09 Jun Julie Sieracki
Growing up I always enjoyed spending time outdoors. When I turned sixteen I began to use tanning beds occasionally; usually in preparation for vacations and high school dances. I always knew tanning was dangerous, however, like most people I thought “It will never happen to me.” I was wrong. In the fall of 2009 I noticed a small spot on my chest. It wasn’t ugly, black, brown, or oddly shaped; it was a tiny pink dot. Being the self conscious girl that I am; I began to notice other spots on my body that had never been there before. Luckily, my mother is incredibly health conscious. I told her about my concerns and she gave me the number to her dermatologist. I made an appointment for May. After my full body check, my dermatologist insisted on taking two biopsies from my body. The first spot was on my face; she seemed most concerned about this. The second spot was the tiny red dot on my chest; she seemed less concerned but was still suspicious. A week had gone by since my appointment, and I received a call from a testing lab in Madison. The results from my face biopsy came back benign. I was very relieved and completely forgot about the other biopsy. Two weeks later my phone rang as I was getting into my car to go home, this time it was my dermatologist. She asked if I was available to talk to her for a few minutes, and that I should sit down. My heart sank. She informed me that the results from my chest biopsy came back positive for Malignant Melanoma.
She began to discuss the decisions I would have to make in the coming months, such as my choice of treatment, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies. After the conversation with my doctor I started my car and drove home. I don’t remember that drive home; I was on autopilot. When I got home there was no one there, so I sat on my bedroom floor and called my friend. I told her what had happened and we both cried. I heard my mom pull in the driveway and ended the call with my friend. My mom came into my room and saw me on the floor. She asked why I was crying…and I responded “I have cancer”. She sat on the floor next to me and said “Don’t worry; we will do whatever it takes to get rid of it.” The coming weeks were stressful and packed with doctor appointments. I had blood tests and x-rays taken. Luckily, the cancer had not metastasized, which meant surgery would most likely remove the cancer. I made an appointment with a plastic surgeon I was referred to. My mom and sister took me to the hospital on the day of my surgery. Before the actually surgery took place, the surgeon discussed the severity of my condition and how he planned to do the procedure. After, I put on my paper gown, laid on the bed, and waited. He and his nurse entered the room and began to prep me. He then took the largest needle I had ever seen and poked it into my chest; he did this until all 6 syringes were empty. ”You are going to start feeling really nervous and most likely begin to shake. I will be back in fifteen minutes when you are numb.” He said calmly. There I was in an empty room; numb, weak, naked, and nervous. My body began to shake and twitch uncontrollably. Tears rolled down my face, even though I was not crying. Those fifteen minutes were horrible. He came back in the room and took out a skinny knife. The surgeon cut my chest open, and his nurse hurried to clean up the running blood. I couldn’t feel the actually cutting, but I could hear my flesh ripping. After the cutting had stopped he began to sew my chest back together; this took about a half of an hour. Even though my chest was numb I experienced severe pain from the amount of stretching the surrounding skin was undergoing. After the procedure my mom and sister took me home. I felt fine until later that night when the numbness wore off. I was in excruciating pain for the next three days. A few weeks later my dermatologist called me and told me that my cancer was gone. This was indeed one of the happiest days of my life. If the cancer hadn’t been completely removed by that surgery, I would have had to undergo further treatments such as chemo, radiation, or more surgeries. I was so lucky. My chest healed with no complication; however, I am left with a bubbly scar in the middle of my chest. My surgeon presented me with many options to get rid of my scar, but for some reason I am not ready to part with it yet. It not only reminds me of how lucky I am to be alive, but also inspires me to tell people my story.
I want to help save lives by educating people about the importance of skin protection. I would also like to raise money to help fund research for Melanoma, and help cancer patients who are struggling financially. I believe that taking charge of a 5k run would be a good start to my dreams of helping people and educating my community about Melanoma.