Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NED #2 - WARNING GRAPHIC PHOTOS AND PICTURES IN THIS POST

Steve got the results back from the doctor today.  NED!!!!  We are so excited and relieved!  We are closing on our new house that we just had built on January 10th, I am going back to work sometime in January (after staying home for 2 1/2 years).  We have lots on our plate and NO time for melanoma!!


Before we met with the doctor, Steve had has 3 month dermatology check up.  Everything looked good overall, but there was one spot that looked worrisome to the derms. They did not like the "center clearing".  So, off it came via an 8mm punch.  The mole is on his right rib cage area. Here are some pics and video.

WARNING GRAPHIC PHOTOS AND VIDEO


Waiting to see the derm

Small mole with "center clearing"

Administering Lidocaine

More Lidocaine

Numbed up

Steve's photos stored in the computer from last visit to compare to today's visit.

Starting the punch

Getting going

She had to stop and give more lidocaine because Steve could still feel it

Getting going again.

And it is gone!

Little mole with "center clearing" will be sent off to pathology.

Getting stitched up.

All stitched up.




Sunday, December 29, 2013

"3 month check up"

"Three month check up."  It sounds so simple.  It sounds so uneventful.  It sounds so routine. For cancer patients and their families, that could not be further from the truth.  Steve and I have many, many wonderful "melahomies" that understand this, yet we have so many friends and even family that do not have any idea what a "three month checkup" is to us.  They do not know because they have never experienced it.  It is no fault of theirs and we don't think any less of them.  Many people just have not had to walk this path.

So, what are 3 month checkups in our eyes?  Three month check ups are a daunting reminder of the life we now live.  The "3 month" window.  Steve's last scans in September showed him to be NED (no evidence of disease), so we celebrated the last few months by trying to forget about melanoma.  We just acted like it didnt exist.  I have poured my everything into melanoma awareness, fundraising, researching treatments, clinical trials, etc., these past 2 years and frankly I was just worn out.  I felt a little guilty for taking a step back (but definitely not out!) of the melanoma world.  I still read about and keep up with out melahomies, but overall, I have been absent from it all.  I couldn't tell you anything about the latest trials, I couldn't tell you when the next walk is, I'm not sure when the last time I posted melanoma/tanning bed information on my Facebook page.  I just really wanted to forget it all.  But, here it is again.  Our life stands still once again.  What does tomorrow hold for us?  What does next week hold for us?  Do we get to breathe another 3 months?  Will Steve suddenly be doing treatment again?  Will a surgery be in the near future?  So many unknowns that all fall in the hands of one day "3 month check up day".

Steve had his first set of scans this morning at MD Anderson.  He will have another set of scans tomorrow, a dermatology appointment, and then an appointment with his oncologist for results.  We are hoping for continued NED so we can "live" our lives another 3 months.  We are thankful to have great friends that spent the morning with us today at MD Anderson.  Between them and football today, it definitely kept our minds off things.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wide Excision Recovery

Many have asked how Steve's wounds from his wide excision surgery were healing, so I thought I would post a few pictures.  Also, I thought it would be good to have the pics on the blog for anyone that may be seeking information on the surgery and recovery process. 

The first few days Steve experienced mild pain.  He took a weak pain pill, but probably could have gotten by on Advil or Tylenol.

P.S.  Remember, I already know he is a hairy beast ;)

1 week post surgery - view of both cuts

View of lower cut - 1 week post surgery

Top cut - 1 week post surgery (this is the superglue they used starting to fall off)

9 days post surgery

Upper cut - 9 days post surgery

Lower cut - 9 days post surgery

Both cuts - 16 days post surgery

16 days post surgery - bottom cut

16 days post surgery - upper cut



Remember folks....love the skin you're in, see a dermatologist at least once a year, do monthly skin checks, wear sunscreen, seek shade, wear sunglasses, don't tan, take care of your skin!!!

I will try and remember to take pictures again in a week or two to show the final scars.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

CAUTION: GRAPHIC VIDEO

Here are the videos of Steve's 2 mole removals today; "wide margin excision".



This is the removal of the first mole (moderately atypical). 

Stitching up the first hole. 

Removal of the second mole (severely atypical).

CAUTION: GRAPHIC PHOTOS



Today Steve had his wide local excision at MD Anderson.  Everything went smooth and the doctor was kid enough to let me photo and video everything.  I have given an outline of the procedure for anyone who is curious and/or anyone who found their way to the blog looking to get info for an upcoming procedure they may be having.

The 2 spots before being marked.  One on the upper left and one right in the middle of back. (Yes, my husband is a hairy beast!)

Steve waiting on the doctor to come in.

Materials for the surgery.


Sterile material for the surgery.

Here is where the doctor marked up the area to cut.

The doctor starting the numbing medicine.

More numbing medicine.

Swollen after the numbing shots.

Letting the numbing medicine sit a bit.

Cutting out the first mole (middle of back) which was severely atypical.

Stitching the first cut.

Still stitching.

The first chunk!

All closed up.

