Looking Backward, In Order To Move Forward- Part 1

SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2007- This date will be important, so don’t forget it.

It’s January, I live in SouthWest Ohio and I had to put SunBlock on today! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that the sun is out on what usually would be another grey & cold day here in the Mid-West. There is something about these breaks in the weather that put a much needed ‘PEP’ back in my Step, yet I am also reminded of other things every time I try to ‘get out of’ wearing SunBlock.  I am reminded that Mountain Man’s life literally depends on him wearing SunBlock on a day like today, and EVERY day in between. I am reminded that my kids lives are also dependent upon me slathering them up on days like today and EVERY day in between. 

September 14th, 2007- this was the day Mountain Man received the blow that the ‘suspicious mole’ he ignored for 2 years was malignant Nodular Melanoma. No,actually, it was now an advanced stage of malignant Nodular Melanoma- Stage 3B to be exact.  He was 33 at the time with 4 young children and a very frightened wife.

“It’s JUST Skin Cancer, right”?  This was something we would hear often from well-meaning friends and family. Let me ask you a question- If your Girlfriend/Wife/Mother/Sister/Daughter came to you and said ‘I have Breast Cancer, it is in the early stages and I will have to have surgery to remove it, but no further treatment. I will survive this and have no further complications’- would you look at her and say “It’s JUST Breast Cancer, isn’t it”? NO, you would NOT say that- not even with her good prognosis would you say that, EVER!

 Allow me to digress for a moment and tell you about the Melanoma ‘Number System’ and why Stage 3B is such a horrible thing to hear. Stage 1,is obviously an ‘early stage’ and is very treatable and usually requires no Chemo, only surgery and lots of visits to the Dermatologist for the rest of your life. Stage 4, no matter how you spin it, is Fatal. They may not know the exact length of time or how much longer you can hold it off, but IT WILL claim your life.

 My husband was at STAGE 3B. Now, go ahead and try to tell me “It’s JUST Skin Cancer, right”? NO! Well, YES, it IS Skin Cancer, but it claims MANY lives each year- here are a few points for you to ponder from the skincancer.org website:

  • One person dies of melanoma every hour (every 62 minutes).2
  • One in 55 people will be diagnosed with melanoma during their lifetime.14
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old.15
  • The survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the skin, is about 99 percent.16 The survival rate falls to 15 percent for those with advanced disease.2
  • The vast majority of mutations found in melanoma are caused by ultraviolet radiation.12
  • The incidence of many common cancers is falling, but the incidence of melanoma continues to rise at a rate faster than that of any of the seven most common cancers.17 Between 1992 and 2004, melanoma incidence increased 45 percent, or 3.1 percent annually.18
  • An estimated 123,590 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the US in 2011 — 53,360 noninvasive (in situ) and 70,230 invasive, with nearly 8,790 resulting in death.19
  • Melanoma accounts for less than five percent of skin cancer cases,20 but it causes more than 75 percent of skin cancer deaths.21

  • Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer for males and sixth most common for females.2
  • Women aged 39 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer except breast cancer.2
  • One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.24
  • A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age.25
  • Survivors of melanoma are about nine times as likely as the general population to develop a new melanoma in their lifetime.
  • The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over age 50.14
  • One in 39 Caucasian men and one in 58 Caucasian women will develop melanoma in their lifetimes.2,27
  • Approximately 39,000 new cases of melanoma occur in men each year in the US, and 29,000 in women.2
  • Approximately 5,700 deaths from melanoma occur in men each year in the US, and 3,000 in women.2
  • Five percent of all cancers in men are melanomas; four percent of all cancers in women are melanomas.2
  • Melanoma is one of only three cancers with an increasing mortality rate for men, along with liver cancer and esophageal cancer.29,27
  • Caucasian men over age 65 have had an 8.8 percent annual increase in melanoma incidence since 2003, the highest annual increase of any gender or age group.30
  • Between 1980 and 2004, the annual incidence of melanoma among young women increased by 50 percent, from 9.4 cases to 13.9 cases per 100,000 women.31
  • I hope those bullet points are eye-opening to you!

