02 May Carolyn Hayes
Carolyn Hayes – December 1, 2010
My Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma on November 7, 2010.
She hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of weeks and decided to finally go to the Doctor for a nasty cough and flu like symptoms, hoping to get some medicine to help her feel better. When she went to Urgent Care where they did a chest x-ray and found she had a blood clot in her lungs, but also saw some unusual spots so they admitted her to the hospital to do some further tests and to start breaking up the blood clot. The “unusual spots” came back as Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma. The Melanoma had spread to her stomach, lymph nodes, leg, spine and multiple places in her lungs. She was told there was nothing they could do, but she could try to get into a research program to try and “hold it off”. She met with an Oncologist on November 15th and they did some further tests to try and come up with a treatment plan. After doing the other tests they found 14 cancerous lesions on her brain. They could not move forward with the treatments for the rest of her body until the lesions on her brain were treated. According to the Oncologist chemo would be the best treatment option and she would have to do about 2 weeks worth of treatments.
She started chemo on Friday November 19th. Within a couple of days of starting chemo the lymph node under her right arm swelled up to about the size of a baseball and became very very painful. They decided to do start doing double treatments of chemo to try and treat the lymph node as well as the lesions. By Thanksgiving my Mom could hardly eat, and it took everything she had just to walk from one end of the house to the other. My Dad had to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital on Sunday November 28th because she hadn’t ate in about 2 days, she wasn’t going to the bathroom, she was becoming incoherent and she was in excruciating pain. Upon doing more tests they found that the Melanoma had spread to her bone marrow and that it was causing her kidneys to shut down. They recommended we consider putting her on Hospice, as they didn’t think she had more than few days to live. On Tuesday November 30th my Dad made the decision to place her on Hospice. My Dad told me to come home (I now live in VA, my family is in IL) as soon as I could, because he didn’t know how much longer she had. Wednesday December 1, 2010 while my dad was out taking care of some errands that needed to be done and I was on my way home, my Mother passed away. She wasn’t the kind of person that wanted us to see her suffer or be in pain. She was the kind of person who took care of everyone and always put others before herself. I strongly believe that she waited until her loved ones weren’t there to pass on. She wouldn’t have wanted us to see that. As much as it broke my heart to not be there or for any of my family to be there, she wasn’t alone when she passed away. A music minister from Hospice was there in her room singing and playing old southern hymns and Christmas music on his guitar (her favorite kind of music)…he said while he was playing “O Holy Night” she had opened her eyes, smiled, took a couple of deep breaths and then passed away with a smile on her face.
During our last conversation she said she had learned so much in the short time since she had been diagnosed and felt this huge need to make a difference in people’s lives if she made it through this. Unfortunately my Mom isn’t here, but I am and I’m going to do my best to fulfill her wish. She’s the reason I’m organizing this 5k in VA. I want to honor my AMAZING Mother, and help others at the same time. We need to get Skin Cancer awareness out there and make people realize how dangerous and potentially deadly this disease is. It still shocks me every day that this horrible disease took her away from us, only 3.5 weeks after being diagnosed. I’ll be honest, until my Mom was diagnosed with Melanoma, I was one of the people that knew hardly anything about Skin Cancer. I would go outside for hours upon hours without sunscreen and get burned so bad that I would have blisters all over. I still to this day have a “suntan line” on my chest from 3 summers ago when I got burnt so badly my chest was purple and one big blister. I also never wore sunglasses because they would give me raccoon eyes or hats because they would mess up my hair. My Mom would always get on me about how I needed to be more careful because I’m EXTREMELY fair skinned (I don’t even tan I’m so fair skinned, I burn and go back to being as white as white can be), have blue eyes, freckles and blonde hair, but I always thought she was overreacting. I had to learn the hard way (by losing her) that she wasn’t and she actually did know what she was talking about. I’m so blessed and honored to be a part of this organization and to be able to show others what my Mom tried to show me all along…that you can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your skin.