Sunday, May 29, 2005

Holiday Weekend Check-In

I hope where ever you find yourself this weekend ... at the shore, in the mountains or perhaps in your own backyard ... that you are having a nice weekend and that you stop and take a moment and remember all those men and women who have given their lives to protect our personal freedoms both today and in generations past. HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!
It's been a good weekend so far on many levels. The week was hard and Thursday and Friday my white blood cell count continued to climb back into the low ranges of "normal", however my liver is still in a bit of shock. As a result, Dr. Butler (oncologist) ordered that my treatments on Thursday and Friday be reduced to 10 million units (from 40 million units) of Interferon. This is frustrating and a little worrisome for me since that is the "low dose" level and the efficacy is questionable at this stage of melanoma treatment.

But I only have one liver and I need it to do Ironmans in the future AND to survive and function normally, so I am glad that my Dr. isn't just going for broke just because I feel the need to "stick to the plan." Dr. Butler is a Liver's best friend.

Still I wonder, did I really need that one last Black and Tan three weeks ago? And all that wine in France last summer?

Ahh ... Could of, would of ... I'm glad I did.
Since I have been on "low-dose" levels of Interferon, I have been feeling good and able to enjoy this holiday weekend and the beautiful weather here in the Northern VA/DC Metro area. Hold your hats, cause I have some milage for you -

•Friday - 2 mile walk - slow and steady, felt good
•Saturday - 5 mile walk - 15 minute pace, felt GREAT and the Ipod Mini and I were rockin!
•Sunday - 7 mile walk - 15-16 minute pace, walk along the Mt Vernon Trail - Just me, my Ipod Mini, the smell of hunysuckle and about 25-30 random fellow athlete's getting their weekend workout in.

Tomorrow Jim and I plan to go on a mini "Bike Picnic". The goal is 30 minutes OR 10 miles, whatever feels right for me. Then we are going to sit on the grass and enjoy baguettes, jambon et fromage (ham and cheese) and some non-alcoholic beverage and relax. It's been almost a year since our trip to the French Alps to watch the Tour de France and we miss our favorite French meal.

The Tour de France - now that was an epic vacation - I blogged that too ... you can read about it all here if you get bored later this week. (AUTHOR'S NOTE: Visually this blog is bad but to follow the story, click on July 2004 link under Archieve and SCROLL all the way to the bottom - It's a good story, worth some scrolling - but I am biased - - HG)
Speaking of epic ... WAY TO GO TEAM DISCOVERY CHANNEL and Paolo Savoldelli for winning the Giro d'Italia!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Something else for a change ...Sisters!

BLAH, no talking of mutant cells today because it is BEAUTIFUL outside today. It is a good morning for a run, bike ride or a walk and I am on my way out the door for a walk as soon as this post is finished.

I have two sisters. I am the oldest, by 11 years. Yeah, I know, I am aging well!!


They are fun, witty, beautiful and they indulge my crazy notions constantly. I have pictures to prove it. Here are Heather and Cathy running the Myrtle Beach 1/2 Marathon this past February.



Why did they run a 1/2 Marathon when neither of them had ever even run a 5K before in their lives?

Because I asked them if they would and then I tempted them with thoughts of medals given away at the end. I think the medals were the final deciding factor. LOL

Still, don't we all look sexy in our medals?


Do you want me to be your big sister? You might have to run a 1/2 Marathon... you better get out there and go for a run! Go on, try it, you might like it ....


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

So far behind that I might be ahead...6 treatments and holding!

I have 300 emails to check and many of them are still from last week. I am so far behind myself it is scary. To each and every friend and family member who has not heard from me yet, an email is coming.

You would think with all this time and no work, I would be on-line constantly but my mornings are spent slowly waking up and getting ready to go to treatment. Eating has become something of an effort. I'm just not very hungry but I'm making it a point to eat 3 times a day. You'd think with this lack of eating I'd be a rail but "no". I guess that that sharp decrease in activity takes away that extra calorie burn. No problem though, at least I am holding steady on the scale and not gaining either.

