09 Jun Rick Myers
My name is Rick Myers and I am a melanoma survivor. In May, 2001, I retired from the United States Marine Corps after nearly 23 years of faithful service. The majority of my career was spent in the Pacific and Far East regions. I wouldn’t blame it all on the operational tempo, but most of the time there wasn’t time to stop and put on sun screen or sun block. In late November 2001, I noticed a small black mole on the back of my left thigh and it grew quite rapidly. In December 2001, the mole now about the size of a nickel popped as I attempted to get out of my car. I quickly realized that this was not normal and made an appointment to see my doctor at Scott Air Force Base. After examining my thigh, he decided to perform a shaved biopsy. Within 48 hours, I got a call from the Dermatology department at Scott AFB, stating that I needed to be seen ASAP and it was a matter of “life or death.” After hanging up the phone, my mind raced to what the possibilities were to what was going on, skin cancer wasn’t one of them.
My wife accompanied me to my appointment where the dermatologist just came right out and said “You have Melanoma, Skin Cancer!!” He gave me a bunch of literature about skin cancer and gave me a name of a doctor/surgeon at St. Louis University Hospital. Scott AFB and St. Louis University are in a partnership when it comes to medicine. He told me to make an appointment with this doctor ASAP. Here I was 7 months after retiring from the military and I get slapped with having the big “C” word. Over the next several weeks, I seen the surgeon, had a CT scan, MRI, PET scan, and all type of blood work performed on me. The results were that the melanoma in my left thigh was the size of a one dollar coin and it had to come out. So, on 6 February 2001, I had surgery to remove the melanoma along with 4 lymph nodes. I was in the hospital for two days. I have about an 10-inch scar on the back of my left thigh as a constant reminder of what damage the sun can do to a unprotected body.
About 10 days later, at my follow-up appointment with my surgeon, I got hit with the second punch of the 1-2 combination. He removed all of the Melanoma from my thigh, but 3 of the 4 lymph nodes that were removed were cancerous. So, more testing and on 26 February 2011, I had a radial di-section to the front of my left thigh near my groin area where they removed 14 more lymph nodes. The results came back that they were all negative (non cancerous). But, because of removing that many lymph nodes and being attached to nerve endings, there are several spots on my left thigh that I have no feeling.
Also, my left leg swells, they call it lymphedema, I have to wear a compression stocking for the rest of my life. I use a body pillow at nights to elevate my left leg for I was then assigned an Oncologist (Dr. John Richart) and a nurse at St. Louis University Cancer Center. Dr. Richart is an AWESOME doctor; I don’t think I could have been in any better care than him and the nurses at St. Louis University Cancer Center and Hospital. I took part of a 5-year study to find a vaccine for Melanoma, but after 3 years the study was stop due to there was no hard evidence, good or bad, to a vaccine for Melanoma, but Dr. Richart continued to follow me and my melanoma with yearly visits. I also see a Dermatologist, Dr. Yadira Hurley, she too has been wonderful to me during this ordeal and she follows me with 6-months visits.
As my 10-year window is coming up in February 2012, that’s the window most doctor consider that you are out-of-the-woods when it comes to Melanoma, but I still have to protect myself from the sun. I have my wife and children checked every year now since we have a family history of Melanoma and they are fully aware of the damages the sun can do to an unprotected body/skin.