with my husband on the Popeye water ride, today I'm trying to figure out what I want out of my life if there are only a few years left to us together.
If the surgery is successful and there is no mestasis to the lymph nodes then the percentage of Stage 1 melanoma survivors at 5 yrs is 98%. That is such a better number than so many others have, and people keep saying "you'll be okay." I don't feel okay. In my mind is the knowledge that for every 100 Emily's who are being told they will be okay there are two being buried in the ground and that 10 years out more will join them. I will do everything in my power to be healthy and proactive, but what if it isn't enough? How can I leave the love of my life when I've only just found him? This can't be real. Other people get cancer. People who use tanning beds or smoke, people who don't respect their bodies and fill them with crap food or dangerous drugs. And now people like me, because melanoma is merciless. Every 8 minutes someone in the US will be diagnosed with melanoma and one of us will die every hour. GET.SCREENED
My surgery will take place next Wednesday and then we will have more information. I will have another skin screening and biopsy more moles for good measure. For now it is a waiting game and trying to measure my tears with reassurance. I will continue to share this journey in hopes it helps me process what is happening and that it might spurn others to have their skin checked.
If you'd like to leave comments of encouragement or helpful advice about surgery and/or skin cancers then please feel very welcome. Stories of bad results and tragedy are not needed, it's hard enough to smile as it is right now. Thank you