For those of you don't already know, I am a happy little control freak. I think it makes me a good triathlete. I can make a plan and stick to it!

Now imagine you are a control freak going through 20 cycles of Interferon therapy...and you walk into the office on Tuesday for treatment # 7 and they take your temp, take some blood, make you wait for 45 minutes and then SEND YOU HOME!!!

No chemo for me for 2 DAYS!!! ARG!!!

That is 2 treatments that I now have to make up at the end of "the plan"!! That is sooooo NOT in my grand scheme of things, ya know?

It seems that my white blood cell count is too low and since I "NEED" the white blood cells to kick the melanoma cells out, my treatment is taking a 2-day hiatus. So I have spent the past two dreary days (BRRR, it's chilly here in VA) reading and enjoying a respite from Tylenol.

If I have learned anything these past 3 months, it is that NOTHING in this experience is going to happen according to my own personal "timeline". All I can do is hope that these two days of rest have given my white blood cells a chance to regroup.

Tomorrows goals are:
1.) 20 minute walk
2.) Answer email
3.) Complete treatment #7
4.) Blog

Hey, you can take away the plan but you can't stop me from planning.

Living STRONG and regrouping the White Blood Cells for the fight!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

One Week Finished

I wish this weekend had been everything I was hoping it would be: relaxing, calm, renewing...

It wasn't.

It was full of nausia, constipation and sheer disbelief. My disbelief, of course.

OKAY, Drama over ....

Really, this does suck and I am having a hard time actually putting it into words because just 3 days ago I was able to take a 4 mile walk in the morning and today I struggled with the 1 mile walk that Jim and I went on. And I was happy to go on that one mile walk because it was the first time I could drag my "sick to my stomach" butt out of the lying position since Saturday morning.

The good part of all of this : 5 DOWN and only 15 treatments to go!

I think it is highly ironic that it is the "drugs" they are giving me to make me feel better after the Interferon headaches (AKA Morphine) that are giving me the worst side effects (nausia and constipation). How ANYBODY can get addicted to this crap is beyond me....


A special shout-out to my good friend NANCY! She finished the Columbia Triathlon today! WAY TO GO NANCE!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The difference between night and day...

Or more accurately the morning after....

This morning I woke up feeling a little sleepier than normal with just the vaguest hint of a headache. THANK GOODNESS!!! It looks as though my mornings are going to be the better part of the day during these first four weeks.

Yesterday, post-blog entry, was not very pleasant. My headache raged on through the remainder of the day, despite regular intervals of Tylenol every 4-6 hours. I was also treated to some full body chills, aches and a lovely round of fever that never got higher than 101 but would break and then return an hour later. It was everything they said to expect.

Throughout the day I kept reminding myself that these were symptoms of treatment and that I was not sick! Admittedly it was pretty hard to pull myself out of the "sleepy couch" in the height of these symptoms but around 6:30 pm, I realized that:

1.) I needed to eat

2.) Moving around might help me feel better than laying around feeling sick.

So I got up, make myself a ham and cheese sandwich and cleaned the kitchen a little, just the basics of dishes in the dishwasher and wiping the counter. It made me feel much better to be active on some level.

Jim went out and did 20 miles yesterday on our behalf. I liked hearing about his ride and knowing that he is finally rebounding from his long fight with Mono this winter. Serious illnesses always seem to knock the "heck" out of people with athletic lifestyles and sometimes the hardest part is getting back to what feels normal again.

With that in mind, I am on my way out the door for a lovely 1-mile walk. I have no idea how far is too far and don't want the "headache" to return PRIOR to my next treatment. AFTER, I can accept and rationalize. BEFORE is just to soon.

Interferon Cocktails are a b*tch kids! Stick to your basics (beer, wine and spirits) and put on some sunscreen! (SPF 30)

Living STRONG but feeling like I have a little hangover this morning.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

2 down, 18 to go.