Mountain Man has been disease free since that time and it is a Miracle because statistics told us that he shouldn’t be here today alive and well. God had other plans for Mountain Man, part of which include his endless ‘torturing’ of ME, his ridiculously awesome wife. God has a sense of humor, yo! ( By the end of this Blog series, I hope to bully encourage everyone of you to take Sun Protection more seriously- I don’t want our story to be your story.)

As many of you may already know, there is a website called ‘CaringBridge’- it is a blog where people  like me can update family members & friends about their loved ones illness. We had our own page there & I updated as often as I could over the course of 1 year. I plan on sharing excerpts of those Journal entries with y’all as well as my own ‘hind sight’ reflections around those entries. Not only was it a year of Cancer treatments & surgeries, but this was the time when I was arrested, he & I were separated more than we were not, and a time of facing demons that we could no longer ignore. You will also meet some new friends we made during this time- Anthony & Rebecca,  as well as an old childhood friend who re-surfaced to help us through this journey- Scott , & his wife Cari.

Due to my laziness, I will be revealing our ‘real life’ names as I simply have no desire to edit that stuff out. So, here it goes: Hi, my name is Mollie and this is my wonderful husband Vinnie (as in ‘My Cousin Vinnie). It’s nice to meet y’all. But, you still have to call me GINGERSNAAP because I like that name BETTER!

Today I give you Journal Entry 1-it was 4 days after we found out & when we decided to tell our peeps what was going on. I can remember being in a complete state of shock and I recall bargaining with God & reminding him that the death of my 34 yr old brother on 2001 was enough tragedy for 1 family to handle, and that He COULD NOT also take my husband away from me- that would be too cruel. At the time , we had a German exchange student staying with us and she was a BLESSING as she would step up and babysit often while we worked this new found reality out….

Tuesday, September 18th- 2007

Hello everyone! I just wanted to give an update about what is going on with Vinnie. Some of you already know what is going on, and some of you don’t, so I am going to start from the beginning and go from there with what we know as of today ( tues. 9/18).
 
A week ago, Vin had a mole removed from the upper left side of his back. On Friday, 9/14, the Dermatologist called @ 2:00pm & wanted him to come back in at 4:00pm THAT SAME DAY. Long story short, he explained that the mole was in fact Melanoma. The doc said that the melanoma is in ‘the middle stages’. He then referred us to the General surgeon (with whom Vin already had an appt. scheduled for today for something else- more on that later). The Derm said that at this stage, the surgeon would take out more of the melanoma and also some lymph nodes. We of course were very shocked & scared, but tried to keep our chins up and tried not to entertain the ‘what if’ route.
 
Fast forward to today…
Vin was already scheduled with the Surgeon as I said earlier to have an ‘ oily cyst’ looked at/ removed. But now we were there to talk about the melanoma, lymph nodes & treatment.So here is a summary of that appt…..
 (***GingerSnaap side note: Summer of 2007, Vin went to his regular Dr to have a ‘knot’ looked at above the Mole-we didn’t have any clue of Melanoma yet. Doc recommended he see a surgeon because Doc thought it was a cyst of some kind and would be removed routinely. Vin made the appt. with the Surgeon, but it took a few months to get in with him. This SAME surgeon was who the Dermatologist wanted Vin to see for the Mole removal AND Vin ALREADY had the appt scheduled for the week following the Melanoma diagnosis. Was it  Irony that brought us to the VERY surgeon the Derm wanted us to see AND with whom Vin had the appt already scheduled with, but for a different reason? Nope! This is what Mollie & GingerSnaap call a ‘God-Thing’. I absolutely believe God saw it coming and worked it out in our favor.BAM! There’s a good ole fashioned Bible Thump for ya! BAM, again!)
 
