20 down and treatment finished!

Yipeeeee I’m finished! I never imagined that it would go so quickly!

Everyone on the bus celebrated today and they even got me a card to wish me well. Its like we were all part of some summer holiday and even though each person leaving meant they are getting better we all will miss each other!

I am exhausted. Struggling to keep my eyes open as all that travelling and zapping has finally caught up with me.   My armpit is so red, so sore and the skin has cracked too so I cant really do much at all.    My doctor has recommended I take it easy for a while as it will take a while for me to heal. So no swimming or partying for me just yet..

He also confirmed I will not be needing chemotherapy! YAY!!  He said that chemo is only given to stage 4 metastatic melanomas and that I am stage 3. He said it was from my original melanoma on my back that it transferred to my lymph nodes.  He said I could choose to have interferon drugs however this would be over the period of a whole year and it will decrease my quality of life quite a lot so I will have to seriously consider this.   He also said I have a 50% chance of reacurrence too.  This is scary but I try too look at it as though my cup is half full as opposed to half empty!  I will be monitored every 3 months for a year, every six months for two years after that and then once a year for 10 years after that! He said melanoma is more likely to return in the same place where it appeared already which is why they treat it with radiotherapy as this reduces the chance of this happening by 40%.    He also said that I need to hold off having more kids for now. This is cause pregnancy reduces the immune system and if melanoma will come back its normally within 2-3 years.  I am never to go in the sun again.  I am to wear a hat and SPF 50 minimum and must keep my body covered with long sleeves especially my back that is covered with moles.  So no waltzing around in the sun for me.   This doesn’t mean Ill be wearing jumpers in the summer, it just means I’ll be extra careful from now on.   I think I will be investing on an SPF top from http://www.lioninthesun.com/ as they have adult sized ones too!

All in all he was very helpful and I am very very satisfied by the Bank of Cyprus Oncology unit as well as the Pasykaf in Paphos.

Thank you to all my friends on the bus, all my friends on facebook, my husband and family and to all of you who prayed for me and wished for me and thought of me these past few months. God bless you.

From melanoma free Alethea 🙂

A really rough morning

Well as you all may know yesterday I had to see the oncologist about my second opinion results.

I was nervous about this as she had called me on Thursday to inform me she had my results and she wanted to see me.  When a doctor calls you and says they want to see you it isn’t to tell you that you are fine and you may go home. However I wasn’t expecting what I was told.

Arriving at 745am I finally got in to see her at 11!  She said the results of my parafin samples (images seen previously) stated that most of my lymph nodes tested positive for Melanoma cancer.   I was in shock.  How on earth can they say I have that when only last week I got the all clear from the other lab?   They said that the second opinion came from an in depth analisis of the samples I gave them.  Does this mean other people are walking around thinking they are fine and they are not? Or do they all get a second opinion? If so whats the point of the first one if its inaccurate?

Dr Filippou then went on to tell me that I have to have localised radiotherapy every day for six weeks in Nicosia.  I was so upset to hear this.   You see even though they have done the surgery and that’s a success as such I’m still poorly enough to need radiotherapy.  I had prepared myself for interferon but not radiotherapy.  Its not a painful experience and there aren’t many side effects other than tiredness and it only lasts a few minutes but its radiotherapy. Its just not a word I ever thought Id need to use for me.

She sent me upstairs to make copies of my results and as I was walking through the corridors I had to really control myself as I found myself getting more and more upset.  I felt like I was watching myself fall apart like in one of those movies when the person gets bad news and they get all upset.. So I took a deep breath and said I’m fine, I’m okay over and over to calm myself down.  It kinda worked.

So on Wednesday after I have my pancake boob test at 9:15am I am off to Nicosia to see Dr katoklitis or something like that at the Bank of Cyprus oncology center in Nicosia. He will explain what happens next, when I will start the treatment, what the side effects are and what I can and cannot do during treatment.