I just wrote a great post and then it disappeared. UHG! So this entry will unfortunately be short because my head feels as though it is going to fall of my body any moment and roll down the stairs to relax with or without my torso attatched.

I had a beautiful weekend, got in a nice 6 mile walk on Saturday, had dinner with Jim at our favorite restaurant on Saturday night and spend Sunday running errands that I might not want to do later this weekend.

Monday morning I got in a nice 3.5 mile walk and then went in for my first treatment. It was hectic and a little nerve-wracking but Jim came with me to see what I would be going through day by day and to hold my hand.

Accessing the mediport is simple and relatively pain free and right now I have a lovely external tube in it for the duration of the week. It will come out Friday and a new one will go in on Monday. It makes everything easier throughout the daily treatments.

My typical treatment cycle goes like this:

100ml drip of saline & benadryl
100ml drip of saline & hydro-cortisone
500ml drip of saline (hydration)
100ml drip of INTRON A (40 million units) & saline
500ML drop of saline (more hydration)

The whole process takes about 3 hours from start to finish and it's a little hard to read. I think it is all still to new for me. Yesterday Jim and I just chatted the whole time and asked questions when the nurses came by to plug in new bags. Today I spend some quiet time listening to my iPod Mini and Jim did some reading.

In terms of side effects, so far, so good. I didn't have the raging 104 fever last night that the nurse told me to expect. Instead I had a fierce headache and some minor aches and pain (similar to early onset of flu). Right now, I have a serious headache and have had an upset stomach. Still I prefer this over chills and fever. Jim said he would pick the fever over the headache. I think though that I am content with the "status quo" of side effects for now.

Yesterday and today are the only time that my doses are close (less than 16 hour apart) as of tomorrow it will be every 24 hours so maybe that will cut the headache down to a dull roar. The nurse said my biggest problems were going to be keeping hydrated and possible mood swings. So I have a big bottle that we are filling alternately with water and gatoraid. The mood swing are likely to come much later in the treatment process.

OOPPS .. There goes my brain, I think she is getting ready to detach and leave my fingers to aimlessly type. That is my cue to step away from the computer screen

Somebody get out and ride 20 miles on your bike today! It is too nice out not to!

I'm living STRONG and doing well as long as the lights are dim and the noises low.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Posting Issues and "House Cleaning"

Thanks to my friend Kathy who is checking in on me and thinking of me often. I had no idea that I forgot to press the "publish" button after my last post and my sight was down. Thanks Kathy! Hopefully I will get the hang of this over time!
So my Dad said a great thing about my chemo last night that I really liked. He asked me if I could skip chemo since the latest pathology was negative. I told him that unfortunately it does really work that way at my stage of the game and his response was:

"Well I guess that we can just look at the chemo as "house cleaning" then .. your just cleaning up those last few loose cancer cells."

Leave it to my Dad to find a great positive spin on the Chemo! I love it! I am getting ready to do some serious "House Cleaning"...

Those Melanoma dust bunnies have no place to hide!!!! The big SWEEP is coming!

Dad's are wonderful things!!!
Sadly there will be no Columbia Triathlon for me this year. But I can still pick up my packet and go and cheer my friends on. Besides my good friend Nancy will be doing Columbia on that day with her mighty-fine bike, BUTTERCUP, so I want to see her finish strong! There will also be several other RATS and DEADS at the race to cheer on, so "chemo side-effects willing", I will be there!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005



Alright, so Dr. Wagner didn't find as many as he hoped to find. Apparently the fat pad they typically removed has an average of 5 - 20 lymph nodes. Still the negative prognosis means that they don't feel the need to go in and get any more. They are satisfied that they got the metastic Melanoma that settled in.

Dr. Butler (oncologist) said he was happy to consider me now on the good end of 50/50: the 50% of patients who survive Melanoma and reminded me that doing the Interferon Therapy will give me another 10-15% points to add to that survival margin! I will take all the points I can get!

