09 Jun Cayce Burwell
03.2013 Cayce Burwell
Cayce Burwell was 25 and engaged to be married. While trying on her wedding dress, she noticed a mole on her back. Not thinking much of it, she made an appointment and had the mole removed and biopsied. Two weeks later the dermatologist’s office called and said it was melanoma. In an instant, she went from being an excited bride to a cancer patient.
Because there wasn’t enough healthy tissue around the tissue sample used for the biopsy, the dermatologist couldn’t guarantee all of the cancer cells had been removed and recommended a more extensive surgery. In an effort to predict how the cancer would spread, the doctors injected a radioactive dye at the original site of the mole and tracked it to the lymph nodes.
“They ended up removing a chunk the size of a hockey puck from my back as well as six lymph nodes,” said Burwell. It turns out she was lucky, all of the lymph nodes came back clear and she was able to get back to the exciting things happening in her life.
Three years later, Burwell’s grandmother noticed a wound on the bottom of her foot. The red streaks emanating up Granny’s leg led the doctors to believe it might be a bacterial or fungal infection. Over the next few months, various efforts failed and Granny’s leg got worse. An eventual biopsy determined that she too had melanoma. Granny traveled to Duke for surgery and when that was determined to be unsuccessful, and with her health continuing to deteriorate, she was admitted to the hospital and scheduled for a PET scan. The news was not good. Her entire body had been affected including her bones, lungs and brain. Sadly, within two weeks, the cancer took Granny’s life.
Devastated at the loss, Burwell made it her mission to educate people about melanoma. “Melanoma is often downplayed in the media,” she said. “I was lucky that mine was caught early but I’ve also seen how serious it is when it advances.” According to the American Cancer Society, 76,250 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, will be diagnosed in 2012 and some 9,180 Americans will die of the disease this year.
“I don’t want anyone else to hear, ‘Your biopsy came back and you have melanoma.’ I never want another granddaughter to hear ‘There’s nothing we can do,’” said Burwell emotionally.
This is an excerpt of Cayce’s story taken from sacancernews.org.