Friday, April 29, 2011

My surgery 4-27-11

The morning of my surgery I was so scared. My fiance was up getting ready to go and I was laying in bed trying to dream about something happy, pretending that it was just another day.  Not my surgery day.  Not the day I would have part of me removed.  I was so tired.  I couldn't sleep at all the night before. Kevin came over to me and put his hand on my head and I got mad.  "No!  Not yet!"  I thought, and I was angry with him.  I  got up and started to get ready to go, even though I didn't want to. I took a shower and reminded myself that I couldn't wear my engagement ring, or the necklace my sister had gotten me, or any makeup, or lotion.  I didn't feel like me.  It felt unnatural to not put on makeup or do my hair.  I felt ugly.  It was very depressing. I couldn't look in the mirror.  He didn't understand what I was going through. Then I heard him say,  "Grandma's here."  I started crying.  I didn't think she was going be there since she lives an hour away and it was so early. It made me so happy that she was there.  I had my support team.  I needed them more than they knew. Then I got a phone call from the OR at Harper Hospital, and the lady asked if I knew I was supposed to be there at 7:30am.  I said no, I was told to be there at 8am.  She said they told me wrong and I asked if they were going to cancel the surgery now and she said no.  It was 7:06am, she said to come right away and I told her that I would be there in 20 minutes.  I was in a panic now.  I was so afraid they would cancel my surgery and I would have to wait longer to get this taken care of.  Ashlyn, my beautiful daughter, was ready for school, standing there looking at me with that little girl  "Mommy, you ok?" look on her face.  I knew she was scared and I knew I had to reassure her without making her cry.  I gave her a hug and kissed her soft baby cheek and told her I loved her just like any other day.  My heart was breaking.  I didn't want her to be worried about me.  I am supposed to be strong, not sick.  It gave me the push I needed to get out the door. The drive was awful.  Traffic everywhere we turned.   I was on edge because I feared if we didn't get there they would cancel my surgery.  Unfortunatley, we ended up getting stuck in traffic on the expressway for an hour and we didn't get to the hospital until 8:15am. Kevin was also on edge, but he stayed so calm.  I was in a way kinda glad for the delay in some ways.  I was dreading the surgery so much. We only live 20 minutes away, but it was raining and it was rush hour. Kevin seemed like he felt guilty for not getting me there on time. He dropped me and my mom off at the door and went to park.  I went in and checked in.  They gave me and Mom a visitor's pass and told me where to go.  I didn't want to leave Kevin.  I needed him with me.  I figured I was already late, it wouldn't matter if we were a few more minutes late.  I was relieved when I saw him coming down the hall.  We went to the surgical waiting room and checked in.  They said my surgery was at 10:00am.  I was so thankful they didn't cancel me, even though part of me wanted them to.  We sat together were talking and I noticed how many people were in this room, waiting for news on their loved ones, or getting ready for surgery themselves.  I heard someone call my name and saw a lady waiting for me.  She took my insurance card and ID and made copies.  I saw Kevin come in and he stood behind me, protectively. Then my Mom came in with her cell phone and said my step dad was on the line.  He wasn't  there because he is on the road truck driving. My Mom held the phone up to my ear and I heard him say he loved me and to be strong and fight and I started crying so hard I couldn't talk to him. I felt so bad and hoped that I didn't upset him. I would have given anything for one of his hugs right then.  I missed him so much. They called me a few minutes later and I knew it was time for me to go.  I wanted to take Kevin and my Mommy with me, but I knew I couldn't.  I hugged Kevin, I did not want to let go.  And then I hugged my Mom.  It was hard not to cry, but I did as soon as I got out the door to go to the xray to get the shots of dye that would show them where my lymph node would be.  They led me to a dressing room and gave me a cup to get a urine specimen.  I then had to get undressed and put on a gown and little socks and put my clothes in a bag that they put my name on.  Then I sat there all alone for about 10 minutes or so waiting.  Then they walked me to the pre-op holding area.  It was like a mad house.  The nurses there were amazing though.  So thoughtful and nice.  They made me feel like they were going to take care of me.  It meant a lot.  They asked me a lot of questions, name, date of birth and then about how I found the mole and what the dermatologist had done. One nurse said she was always an avid tanner and she seemed concerned about herself.  I told her to stop tanning, it was the best thing she could do.  She said she would and I believed her.  I think it scared her to see me the way I was.