The hope is that any lingering Melanoma cells will die when the Interferon treatments start on Monday.


4 weeks of chemotherapy I.V. with Intron-A (Interferon Alfa-2b, recombinant), 5 days a week - 3 hours at a time. I will get allot of reading done and plan to make a few upbeat mixes for the iPod Mini.

After the 4 week induction stage, I am going to get 2 weeks off so Jim and I can keep our current vacation plans in place and then I will resume with 48 weeks of shots at 3x per week.

Lots to do over the next few days with Insurance, Work and odds and ends. And I will be smiling the whole time because in spite of the year ahead, We just LEAPED over a hurdle with some GOOD NEWS for the first time since this whole thing started! And good news is always welcome!

Any good suggestions for upbeat songs to listen to while in chemo? Any good books you can recommend? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know!

CLEAN NODES! CLEAN NODES! Hehehehe .. Living STRONG here in Northern VA!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Drain Free and Loving It!

Finally today I was able to rid myself of that blasted drain. I have had drain before and this one was no different. They pinch and pull and are a general nuisance just like you might imagine a piece of tubing sticking out of your body might be.

I stopped into Dr. Wagner's office (surgeon extraordinaire) and he had the drain pulled out in less time than it took me to take off my shirt. Admittedly, I am moving slowly these days with my shirt since both arms are still stiff and tender from surgery but it was still quick. And the best part was that I didn't even feel him pull it out! I guess the drain was not set very deeply into my armpit.

So, Dr. Wagner's part in my Melanoma adventures is over for the time being. He said he didn't want to see me until it was time to remove the Mediport. No word on the pathology of the lymph nodes yet but he said that he was going to try to have the report for tomorrow when I sat down to meet with Dr. Butler (my oncologist). So for now, the "Clean Nodes" mantra that I have been saying is still in effect.

As soon as the drain was out of lower arm pit, all immediate pain stopped. It is still tender and sore and I still can't raise either arm above my head but I already found myself thinking, "I wonder if I could recover enough to do the Columbia Triathlon in two weeks?" Funny how simply removing a tube made me reevaluate just how "triathlon" capable I really am.

Tomorrow's appointment with Dr. Butler will solidify the reality of what comes next so I am trying to shush the crazy triathlete in my head who still wants to finish up the spring season she was on track for.

The Columbia Triathlon holds a special place in my heart because it was my first Triathlon. It is a challenging course with lots of hills on the bike and run and it would do me good to remind myself that even with the great base that I have this season a .9 mile swim, a hilly 25 mile bike and a hilly 10K run is a challenging day without surgery under your belt 3 weeks prior.

Oh well, it makes me happy just to imagine the possibility of keeping that race on my calendar. That counts for something!

I have not had the courage to tell Dr. Butler that I have plans to still do the Marine Corps Marathon in the late Fall (October 2005) but Coach Debi and Jim know that I am still holding onto that race with hope. I don't hold grandiose notions of setting a PR in the Marathon but with a smart training plan and hope that the Interferon doesn't knock me on my butt during the low-dose phase, it is certainly worth a try. I'd have between 5.5 - 6 hours to get to the 14th Street Bridge and the 20 mile mark before the Sweep Bus catches me, so what is the harm in having a goal? No harm that I can see at this point!

As Lance Armstrong says: "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever."


Monday, May 09, 2005

Surgery #2 - Finis!

C'est Finis!

Surgery #2 of to remove more lymph nodes from my left auxiliary (aka armpit) and to place a Mediport is complete and I am doing well. Tomorrow Dr. Wagner will take out the drain that is currently in place and proving to be a total pain in my armpit and then on Wednesday, Jim and I will meet with Dr. Butler and start planning the "nitty gritty" that will become "adjuvant therapy" for the next 52 weeks.

