13,000 Australians were diagnosed with Melanoma in 2015, around 35 people per day, and a week before Christmas, I was one of those people.
I had gone into my local GP to simply have a prescription written and while the Doctor was typing away he asked if there was anything else I wanted him to look at, to fill in the time I showed him the freckles on my arm, the ones that I had showed two Doctors before who had said they were fine. The young Doctor looked concerned and said he would rather they came off than stayed on, so I booked to come back in three days and have the spots removed.
I had, had a few spots removed before and even though it wasn't nice, it wasn't the end of the world, the nurse chatted away about the holidays and before I knew it was over and the surgery would call when the results from pathology came back.
I left the surgery and went about my day, shopping for Christmas, wrapping presents, getting the house ready for guests and attended Christmas drinks, the usual busy time before Christmas, even busier as we were still unpacking our new home, and finishing off renovations.
It was the next morning when I had a missed call from the Doctors surgery that I knew something wasn't right, they needed to see me right away, so I organised the children and Tom and I went in. It was horrible, waiting to see just how bad the results were, when the Doctor called my name he had a somber look on his face, I sat down in the chair and took a deep breath and got ready for what was about to hit me, "I guess you've figured out the results from pathology weren't great, and you have Melanoma" he said, from there the rest of the appointment was a complete blur, there was talks of plastic surgeons, hospital stays, a full body spot check was done and before I knew it we were leaving with instructions to wait until the hospital called with a time to see the plastic surgeon.
If Tom wasn't there I would have forgotten the whole appointment, The Doctor told me he thought the cancer hadn't gotten into my Lymph Nodes (glands), which was good because as soon as it does it spreads through your body at a rapid pace, he also told me I would probably have about a 6cm diameter removed from my upper arm (where the original spots where), along with some muscle, which would then be tested and hopefully come back cancer free.
The next day I had an appointment to go and see the plastic surgeon at the hospital, I popped in by myself on the 22nd of December, because I was sure he would look at my arm, explain what was going to happen and book me in after Christmas.
He didn't. He sat down with me, told me my cancer was a "four out of five" in regards to how bad it was and cleared his schedule to have me be his first patient in surgery in the morning, once again another blur occurred, he sat with me for an hour explaining the immune system, the cancer itself, how much he would remove, the skin graft he would do, how it effects the body and what would happen if it was to reach my glands. He sent me off to a special chemist to start some Melanoma specific immune drugs and I was to come back to the hospital in an hour to sort through pre-operating procedures.
Two days before Christmas I woke up early and headed into the hospital with my brother while Tom tried to make the day as normal as possible for the children. Talk about scary, I still hadn't had enough time to get it all clear in my head. As I was wheeled into surgery I looked at my right arm for the last time as it would never be the same again and I thought about seeing my family in the afternoon, who loved me for me and not what I looked like. When I woke up I was surprised to feel my leg was bandaged up, I had originally been told the skin graft would be taken from my left arm so I felt relieved that it had obviously been taken from my right thigh. I was in pain and ready to see my family.
After one night in hospital I checked out in the afternoon of Christmas eve and was relived to be home with hopefully the worst behind me. The excitement of Christmas was a great distraction and even though I was in pain, (skin grafts are a killer, so much pain!), it was impossible not to feel the excitement and joy that the children felt when leaving out food for Santa and even more so when finding out he had been the following morning.
Where to from here? I wait, wait until Tuesday to see if all the cancer has been removed and how my arm is going to look after being through a pretty major surgery.
So there is my Melanoma story, unfortunately it's not over yet, and probably wont be for a few years, but if I hadn't had it looked at when I did, It wouldn't have gone so well, and I'm so thankful for that.
For now, wish me luck, and remember on these hot, not hot, overcast, windy or rainy Australian summer days, to slip, slop, slap and have a spot check.