They monitored my vitals for a little while.  The nurses were hustling around busy, but taking care to  make sure I was comfortable.  I had an I.V. started and then they came with a wheelchair to take me for the lymphoscintigram.  I was wheeled by a guy named Al.  He had a limp and I could hardly understand anything he said, but he was very nice.  Then I met the only person that would be rude to me the entire experience.  I was left in a hallway in the xray department for about 15 minutes then a young girl came up to me and asked my name and date of birth.  Then she said her name was Kayla or something like that, and she said they would take me back as soon as they had the room available.  She asked if I knew what they were doing and I said I did, but she coldly explained it anyway.  Then she said that they were expecting me 2 hours ago, like she was mad at me.  I was so upset and tried to explain to her that I was not told to be there at 7:30am and traffic was bad, but we tried to get here.  She just said they expected a room to be available in about 45 minutes.  Then she left me in the hallway in a huge wheelchair that was so uncomfortable and I was cold and scared and I just started crying.  I kept seeing the mean girl walking around and she was cold to other patients too.  I felt so helpless and alone and I wanted Kevin and my Mom.  I felt like I couldn't do anything but they would be able to! I know my Mom would have said something back to her and Kevin would have taken care of her in his way.  Just then a man wearing a white coat came up to me and asked if I was ok.  I told him what the mean girl had said and he comforted me and said that he would find out what was going on.  He called the ER and found out that my surgery would happen as soon as they injected the dye to do the lymph biopsy.  He said it should be soon they could get me in the room and he would be the one doing the procedure.  He got me another blanket while I was waiting. At about 10:40am, they took me into the room to start the procedure. I had to lay on a cold table but they made sure I was comfortable and put blankets on the cold parts for me.  I layed on my side and he explained that they were going to do four injections around the biopsy site and the radioactive dye is blue and that it would travel to the lymph node and he would take pictures and then mark on my skin for the surgeon to know where to cut.  The injections were horrible.  The last one was the worst.  It felt like a super bee sting, or a hot poker being shoved in my leg.  The dye stung as it was injected. Once that was over they had me lie on my back and I could see on this screen the dye spreading through me.  A small dark spot started showing up and then another. They showed me the spots and said 2 lymph nodes were showing up.  They were about 2 inches apart.  Oh God, that means they are going to have to cut both out?!  I was too scared to ask.  Then they took another picture to see if there was a node in the back of my leg by my knee that could be lit up too.  He said if it was the surgeon may remove it too.  It didn't light up, and I was relieved.  Then he marked both of the spots where the lymph nodes in my groin had lit up.  He said they may take both, or they might just take one.  Once I knew they were done with the lymphoscintigram, I knew what was next. They put me back in the wheelchair and I started crying and couldn't stop.  He took me back to pre-op holding and I was crying hard but quietly, by then.  My nurse, Ann Marie, saw me and asked me if he had hurt me.  I said no, I was just scared. I felt bad, the nice man, who I don't even know his name, looked so upset that I was so upset. She got me up and gave me a bear hug and rubbed my back and got me on the bed and gave me Kleenex.  She comforted me for a minute and then she said she had to go, she had another patient in the bathroom that she needed to check on.  She tucked my blankets all around me and I never saw her after that. I started thinking about my kids and my fiance, my Mom and step dad, my family.  I was scared out of my mind and I felt so alone.  I wanted my family. Just then another nurse, MaryAnn, that took over for Ann Marie, came up and started to comfort me like I was her own child.  She wiped my tears away, she rubbed my hand, brushed my hair back and she asked if I wanted to see my Mom and Kevin.  I hesitated for a minute, I didn't want to upset them.  I didn't want them to see me like this.  I knew they must have been trying to be strong and I should be too.  I wanted them to not worry about me being scared.  I almost said no, then I said yes.  She went and made the call to the waiting area and it seemed like forever before they got there.  I thought maybe they went to eat or something.  I needed to see them before I went to surgery.  I needed to see them so badly.  I kept looking all over for them.  They had me facing a wall instead of facing out,so I had to look behind me.  Finally, I saw Kevin's face and felt his hand grab mine.  I looked in his eyes and started crying so hard.  He asked if I was in pain and I said I was scared.  I could hardly look at my Mom, because I didn't want to make her cry.  They got to stay for a few minutes, then the anesthesiologist came to talk to me and they had to leave.  It made me feel stronger seeing them and I was grateful.  After the anesthesiologist spoke to me, the resident that was helping my surgeon came to talk to me.  He answered my questions and he told me about the surgery.  He said it would be about 1 1/2-2 hours long.  He was extremely nice.  He assured me that I would be ok.  I was then alone but not really.  I could hear the hustle of the pre op holding area behind me, and I could hear my nurse, Mary Ann talking to me every now and then.  She would pat my head as she flew by me to help other patients.  She was taking care of 3 of us.  She was so strong and so caring.  She finally came back and hooked up my vital monitor and took my temp.  Then she gave me something to relax me. I was glad for that. I didn't want to think about losing part of my leg anymore.  I was so scared that I just about wanted to get up and run out of there!  I remember feeling relaxed after she gave me the med.  I was laying there watching the curtain that separated me from the bed next to me moving back and forth methodically.  Back and forth.  Like it was blowing in the wind, or someone was moving it.  I started to pray to God to watch over me and my family and to guide the surgeon to get all of the cancer.  I asked if there was anyone with me to let me know by making the curtain stop moving.  It stopped moving and I knew that I had my guardian angels watching over me.  I felt comforted instantly when I said, "I need you all, don't leave me."   I felt my great-grandma, my fiance's dad, my grandpa, my uncles and many more family with me and I was ready.  MaryAnn wheeled me into the OR and she said a prayer over me as I drifted away peacefully into my sanctuary of darkness.