The surgery itself was fairly normal with the exception of my right arm and her numerous veins. On Wednesday, my veins decided they would rather not be available for the convenience of the anesthesiologist and myself. So after 3 attempts, they simply rolled me down to OR, had me slide on over onto the operating table and slipped the gas masked over my face and told me to breath deep.

An hour and a half later I came to with an IV sticking out of my jugular vein!! Not at all what I was anticipating and as you can imagine, it took a little extra effort on my part to calm down, relax and come around. Thankfully Jim was allowed into OR recovery to help relax me and as soon as he was there, holding my hand, my pulse dropped and my tear subsided. All in all, I think I handled it well considering that no where in my expectations for post-surgery had I planned on an external jugular catheter!

Expectations are a bitch!

Recovery these past 5 days has been okay. Post surgery, I felt the normal pain from the drain that I expected (some pinching and tugging) and overall soreness in my right arm and shoulder from the placement of the Mediport. Day 2 my entire back felt like I had been either 1.) Hit by a truck at high speed OR 2.) Done an endo off my bike and landed flat on my back .. Choose the scenario you can relate to most. My muscles were sore, tight and I ached all over.

Now on Day 5, except for the nuisance of the drain, I feel fine. I'd go for a run if my arms could move more freely, instead I settled for a two mile walk on Sunday and 30 minutes on a recumbent bike at the gym tomorrow after the drain is removed!

They put the Mediport in my upper chest instead of behind my collarbone as described prior to surgery. Jim and I suspected that placement was dictated by the unexpected need for a line in my jugular vein during surgery. I plan to ask Dr. Wagner tomorrow. For now it doesn't seem to bother me much but I suspect that I might have to choose my bras carefully since the Mediport is placed in line with where some bra straps might fall.

So that is the latest on my end. The pathology on the additional lymph nodes probably won't be ready until the end of this week. I imagine that "could" have in impact on the talks with my oncologist, Dr. Butler. Still right now all the focus is on CLEAN NODES! Say it with me: CLEAN NODES!

One Day at a time, Living STRONG all the way!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

May is Melanoma Awareness Month

Be sure you go through the house and throw out all of last years sunscreen and get yourself a new batch for this summer. After all, spring cleaning should include more than just your house!


So I've been thinking about everything a lot lately (D'OH, no really?!?) and there is still one particular thing that really makes me angry.


All through this early diagnosis, I have felt fine. Great! Amazing, in fact. I have been running faster than last year, mile for mile. I have busted my butt and lost the 20 extra pounds I gained last year PLUS 10 more for good measure! And I had a very full and exciting triathlon season planned.

Now before you go and admonish me too much, let me also state that I am VERY THANKFUL that I don't feel sick. I know that this is a blessing and I know that feeling this good tells my Doctors that maybe they did get it all early enough and that the additional surgery and adjuvant therapy are simply some extra "insurance" against a later reoccurance.

Still, the frustration of knowing that I feel great now and in less than a month I might not feel so great is looming. I made myself a little note last night and put it on my mirror. The note says:

You WILL get through this and you WILL feel 100% better!
Just take it one day at a time for the next 365 days!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Status Quo

So this brings you to the present and my status quo:

I have my second round of surgery set for Wednesday, May 4th.

Dr. Wagner will remove a large portion of my sentinel lymph nodes and place a "Mediport" catheter into my chest to make the Interferon IV infusions and blood work samples needed throughout the year easier on my poor arms. Sounds better than being a pincushion and having the veins in my arms collapse!

Another great thing - I can swim with this "Mediport" since it is completely under my skin!!

You can just call me "Robo-Holly" as of Wednesday.

I see my Oncologist a week after surgery to get started on the arrangement/planning to start the Interferon Therapy.

Let the battle begin in earnest!! I'm ready.

Message to Melanoma cells still in my body: You little freaky bastards pick the WRONG WOMAN! I am a freakin' triathlete and a soon to be IRONMAN! I have plans, and they sure as hell don't include you! You had better get the hell out of my lymph nodes and I hope you suffer and die when that Interferon hits my system! There is no room for you here!