After I got home to my at the time empty house I sat down and wrote an email to my boss to notify them of what was happening.  After I finished reading it its as if a big massive fat hand slapped me in the face and the floodgates opened.  I felt better after it. Its good to cry. Well if you are a chick. Perhaps men punch a wall or something but crying is much better. Its a great stress relief.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with my lovely cousin chatting to me and with my head all over the place.  I found as the day progressed I got better and better and realised that this is not the end I’m on the road to recovery and I will beat this.  With the help of some radiotherapy, possibly some interferon after and maybe some chemo but I’m rather hoping I wont be needing that.. maybe a few vodkas the occasional fag and perhaps even a night out or two.

On the plus side, after they zap my right armpit I wont have to shave it ever again! No hairy right amprit. yay for my hairless to be right armpit.  Less shaving foam so I’m already saving on money. See that’s TWO pluses lol I can always wave with my right arm and never have to worry about looking like a hairy amazon woman.. 🙂

My scars are healing nicely and now Bob has gone my two mini scars are healing nicely too.  I bought some Bio Oil which has worked wonders. Did you know that you can use it for old scars and wrinkles too? I still cant actually feel my right armpit so as I cant reach around the scar I’ve actually plucked the hair out with tweezers. (not for much longer! lol) No I didn’t feel a thing!   My elbow area all the way up my right arm is super sensitive to touch and late at night it hurts to put moisturising cream on.  Remember to keep your lymph node free part of your body moisturised.

I’m still eating healthy and I don’t leave the house without sun protection on anymore.  I’m not putting myself in a bubble or anything I’m just not taking any chances. You only get one life! And I’ve been given a warning danger sign for mine.

Live, love and be happy.  Because life is worth it.

Taken 11/06/10 right armpitBob's exit wounds! Taken one day after removal. 11/06/10

Oncologist Visit

I went to Limassol today as you may know to see the oncologist. I thought I’d get there and that they’d be all pleased with all my results and send me home. But life is more complicated than that! The lady Oncologist (the one I usually saw is a chap) asked me to go and get all my sample results from the histopathology clinic from town and take them back to her so they could then be sent to Nicosia for a second opinion.  More driving for mum!

After that I was told I have to go and get a post op CT scan of my chest which has been booked for Monday at 1030 am!  The good thing about this is that I don’t need any new blood tests, and I don’t need to drink that god awful water that tastes like Ouzo and makes me sick, as its just a scan of my chest!  I do get the injection still though.. The bad thing is I cant eat!  No food till 1030am!  Yes I know there are worst things in life.  But me and food are closer than a tick on dogs bottom.

So now I have to wait till the 18th of this month to find out whats next.  I hope the new CT scan is clear again. I hope they are happy with the second opinion and I hope they tell me whether on not there will be offering any treatment.  But most of all I hope I am truly melanoma free.

My surgeon is totally amazed with my results.  He cant believe it went from such a serious diagnosis to the existing clear one.   I think its because of all the great support, all the prayers from three separate churches (two in England, one in Cyprus) my constant chants to the universe and a whole lot of luck.  Thank god, nature and my human body for being strong, the melanoma for not spreading and what ever else as helped me get through this.

I know my journey is not over and my lifestyle has been changed already to help prevent recurrence, from healthy eating to daily sunblock cream and I have even bought a protective sleeve to keep my right arm cool when driving in the sun. I will also do my best to spread awareness of what can happen to some people if they do not protect their skin.  But most of all, I will live, I will love and I will be happy.

Here are some images of what was taken out of my armpit before and after.  They are kept in small blocks called paraffin blocks.  They are a bit fuzzy as I took them whilst my mum was driving. But it gives you an idea of what they look like!

Tomorrow I am hoping to have my drain removed.  Bob can finally move on and help someone else drain their unwanted lymph fluid…

So my advice to you would be live love and be happy!

Here you can clearly see the sample is black, from melanoma! This was inside me!

Bag of samples from first op!

Sample 2 of lymphnodes!