I was dreaming, but I don't remember what I was dreaming about.  Something happy.  Then I felt someone wiping my eyes and calling my name.  They were moving around me.  I opened my eyes, but they were so heavy.  I saw bright lights and I tried to focus.  I knew I was in recovery.  I had made it!!  I was so happy I was awake. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Melanoma sucks!

Hi!  My name is Melissa and I am 40 years old.  I have 2 children, Andrew, 20 and Ashlyn,16.  I was recently diagnosed with malignant melanoma on my right leg and basal cell carcinoma on my chest.  The news was devastating.  I was always in the sun since I was little.  We didn't know about sunscreen when I was little.  We were outside all day, everyday back then.  I started becoming an avid sunbather when I was in my teens.  I love the feel of the warm sun and never wore sunscreen, but lathered it on my kids, because I was "darker toned" and "never burned" (yeah right!) I didn't need it, I thought.  Boy was I wrong!  I always thought that fair-skinned people and red-haired people had to worry.  I have dark hair and eyes and never thought I would have skin cancer.  Now I am finding out that my type of skin, many moles and freckles, is actually more prone to the deadlist form of skin cancer... MELANOMA!! 

Last year I decided I would try a tanning bed. I live in Michigan where we don't see much sun, and I also had some money finally to spend on myself.  I started going every other day and was addicted!  My step dad warned me about skin cancer, and told me I was getting too dark.  I blew him off.  My fiance was upset and told me to stop, but I didn't listen.  I just hid it from him.  I didn't realize how dark I was until later.  I wished I had listened to them both.

I wish I could go back and undo all the damage I have caused to my skin.  But I can't, but what I can do is spread the word.  This is why I started this blog.  I also had inspiration from a couple of other people that are blogging about the same thing.  From the very beginning I decided that I was going to document this from the beginning to let people see what happens.  I took a picture of the mole on my leg before I went to the dermatologist.  I am glad I did.  Then I took a shot of the stitches in my leg and after they were removed.  I have surgery for a wide-excision biopsy on my leg and a lymph node biopsy on 4-27-11.  I am petrified!  But, I will be documenting the whole thing, even the bad stuff.  I am not trying to offend any one, I just want people to know that skin cancer CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE!  Too many kids are tanning and they are also dying!   So spread the word, use sunscreen and most of all, STAY AWAY FROM TANNING SALONS!!!  They aren't going to tell you of the dangers of tanning!!