1.) The ‘oily cyst’ is NOT a cyst at all. He was not happy @ seeing it, but couldn’t confirm what it is yet. He took a needle biopsy of that today & insisted Vin get a chest x-ray today, which he did.We will know tomorrow (wed) what those things show, if anything. Therefore, surgery is on hold for now. If this ‘cyst’ is something else, then Vin will have additional cat/pet scans before surgery is scheduled- our doc is very thourough. That is the unknown for now…
 (***GingerSnaap side note: When the Surgeon expressed his displeasure with the ‘oily cyst’, I will tell you that both Vinnie & Myself had a breakdown of monumental proportions in the office. Poor DR had to STOP what he was doing to find me some Kleenex & pick me up off the floor. It seemed my own suspicions of this being an infected Lymph Node were coming to fruition)
 
2.) What we do know for sure..
The surgeon described Vin as having a NODULAR MELANOMA- which is not a good kind to have ( is there a good kind?!?!?). He also said that it is in the” INTERMEDIATE” stage (middle), it is deep in the skin, but probably not in the fatty tissue yet (which is good).
 
3.) When surgery occurs, he will take a 2cm radius around the initial melanoma site ( given that the ‘cyst’ is ok, otherwise this paragraph is null & void), and dig deeper to take put any remaining melanoma. He will need skin grafts to close the wound ( it will be about 3-4 in long & 2 in. wide).
 
4.) As far as the Lymph Nodes, they will do what is called an ISOTOPE TEST. What this means is that the Radiologist will inject dye into the area to see where it goes. This will determine the possible path/ direction the Cancer could/ would go if it has/ will spread. The dye could go to the LN’s in the armpit, the LN’S at the base of the neck or to both. This is how he knows which LN’S to take & how many. He takes what he needs to take, tests them immediately & then takes more if the first Nodes are abnormal. He keeps going until he gets a clean node. Hopefully he will not take very many! The more nodes he takes, the worse the prognosis.
 
5.) From there, Vin will have to see the oncologist.He will have a treatment called ‘IMMUNE THERAPY”- similar to chemo. This will be for 1 year, and the 1st month will be intense-he will be very sick much like chemo patients are. I am not sure @ all of the details of this treatment yet, but we will know soon! (***GingerSnaap Side Note: Traditional Chemo therapy does not work on Melanoma Cancers, which is why they do something called ‘Immune Therapy’. More on that in another excerpt)
 
6.) As you can imagine, we are very upset, scared, dumbfounded and feel completely blindsided by this!! How on earth can a tiny little mole turn into something so bad??
Thanks for all of your prayers and support. People keep asking us what we need, and other than prayer, I have no idea what we need!! I can’t think beyond today!
Vinnie is very broken and depressed right now- he needs all the support he can get!
Much Love & Many Blessings to you!
Mollie & Vinnie
 
 
It was about this time that an old childhood friend contacted me (he heard thru his parents- My parents and his parents were still very good friends) to tell us that he had gone through the same thing about 1 year before Vinnie did. He wanted to get together & talk us through what was to come. We are FOREVER grateful to Scott & Cari for opening up themselves to us like that.  They re-lived thier pain in order to help us gain a better understanding of this HELLACIOUS BEAST known as Melanoma. Scott’s Melanoma was not as far advanced as Vinnie’s was, and at that time, he was  NED- No Evidence of Disease.
 
….To Be Continued….

 

This was us 1 month before the diagnosis. Our kids were 7, 6, 2 and 1 at the time. And, I call myself Ginger because, up until 1 year ago, I was a flaming Red-Head. More pics to follow...

15 thoughts on “Looking Backward, In Order To Move Forward- Part 1

    • As I stated above, I had to put SunBlock on today, in the middle of January and sometimes that is all it takes to hurdle me back 4 years to that diagnosis. So there you go, now y’all get to re-live it with me.

      You HAD BETTER wear SunBlock, dummy! And RE-APPLY ALOT, especially while in Salt Water. It needs to say on the bottle that it blocks BOTH UVA/UVB rays. Got It??

    • Awwww, Mr Hotspur, I always knew you had a kinder, gentler side.
      Thank You- hooray indeed!
      And tell me, am I the only Ohio-an who hopes for snow this time of year? Not in leiu of the Spring like weather we are having now, but when it returns to normal, isn’t better to have snow with the cold?
      Gosh, I just love snow. And Y’all still have to wear SunBlock when it snows!! ALWAYS!

  1. Pingback: Guess What? « OhMyGawd, Just Do What I Say!

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