Opinion #2 - Interferon-alpha & My Choice

So with the Richmond 10K under my belt, I did more reading and tried to patiently wait 10 days for my second opinion from the Oncologist recommended by my surgeon.

On April 18th, Jim and I met with Dr. Butler and discussed my prognosis. His recommendation is a Lymph Node Dissection to make sure that there is no more cancer and a year of Interferon-alpha therapy.

Jim and I weighed the pro and we weighed the cons of Interferon vs a clinical trial. The Interferon leaves allot to be desired in the immediate "Quality of Life" scenario but we know it has a high chance of adding an additional disease-free year to my life. The clinical trials are a gamble. Some work, some don't ... and most trial are 2 years of study with no guarantee.

So for me the real factor became:

Do I give up a year NOW and feel like I have the flu and worse so that I gain a year later?


Do I give up 2 years on a clinical trial, have better quality of life for those two years and run the risk that it might not work at all, in which case, Interferon-alpha will probably have to happen anyways?

No decision is easy to make. Interferon is nasty for some people and mild for others. There is no way to know what my reaction will be. But it is my decision to take the choice that already has know efficacy.

A Month of Anxiety - Opinion #1 - Clinical Trial

If somebody told you that you had cancer and that it happened to be a cancer that they really don't have much approved, effective treatment for once it has metastasized, would you be a little concerned?

Yes Holly, I would.

Good, I am normal. And do you think if after you got your initial news that the cancer had spread, you had been told that the next time a Dr. could see you might be in a month, that you might freak out a little?

Yes, Holly , I might!

Well I did. I am a reader and the internet has plenty to read. I got online and read everything I could. The best links I found are to the right. They are very helpful!

So I read and read and read and realized that with 4 weeks until I saw my "first opinion" Dr., I might just be able to get to see a "second opinion" Dr as well. This led to me to finding NIH, NCI and the Maryland Melanoma Center. All groups that are running clinical trials for Melanoma.

Clinical Trials? Isn't that a bit much? That is what I thought too. But the reality of Melanoma is that is is a "Freaky, Nasty, Funky Cancer" that doesn't seem to respond like many other cancers. So many of the Chemos and Therapy that work in other cases don't work for Melanoma. In fact only one treatment besides surgery is currently approved for use in treating Melanoma with the FDA. That doesn't leave one with too many choices or recommendations.

So I was able to get an appointment on April 8th at the Maryland Melanoma Center in Baltimore, MD. Jim and I drove up and the kind and young Dr. Z. met with us and looked over my case and gave me 4 options that he saw based on my prognosis which is Metastic Melanoma, STAGE III

Choice 1: Do nothing (NOT RECOMMENDED)

Choice 2: Have a lymph node dissection to removed the rest of the nodes under my arm in an effort to determine:
a. That the cancer has not spread
b. That the cancer has spread

Choice 3: Lymph Node Dissection & Interferon Adjuvant Therapy

Choice 4: Lymph Node Dissection & MMC Clinical Trial of Low Dose Interlukin-2

Jim and I took this information with us and headed to Richmond for the weekend. After all, I had a 10K to run! Melanoma or no Melanoma, I was running this race!


Shocked - Node Biopsy Positive - Metastic Melanoma

Okay, nothing can prepare you for the news that cancer has already spread. ESPECIALLY when you have already been told that it has not spread. My case is not one of malpractice or misinformation. It is simply the nature of surgical pathology. You can't test everything right then and there and in my case, the melanoma in my sentinel lymph node has metastasized to the very top of my lymph node in a microscopic but very present colony of cells. Taking sections from various spots in the middle of the lymph node did in fact come back negative for melanoma.

Because the bastard cells were hiding out up at the top! Sneaky little freaky cancer! Now I know you .... and now I know that you are not going to fit into my "comfortable type A, as you expect it to go" scenario.

