27 Apr D Leeper– San Antonio TX
My husband, who I lovingly call D, was diagnosed with stage IIIc around his 32nd birthday. He is not a fair skinned man, and admitted to having a lot of sunburns as a child.
When D and I began dating, I had told him about a mole on his back that, over time, grew, changed color and ulcerated. The mole was initially the size of a dime (eeek!), but years later, it was the size of a quarter (EEEEEKKKK!!!!!). D decided to take the mole seriously when he saw a commercial for a free skin cancer screening. He began researching what melanoma is (since I was nagging him) and came across a blog called Jake’s Take.
Jake’s Take was written by a man named Jake Richter http://www.jakestake.tv/. He had passed away from malignant melanoma. The blog stuck with D because this was a guy who was the same age who expired due to a mole. He immediately booked an appointment with his doctor.
The doctor referred him to a surgical dermatologist.
The surgical dermatologist, after biopsy of the mole, referred him to oncological surgeon.
You have heard the stories about how life stands still with a potential cancer diagnosis. They are incredibly true. As a couple, we went through a gamut of emotions, many of them being angry and futile. He did the appointments – biopsies, PET scans, MRI, CT, you name it. Through this, the surgeon set him up for his surgery. They were going to remove the mole, “margins” and some of the lymph nodes in his armpit that were positive for cancer.
We tried to stay as positive as we could. This remained for a short while. During his recovery, he was in pain and I took the brunt of the lash outs. Of course, I understood, but I ain’t gonna lie – it was ROUGH. Being that I am clinically depressed, the situation was almost catastrophic to me. It was in my head, I kept telling myself. But damn, it hurt watching him go through this.
After his surgery, he began his treatment. The standard of care is Interferon – given in high doses for a month of two and then weekly injections for about a year. D didn’t want the standard of care. He tried a new treatment approved by the FDA earlier that year – Sylatron. In a nutshell, it’s a low dose Interferon that is injected once a week for five years.
You read that right, five years.
His decision for doing this was that he thought it would be easier to manage than the standard. While his idea was a noble one, it was so wrong. He lost 70 lbs. He was moodier than from surgery. He slept most of the time. He had chemo brain. Each week, a new side effect would pop up (such as allergies he did not have prior to). His skin got gnarly like a teenagers. His spleen enlarged. Finally, his liver was scarring, which is the beginning stages of cirrhosis. When that was discovered, the oncologist discontinued treatment.
I am not a religious person, nor is he. But I thanked God that day. As his caregiver, I gained 30 lbs. in one year of treatment. I was on edge all of the time. I hated being at home. I couldn’t talk to him. I ended up in therapy because I couldn’t deal. I felt guilty because I wasn’t strong for him. I mean, after all, if I was going through this, imagine what he was going through.
Today, which is about 7 months later, he has gained weight. I have lost weight. He has energy. He is about to graduate college – he was in the last semester of school when cancer came about. He still has some side effects like fogginess, but over time, will subside. He has had his 3rd PET with No Evidence of Disease. Great as this all sounds, we still worry that it will come back. It probably will. But he’ll fight – just as he did 2 years ago.