Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Replay of Melanoma Surgery and Healing Pictures

The mole that started it all
I just wanted to share these pictures again.  It is not the usual pictures I like to take and share, but it is important that they are shared even though.

I look at these photos now, almost 2 years later and I feel the pain and fear all over again.  I will never stop spreading awareness about melanoma. 

I have come a long way since my diagnosis and surgery and I know my journey has just begun. 
The first scar after original biopsy was taken

My leg 2 days post op
My message that I hope to send with these photos is....Don't tan.  Ever.  This isn't pretty. 

 Melanoma really does suck.  It doesn't care if you are young, old, white, black, wealthy,or poor.  It likes to sneak into organs like the brain, liver, and lungs, and can even spread to the colon.

There are many trials and many warriors participating in them in the hopes to find a cure and help others with a cure.  We are hoping there will be a cure soon.  I have lost too many friends to melanoma.  That's not cool with me.

Lots of stitches
 When I first saw my stitches I was shocked.  They told me that they would be taking a biopsy 2 cm x 2cm and 2 cm deep.  It was much bigger than that.  I was lucky I didn't have to have a skin graft.  I did end up with an infection in the incision.  I knew I had one all along, but my surgeon kept telling me I didn't. 
My leg 2-19-12
 It did heal up and looked much better 10 months later.  I still have the indent, but it isn't as deep.
Big indent

2 days post op, big indent

groin biopsy

So many stitches

After some of the stitches were taken out. (infected)

The groin biopsy healing
If you have a mole that has changed, gotten bigger, bleeds, itches etc.  Go see a dermatologist.  Please. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

I Love You. That Is All.

The last few weeks have been the toughest since I was first diagnosed.  I have been trying to accept that we have lost some pretty amazing and young warriors lately.  I have had a very hard time with that.  It seems like one right after the other and I can't make sense of it really, but I am trying.

My friend's daughter Jillian, my friend Angi, and Jennifer, and Briana.  All within months of each other.  Each one fought with strength, grace and dignity.  I was and am still in awe of each of these amazing women.  They tried every trial, did every treatment, and most of all, they lived their lives to the fullest and never gave up.  They did not let melanoma define them.  They used it to help others, to teach us the importance of love and friendship.  Out of all of these warriors, I only met Briana in person and actually was close with her.

I met Briana at a cancer group by my house called Gilda's Club.  I had went and signed up the week prior, needing something to cope with my new diagnosis.  But, I was disappointed to find out that they didn't have a group for skin cancer, or melanoma.  I decided to try the Wednesday group and posted about it on my page My Journey with Melanoma.  Briana commented that she was part of the Wednesday group and she was excited that I would be there since she felt alone being the only one with melanoma!  I was so excited to meet her!

I will never forget the first time I saw her.  I walked in, and I knew immediately that it was her.  She had the biggest, most beautiful smile I have ever seen!  She gave me the biggest hug and I felt such a connection with her.  It was like I had always known her.  We were soul sisters. 

We went to the Wednesday group meeting for awhile and then we both decided that it wasn't really what we wanted to do and continued our friendship outside of the group.  She went to one of my daughter's dance recitals and we had so much fun!  She met my family at a melanoma walk we did together in October, and my daughter and her became very close too.  My daughter accidentally called her Banana one day and she said, " Well, if I am a Banana, you are an Apple!"  Then somehow I became Melon.  :)  Haha! We would meet for lunch or text back and forth.  Our favorite was to just text, "I love you. That is all."  If I asked her about her treatment, she would talk about it briefly and always would say, "It's no big deal."  She just amazed me.  She never let melanoma get her down.  She was not about to let it mess up her plans.  She didn't dwell on it, or complain about it.  We didn't really even talk about it much. She just did what she had to do and moved on.  She just lived.  And she had a lot to live for!

She was planning her wedding to the love of her life and she was missing him because he was finishing college in Massachusetts.  She was so in love and if you brought up his name, or the wedding, her face would just light up!! The wedding was absolutely beautiful! She was glowing and so very happy.  There were butterflies and Gerbera daisies everywhere.  She loved both.  She was very tired at her wedding, but she didn't let it stop her from celebrating.  I was so happy that she was so happy.

She was still doing a trial at U of M and she was enjoying married life.  We didn't see each other for about six months, and we decided we should meet for lunch.  I was shocked and almost didn't recognize her.  I had known that her last trial had ended and she was waiting to get into another one. She did get into the trial, but the side effects were too much.  She was sent home on hospice 2 months later.

She died on Valentine's Day.  I thought I was prepared.  I don't think you can ever be prepared to say goodbye to someone you love.  I went to see her twice while she was at home on hospice.  It was incredibly hard to see her like that,but I am glad I went.  She saw me get upset and cry and she whispered "I love you."  and I whispered, " I love you more."  The last time I went, I blew her a kiss when I left and she blew one back.  That is the last time I saw her.  I never thought that this would happen.  I never thought she would not beat this, and I know she didn't either.  But, she was at peace at the end that this is what she was faced with. She knew she would be going to heaven and that there was nothing else she had to do.  No more pills, no more chemo, no more radiation, no more doctors, no more cutting, no more pain.  She could stop the battling and be at peace. 

Today is going to be really tough.  I know she is looking down on all of us and she is holding our hands.  I know that she will be with me today and always.  She was an angel her on earth and I know that she has a very special job now. I will always remember her big beautiful smile and her easy going personality, her strength, her sweetness, her beautiful blue eyes.  I will continue to fight Briana.  I will never, ever stop.  You taught me not to give up.  I am so glad that you were my friend.  Fly with the angels honey.  You got your butterfly wings now.

I love you. That is all. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Jillian Hayes Wagner~Melanoma Warrior

 I was so blessed to be part of this emotional day.  I am friend's with Susan, Jillian's mom, (a.k.a Mama Bear) and we also live about 3 hours apart.  Jillian had melanoma, and she fought a long, hard battle.  Through it all, she tried to remain Jillian.  Not the girl with melanoma.  She lived life to the absolute fullest she could, and she battled each new obstacle with strength, grace and determination.  I never got to meet Jillian, but I feel like, through Susan, I did know her.

Awareness of melanoma is near and dear to me.  This billboard is just so awesome!  I have seen pictures of it, but standing in front of it and seeing it in person was so amazing. That young, beautiful girl is smiling and shining her light down all over Michigan, and she is spreading awareness.  Her message is, "It's not "JUST" skin cancer...It IS Cancer."  She is putting a face to this horrible cancer.  A cancer without a cure.  I know she is changing the world and is smiling along with all the other melanoma warriors in Heaven. 

Thank you Jillian and Susan for sharing your story and your strength.  One day, we will win this battle against melanoma.  The black beast will go down! 

There is nothing stronger than the love of a mother

Standing and getting LOUD!!

Melanoma Warriors~Andrea Alexander, Jolaina ParentWalling, Susan Visch Hayes, and Melissa Collins