Soon March 21, I see my surgeon for one week follow-up from surgery. I am feeling great and two weeks away from a 10k running race. The positive biopsy shocks us both. Dr. Wagner (who is still my surgeon, I like him .. just don't like the cancer) recommends me to a local oncologist, Dr. Butler. It is time to bring in a specialist to recommend what happens next.

Parting words: If it takes 3 weeks to get an appointment with Dr. Butler, try not to worry. I think that is still an okay timeline based on the biopsy. Come back and see me in a few months so that I can check on those scars.

I stop into Dr. Butler's office on my way out of the building and make an appointment. The soonest he can see me is April 18th (4 weeks away) and I can imagine why. He office waiting room is packed! And suddenly I realize that all these people are "cancer patients" and their family or friends.

Oh my gosh .. this is getting serious! I call Jim as I wait for the bus to go back to work. Honey, they found more cancer. I can't do this alone anymore. Can you come with me when I go back to the oncologist? The answer is as I knew it would be:


Surgery - Part I

Malignant Melanoma .. type it in a search engine and see how quickly you would freak out? Ah .. but do enough reading and you realize that caught early 90% of Melanoma is stopped in it's tracks! That is good news for many!

That is the news that I clung too and that is the "word" that the surgeon and my former Dermatologist stuck to. "You caught this early, we will do a wide excision and you will be fine."

Just one little thing... the melanoma was a little deep. Anything over 1.00 mm and we like to do a Sentinel Lymph node Biopsy to make sure that the Melanoma had not metastasized to the lymph nodes.

So on March 11th, a full month after I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. I had a wide area excision on my back and a sentinel lymph node biopsy of the left auxiliary (aka left armpit). The initial determination of the sentinel node was NEGATIVE based on frozen sections take while in the OR. Little did I know (because I didn't ask and was not told) that there was additional pathology to be done before it was a final Negative.

Surgery was outpatient and recovery was quick. I was back to running and biking within the week and onto swimming again two weeks post surgery. Other than some initial pain in my left arm which cleared up just 4 weeks after surgery, I was pretty much pain free and didn't need to take any time off from work since I planned surgery on a Friday and spent the weekend recuperating.

At the Dermatologist - Part I - THE CALL

The Dermatologist looked at my mole, said he didn't like the colors and numbed me up and cut it right off my shoulder. He said that he would send it out to the lab and that if they found anything, they would call.

The Call:

Strange Voice on Phone: "Hi Ms. G. This is Dr. G's office calling, we have the result of your mole biospy"

Holly: "Okay thanks."

SV: "Well you have skin cancer so call this number, xxx-xxxx and see Dr. Wagner for a wide excission and call us if you have any questions, okay"

CLICK .... dialtone

Holly: "???? Hello???"


Not the best of beginnings! So I promptly called the Dr's office back and said "What kind of skin cancer was it?"

Malignant Melanoma, Clarks Level: IV, Breslow depth: 1.35mm, free margins

In the Beginning

So as promised, here are some of the details up through today, on my experiences being diagnosed with metastic Melanoma.

How did it start?

I came home from a long run one Sunday in late January and hopped into the shower to clean off. As I was cleaning my back, I felt a large bump and naturally thought, "Damn that is a huge pimple!" I often get pimples from being sweaty and having my sports bra rub my skin, so I thought nothing of it. Got out of the shower, proceeded to dry off and looked in the mirror to "see" just how bad it was. Imagine my guenuine surprise to find a mole.

Hmmm...I didn't have that mole before did I?

I am pale, freckle instead of tan and have always had several small flat moles like my mom. She has always told me to "keep an eye on the moles" and go to the Dr. if they changed. Being the "good girl" that I am and having recently hounded my boyfriend Jim to the dermatologist for what turned out to be a basil cell carcinoma, I made an appointment to see my primary Dr who recommended me to a Dermatalogist who could see me in 2 weeks.