Back of second lot of samples from second surgery, my lymph nodes

Friday at last

I woke up today thinking at last its Friday! The weekend approaches, I can get some rest.  I feel like I have been going none stop in fear that if I do stop I may not start again!     As I walked into my son’s room I was hit by a wave of a seriously bad smell.. and as I approached his cot, my fears were verified. He was caked in poop.  Not only was he caked in poop, his legs were caked in dried poop, the WHITE sheets had poop on it, his milk bottle had poop on it and the best part… he was fast asleep in poop.   hahaha I mean really, little boys truly are disgusting! Or is it just mine?   So it was a mad rush for me, to get his bath running then put him in his bath, take his sheets off, dress him, put him downstairs, give him a bottle, put sheets in bath to soak and all before 8 o clock!  lol Before I had my son it took a fire drill to get me out of bed before 8.30! Funny how now I am wide awake and at work ten minutes early..

I have to say I struggled at work today.  I was really tired, I think the past two weeks finally caught up with me and although I did all my work I couldn’t wait to come home.   My collegues and boss have all been really supportive about the whole thing so I didn’t feel too guilty! (thanks) Although announcing I was knackered after only two days of work perhaps wasn’t the bestest idea I’ve ever had.

I picked up Christian from nursery and his afternoon teacher asked how I was; I said I need more surgery next week so my mum will be coming again to pick him up.  She did ask me why, I just said its going to take a little longer for me to get better.    What can I say in these situations..?! I cant just keep telling people I have cancer as its scares them more than me! And I am the one who’s got it!

For the rest of the evening I just collapsed on the couch whilst hubby rubbed my feet. He’s always done that for me bless him every since we met. Aren’t I lucky.

By bedtime I felt a little less optimistic even though I am strong because all day I’ve heard “that’s excellent news” about my results.  But if you really think about it, its not really excellent news, how can having cancer be excellent news.  Its the kind of thing that makes a doctor say: Do you want the good news, or the bad news?  Cause thats exactly how you can discribe my case, the good news is that the cancer hasn’t spread, the bad news is I’ve still got it.

Still, by next week, they will take it ALL out and then I will be cancer free..  and lymph node free too apparently.  Its not the best surgery.  My arm still hurts, I cant raise it like I used to, it hurts to hang the washing out and to lift clothes up over my head to get undressed which I struggle with. From my elbow to my armpit I have no feeling on the outside so you can put a fag out on me… But I can reach to scratch my arse, so thats a plus.. I cant really ask a stranger to do that now can I!

I’ll leave you with that thought. 🙂

Where to begin?

Once upon a time there was this girl (me) who when she was pregnant with her first and only child (so far) was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in her back from a mole aka freckle, beauty spot etc in December 2008. In March 2009 during c-section further re movement of back tissue was done to ensure all the mole was gone.  This was done successfully and results where good.  After that, blood tests came back clear, a CT scan that also came back clear in October 2009. Excellent. This girl and her husband and son lived happily ever after.

The present day.

On April 13th I found a lump in my right armpit. It was a tiny lump. Hubby insisted I go check it out. I did. The doctor said it was just a swollen lymph and its probably nothing to worry about, the two aren’t related and to go back if it grew. Well it grew, rapidly. On Friday 30th I had general anesthetic as they said it was a cyst that was growing and removed it. On Tuesday the 4th of May the doctors said it was malignant melanoma. They said it was related to my back mole. They took out sourrounding lymph nodes to check them for too.  On 06/05/10 I was diangosed with malignant metastatic melanoma.

How crap is THAT. I mean you go about your daily routine, working, paying bills, arguing about what channel to watch on TV, how expensive it is to go shopping these days and then this happens. And everything else doesn’t matter.

I was in my sons room getting him ready for bed and I was dancing around trying to make him smile and I wondered, what if I dont get to see him grow up?  What if he grows up without his mum? What if he turns out different, just because he didnt have a mum?

Then I ask myself, can I have more children? Should I have more children? I mean what if I have more children and then my poor husband will have no one to help him if I die?

A thousand questions I have asked myself at the same time as trying to remain positive and saying I am going to beat this.  But am I?  I will do my best! But what if my best isnt good enough? How do you fight the inevitable if something is inevitable?

Tomorrow I am going to see the oncologist. He will tell me what ammunition I will be needing to fight my war against melanoma.

Here you can read about it.