27 Apr Elizabeth Woollery
My name is Elizabeth Woolery. I’m 26 years old and I’m fighting for my life. I am a nurse in the Emergency Room at Heartland Hospital, where I have worked since graduating from nursing school at Missouri Western State University in May of 2007. Up until last March I was a typical 20 something female having fun and enjoying being young. That changed the day that my dermatologist called me at work and told me that a mole that I had removed came back as malignant melanoma.
I have learned so much since that time and realize that there is a drastic lack of knowledge about melanoma and research has been lacking, with very few developments in the last 30 years. I’m on a mission to change this. My battle with melanoma started in March of 2010. Since that time, my life has drastically changed.
I had my first surgery in April 2010 to remove the area around the cancer and to test the lymph nodes. Of the first 3 lymph nodes that were removed 2 came back positive. I had the next surgery in May which was to remove the remaining lymph nodes from the area, which were in my left groin. This was the hardest surgery by far. I had some complications and as a result ended up with a hole in my leg that you could fit about ¾ of you forearm in.
I began seeing a wound care doctor and began the long journey of healing, which took over 4 months to close up. As things progressed I began to realize how few treatment options exist and how little I know about melanoma. I began medical treatment- Interferon- on June 7th. This is an immunotherapy which is the standard of care for stage 3 melanoma. This treatment entails 4 weeks of high dose IV therapy followed by 11 months of sub-q injections for a total year of treatment.
Interferon is like having the worst flu of your life that lasts for a year. It’s not a fun treatment to be on. I am 9 months through the yearlong treatment and can’t wait for it to be over. I did have another surgery in November after some activity on a PET scan to remove many of my axillary lymph nodes, which I’m happy to say were cancer free.
At this point I’m still adjusting to the changes in my life. I will continue to have routine PET scans and blood work and hope that the cancer doesn’t return. I’m also trying to make some changes to prevent others from having to go through this and to raise money for research and treatment. I have joined up with the spot a spot organization and the community health nursing students at Missouri Western who are currently educating in the local high school about preventing melanoma by safe sun habits and skin checks. They have over 1,000 students scheduled to watch the presentations by May. I then decided I wanted to work on helping with funding for research as the treatment options have made so few advances in the last 30 years. I joined up with the Miles Against Melanoma group in February to start a chapter in St Joseph, Missouri. We will be having our first annual 5k run/walk on May 21st, 2011 at Missouri Western State University, and profits will be donated to melanoma research and education. I truly have the most amazing friends and family that I am thankful for every day. My hope is that if we can help raise money they will find a cure for this devastating disease.