Last summer, as I started getting better little by little, I decided to make check up appointments at all the doctors I hadn’t seen in so long. Having started humira in March I knew that my immune system was suppressed and I was more susceptible to illness. I also have seen so much research that once you’re diagnosed with one autoimmune disorder your chances of having another one increases. Little did I know that decision would be one of the best ones I’ve ever made in my whole life. Autoimmune disorders and melanoma never really crossed my mind. You hear when you start humira, and other similar drugs, that you’re at an increased risk of some cancers, but I never in a million years would have guess I had melanoma.
While I was in college my Dad and I started going to see a dermatologist. We both have a lot of moles and he pushed us to get them checked regularly. I hadn’t seen my dermatologist for years and I knew I should go.
During my visit I received another diagnoses that I was shocked to receive. One of the moles on my abdomen was melanoma. Luckily it was melanoma in situ, which means it was in the epidermis, but had not spread to the dermis (lower layer).
I was so devastated.
What else could go wrong?
I had a ‘chronic’ illness with the psoriatic arthritis, parts of my femur bone had died and was crumbling from the inside out and now I was diagnosed with skin cancer?
It was then that I really questioned what was going on in my life? Why? Why me? Why did God think I was strong enough to handle all of these problems?
Because the removal of the melanoma included removing layers of skin off my abdomen I would need to stop taking my humira, methotrexate, asprin and naproxen so that the incision would be able to heal properly.
I was scared. I started having horrible anxiety. I couldn’t think straight. I went back to having no focus and couldn’t watch a movie or read a book. I had huge breakdown and cried for days. My amazing parents decided I needed a change of pace and a mental reprieve. At the beginning of August they took me to Florida to stay at the beach for a week and surprised me by taking me to the Happiest Place On Earth – DISNEY – 2 of the days we were there. One of the days we were in Disney, I was chosen to perform in one of the American Idol Experience shows. I ended up taking first place in the show by singing Martina McBride’s Independence Day. Since I won the show I was put into the final show of the night which would yield the winner of the day. I ended up coming in 3rd out of 5, but I can’t even tell you how amazing of an experience it was.
It was during this time away that I realized that I still had confidence in myself. I feel like up to that point I was acting like the victim of my diagnosis’s and it wasn’t helping my mental health. Just because I was on crutches, and all these medications, didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy my life. I really had an ‘aha’ moment and knew I had to change my thought process to get myself better.
Once I came back I signed up for an online series to help you write your own personal prescription. This prescription would help your body get to a state where it can heal it’s self. I went into my melanoma procedure in a very relaxed, non-stressed, positive mental state. If I would have had the procedure before vacation I think I would have had a horrible experience. Because I waited until after my ‘aha’ moment the procedure came and went with out a second thought. My incision included two levels of stitches, because of the placement on my abdomen. I would come back in one week to get one level of stitches out and the following week I would get the second level of stitches out.
Everything went well and, after sending it off for tests, it was confirmed that the entire site was removed. I was so lucky to not have to do anything other than get the melanoma site removed. During my follow up to get half of my stitches out my dermatologist ended up removing 3 other sites that looked irregular. She said because one site had ended up testing positive for melanoma she was going to test anything she thought looked suspicious. That was fine by me! I’d much rather be safe than sorry.
I had to stop my meds 10 days prior to the procedure and wasn’t allowed to start them until after my stitches were out and my incision was in a good place where it was healing well. During this time I assumed I’d be in a lot of pain. As the days went on, I started moving slower and slower. My body started getting tired more easily and there were days I just felt completely exhausted. You know the feeling when you have the flu that your body weighs 10000 pounds and you just don’t have the energy to move – that’s the way I felt 85% of the time. My joints started to become stiffer and it would take me longer to get up in the morning. The wonderful thing was that my knee hadn’t blown up and I wasn’t in excruciating pain! In fact, my knee pain was a little bit worse, but not by much! It was during that time that I started working with acupuncture and I was hoping that was helping keep my pain and swelling under control.
The 3 other sites which were biopsied came back negative and we agreed to keep an eye on them. I never thought I’d be so excited to be cleared to start on a medication that made me so sick (aka methotrexate). My incision healed just nicely and every month the redness of the scar is going down.
I still cannot believe that I randomly made that appointment and the outcome was melanoma. When I was little my Dad and I would have contests every summer to see who could get darker. There was even one time at the beach that I was mistaken for being a different ethnicity. When my Dad had a melanoma scare he stopped being a sun worshiper. He became such a stickler for sunscreen and it wasn’t even fun being outside with him. (sorry Dad…) I’m not like him yet, but I definitely realize that I probably caused this site to become cancerous. I still love laying out in the sun, going to the beach, and being tan, but I am much more conscious about it now.
If you haven’t been to the dermatologist, and you have moles or any of the risk factors listed here, please let this be a push for you to make an appointment. ESPECIALLY if you’re on immune suppressing drugs. Cancer is never something to mess around with. Had I not gone to that appointment when I did, who knows what could have happened. Thankfully I’ll never need to find out. Thank you God for pushing me to make that appointment.
Wishing You A Pain Free Day!