Today we share with you a story from a fighter and a survivor. Stephanie agreed to share her story with us so that others may know that despite a melanoma diagnosis a persons life doesn’t have to stop.
Here is Stephanie’s story.
What type or stage of cancer did you have?
I had stage IV melanoma. The first melanoma I had was stage 1 in 2000. The stage IV diagnosis was in the fall of 2010, the melanoma returned after 10 years.
What was the primary cancer treatment facility involved in your care and what was your experience there?
I went to the John Wayne Cancer Center initially, and after my appointment with Dr. Morton, the scans revealed the cancer was in my lungs, and I was then referred to the Angeles Clinic. The doctors and nurses at the Angeles Clinic were extremely efficient and kind! Dr. Hamid told me he would try to save my life and admitted me to the hospital 3 days after meeting me. I was very frightened and in a lot of pain… when 2011 began I was admitted to St. John’s Hospital for bio-chemotherapy.
What organizations were the most helpful to you?
AIM was extremely helpful. The Melanoma Research Alliance also helped me get my appointment with Dr. Morton.
What would you say is impactful experience from your treatment?
This question is hard….the most impactful part of my treatment? The entire experience was impactful. Biochemotherapy is the hardest chemotherapy & immunotherapy treatments for cancer and it does not always work. I had to dig deep and fight with every ounce of my being. I had to leave my family in Bear Valley and live in Southern California with my Mom in order to get the life-saving treatments in Santa Monica. I never knew I had it in me to fight so hard and be bombarded by so many chemicals and poisons of the bio chemotherapy. I was heartbroken to not be with my daughter and husband.
What would you most like people to know about yourself?
I would like to people to know that there is HOPE against the odds. There are places with doctors who are making HUGE strides in cancer research and treatment. I never knew I could survive the type of treatments I went through. I want people to know that melanoma is sneaky…it can come back and it is something that will always be with me.
What is your greatest source of strength and/or inspiration?
While I was fighting, I drew strength from knowing that my daughter needed me to live. She is 16 now and at it broke my heart to think about her losing me in such an abrupt and horrible way. Melanoma can hit fast and hard, and it was taking me down! At least, it was trying to.
Was tanning or sunbathing a significant factor in your developing melanoma?
YES. I was an avid sunbather as a teen and young adult. I also used tanning beds as a teenagers for a bit, in the winter, to keep a tan.
How did your diagnosis change your life?
I will always have to get scans…I will always have to keep an eye on my skin. I try to treasure all moments with family and friends and not put too much emphasis on the material things in life. When you are dying, it is the experiences in life you think about, not your “stuff.”
When did you start using tanning beds? And for what reason?
I used tanning beds for a while when I was about 15 years old…and not very often, it was just 1 winter, to keep the summer glow going.
Is there an inspirational quote or song that keeps you moving forward and gives you strength in your life?
During my treatment I listened to Train’s song, “Calling all angels” and it was definitely my song. I now paint angels and call them Alpine Angels ( I live in Alpine County) and Angles continually paly a role in my life, this I am sure.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who thinks that skin cancer can’t happen to them?
OMG, really? Skin cancer can happen to anyone who has had a sunburn. We all need to protect our skin. It is not “just skin cancer” as it can metastasize at a frightening rate into your organs and brain. It kills young people, old people, middle aged people….. and it does not care what race you are, just that you damaged your skin with too much sun. I wish people would take it seriously, as seriously as we take breast cancer and lung cancer. Melanoma is deadly.
Thank you for sharing my story…. I am planning on staying NED ( No Evidence of Disease) for a long time!!