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  • About Heather

    Hi and thanks for stopping by!

    My name is Heather. I'm a child of God, wife of 12 years, and mom to two young boys nearing 3 & 6 years old.

    I have been blogging on and off since 2003 and have covered a variety of topics: recipes, cooking, photography, being a stay-at-home-mom, surviving melanoma, retiring from photography, my faith, hobbies, mommyhood, the array of therapies required for the special needs in our household.

    I'm far from perfect. His grace is enough! Join me as I share my journey...

A Little Update on The Freckle 4.0 (Melanoma & other things)

I am stunned it’s been about two months since my last blog post. Sorry to keep you hanging!

I had a successful melanoma removal December 11th, 2014.

At this in-office removal, I zoned out with my earbuds in and night-mask on – just as I did in 2012. As I thumbed through my playlights, Lacrae was the loudest album I had. My taste in music is anything but mainstream, but 99% of the time, it’s a Christian artist. Lacrae has an amazing redemption story – one I get choked up over just listening to his lyrics. It felt like the perfect distraction while she removed a chunk of cancerous skin from my left buttock.

01 margins
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day 2
day 4
day 6
day 8
day 10
day 12

 

I strongly feel that ANYONE who steps foot in a tanning salon, should FIRST sit in on a melanoma removal like mine. I realize many people get skin cancer who don’t use tanning beds, but I know people still frequent these places… and they should be outlawed! Using a tanning bed is more carcinogenic than smoking. YUCK!

Recovery was 15 days of STANDING  or laying on my right side. No bending. My dermatologist said she would suture “extra deep” to help ensure they wouldn’t pop open. Fun times. My boys thought I was a pretty lame mommy. Breastfeeding was super tricky.

I also had an “unexpected cleanse” around day 9 of melanoma removal recovery in the form of a roto-virus. Yes, TMI, but I mention this because I proudly didn’t pop open any sutures while so sick.

The day after Christmas, my husband and I drove south to Denver to see my oncologist. It’s one of the best places to go for melanoma, so I knew I was in good hands. He said my survival rate in 20 years is 90% (I’ll take it!), based off my melanomas size/depth, etc.

He’s happy with me seeing him once a year as long as I stay on top of seeing my dermatologist every 3 months or sooner as I notice new freckles. If a melanoma grows just 4mm deep (that’s the width of two #2 pencils…) my survival rate in 20 years plummets down to 40%.

EARLY DETECTION!! Melanoma is no joke. My oncologist had a packet of information for hubby and I to read once we got home, but he reviewed the most important parts for me.

Sun protection

Early detection

Sadly, I might have a genetic mutation that can be passed down to our boys that makes them more likely to get melanoma. Sorry guys. Mommy sucks. 🙁  There is a MIGHT in there – I haven’t had any genetic testing done at this point. I’m not sure I will unless I know there would be something additional we could do to prevent melanoma in our family.

Right now, we’re doing EVERYTHING he recommended and then some:

  • reducing chemical use
  • continuing eating organic whenever possible
  • use sunscreen (even in the winter) – he said because we live at a high-altitude, it’s important to always apply sunscreen… that going outside without sunscreen in the winter is WORSE than going to the beach in Florida (at sea-level) without sunscreen
  • avoiding sun exposure
  • extra vitamin D
  • exercise whenever possible
  • skin check every 3 months
  • prayer

The suture removal was done at my oncologist instead of dermatologist simply because the 14 days benchmark fell on Christmas day. It was a coil suture and my body healed right over it… so instead of pulling it out smoothly and fairly easily, the coil was stuck! Four different people at the oncologist tried to pull it out. Oh yeah, it was SO painful… and my poor husband had to watch (which I’m sure was quite gross) – but the PULLING on that coil suture is something I’ll never forget. It could qualify for torture.

“I kept thinking they would just yank and get it all out” he said, but they had to restrain force, otherwise the incision could have popped open.

My options:

  1. have them flag down a surgeon, reopen it, remove coil style sutures and re-suture
  2. leave the suture, which might rise up to the surface of the skin or may just “dissolve” even though they aren’t the dissolvable kind of suture

Neither sounded great so I told my oncologist to decide for me.

“Let’s leave it.” He said decisively.

I knew they had an inch or so of suture hanging out, but the rest would remain and still somewhat limit my mobility. It’s slowly getting better and less “tight” feeling. Day 25 post removal:

day 25

As recovery and healing continue, there’s more than just my melanoma going on with our family.

Life continues to be intense. While I can’t even begin to compare myself to Job, I do feel like I’m getting beat up from multiple angles some days.

About 6 weeks after melanoma removal, I was washing my face and noticed three new freckles in a row (like a star constellation)  ON MY FACE. They showed up almost overnight.

Melanoma is scary enough, having to deal with it deforming my face immediately haunted me… for about two days, then I called and made an appointment to see my dermatologist YET again.

They got me in within a few days – and she looked surprised to see my new freckles. She said hormones can cause quick changes like this.  I haven’t been outside for new sun exposure… As she looked at them on a microscopic level (not sure what that tool is called), she said they looked fairly similar in color to my others freckles on my face, so we can watch them. She said if I felt SUPER worried about them, she could slice one off and send it into pathology, but I declined. I knew I had another skin check scheduled for March. She obviously would biopsy anything that looked suspicious at that time.

So, I suppose that was a relief – but let me tell you: looking at my body and staying vigilant is emotionally draining.  It’s hard to stay positive when you’re looking for “which freckle could be next?”

I’m reading the Bible start-to-finish again and also books on FULLY trusting God – something I thought I was doing OK at, but it turns out, it’s harder than I expected and I’m more of a control freak than I’d care to admit.

Meanwhile, I did not the best OB check a couple weeks ago. She ordered an ultrasound for Feb 9th to see what’s going on. Could very likely be stress/hormones OR it could be uterine polyps. Yuck 🙁

All this on top of being a wife and mom – IEPs and multiple standing appointments/therapies each week. It is just so much… I made the HARD choice of stepping down from my leadership position at MOPS and even attending MOPS for the rest of the season. It is “The Best Yes” for me right now, but it doesn’t make it an easy one.

I sometimes hear people say “God won’t give you more than what you can handle.”

Oh really? That’s a nice thought, but where’s THAT in the Bible? Is that what he did to Job? Is that what’s going on with me?

I think all this IS more than what I can personally handle. I’m thankful I have faith (even the size of a mustard seed) in Christ, because without it, I’m sure I’d be going bat-crazy. (the random twitching in my right eye this week MAY indicate just how close I am to that point)

I’m tired. Weary. Heavy burdened. God says “come to me and I will give you rest.” Some nights I feel that rest, other nights I’m up every 2-3 hours with LB (various reasons). The next day, I run on His Grace and fumes. Honestly, I totally “get” why sleep deprivation is a from of torture.  That and those coil sutures getting stuck….

Please leave a comment below & share with your friends. All comments await my moderation.

Sarah - August 19, 2015 - 9:05 pm

Heather, I am so sorry you had to go through this again. Since you deleted Facebook, I read your blog from time to time and found this. How scary! I had an almost melanoma ( after two opinions they said it wasn’t but treated it like one) scare and I know what it is like to go thru this. I have had numerous things removed. Tanning beds should be outlawed! I hope you are doing well.

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