Moving on to #2. Moderately atypical

Cutting out #2

Chunk #2

I will post videos in a separate blog post.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Surgery tomorrow

In September, Steve had 2 biopsies done of some suspicious moles on his back.  The moles came back negative for melanoma, but severely atypical. The dermatologists at MD Anderson decided it would be best to have surgery on these 2 moles (wide excision).  Tomorrow at noon Steve will have the wide excision on these 2 moles. The information regarding the surgery is in my last blog post, which you can access here

Other than surgery tomorrow, life has been pretty calm for us since Steve's last scans.  We went out of town for our daughter Sadie's birthday, we just got back from New Orleans for a Saints football game.  We had a blast! 

This weekend is the AIM at Melanoma walk in North Carolina.  I wish Steve and I were able to attend and meet up with so many of our fellow melanoma warriors/caregivers.  Next year for sure!  If you would like to donate to the walk, please do so here.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mesothelioma Awareness Day

While this post is unrelated to melanoma, I was contacted by Emily, the Community Outreach Director for a cancer organization known as the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance and asked to help spread awareness of Mesothelioma today for Mesothelioma Awareness Day. 

Please take a moment to read her blog to read some facts about Mesothelimoma.

8 Facts About Mesothelioma 

Thanks!!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Biopsies, surgeries, clear margins........rinse and repeat

Steve had 2 biopsies on his back last Monday, September 16, 2013.  He had one via the "punch" method and one via the "shave" method.  Steve was called with the results today.  Both biopsies came back free of melanoma but were classified as "severely atypical".  According to his dermatologist, "severely atypical" moles have a high chance of developing into melanoma. 

video video

On November 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm, Steve will have a surgery commonly referred to as "wide margin excision" to be sure that they have clear margins on both of the moles.  Even though the moles are not melanoma, MD Anderson is very proactive in severely atypical moles since they carry such a high risk of turning into melanoma.  The procedure is typically an inpatient surgery and takes 1-2 weeks to recover from.  Steve will be left with a 4-5 cm scar in each area.  But what a small price to pay to keep the melanoma at bay!

Info regarding the surgery:

"The procedure is called wide excision.
The surgeon removes the rest of the tumor, including the biopsy site, as well as a surgical margin, (a surrounding area of normal-appearing skin), and the underlying subcutaneous tissue, to make certain the whole tumor has been removed.
The width of the margin taken depends upon the thickness of the primary tumor.
Most surgeons today follow the guidelines adopted and recommended by the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization Melanoma Program:

  • At least 0.5 centimeter margin in all directions (less than 0.25 inch) 
This typically results in a scar at least 4-5 cm (about 2 inches) in length, but it may be longer depending on the location on the skin and the size and orientation of the biopsy site.  Skin grafting may sometimes be required to cover the wound, especially on the face or on the fingers or toes"

When Steve met with the dermatologist last week, they diagnosed him with atypical dysplastic nevus syndrome. People with this diagnoses are anywhere from 10 to 12 times more likely to develop melanoma. 

I will keep everyone updated on Steve's surgery in November.  Until then, we are happy that Steve is NED.  Yesterday, Steve started the Livestrong program at the YMCA.  The program aims to aid cancer patients that are recovering from treatment in rebuilding their strength, agility, and stamina.  He will probably end up missing a few classes due to the surgery, but hopefully that will not affect the effectiveness of this class.

Monday, September 16, 2013

3 month scans.....6 months out from Ipi (Yervoy) completion

Wow!  What a day today was!  Steven and I had to be at MD Anderson at 9 am.  We got Sadie off to school on the school bus and dropped Ashlynn off at daycare.  We showed up to MD Anderson about 20 minutes late....whoops!  Luckily, they accommodate for traffic, over sleeping, not leaving in time, alarm not going off, whatever your excuse may be! 

Steve had a CT of his neck and we were off to his 11:00 appointment with Dr. Kim.  We checked in for his 11am appointment and they also checked us in for his 11:45 dermatology appointment.  Since Steve had to fast for his CT scan, I ran down stairs and grabbed us Chik Fil A while he waited in case they called him.  (They didnt).  We got called back around noon for his dermatology appointment (even though his appointment for CT results was technically before the derm appointment).  We waited almost 2 hours before the dermatologist came in.  Thankfully we brought our computers to keep us entertained while we waited! 


Steve waiting on dermatology to come in.


Steve has never really had a dermatology appointment.  He had one back in February of 2012, but since he was being admitted the same day for biochemotherapy, the dermatologist didn't take any biopsies.  At this appointment, the dermatologist did a very thorough body check (body, feet, scrotum, rectum, scalp, etc.).  She decided that 2 spots needed to be biopsied.  One spot was too big for a punch biopsy, so she did a "shave" biopsy.  The other spot she did a 8mm punch biopsy.  I get to take Steve's sutures out in 2 weeks.  Fun fun.

Spot "A" and spot "B"


video


After the dermatology appointment, we headed down to room 15.  You know, the room they told us to go to when we were finished with dermatology?!  Yeah, the guy sitting on the table in his gown probably didn't appreciate me walking in!  Haha!  Whoops!  Anyhow, we got put in a room to wait for Dr. Kim.  While we waited for Dr. Kim, Urvi, Dr. Kim's PA came in.  She immediately let us know that the scans looked great.  We went over scan results and she said that the abdominal CT scans showed no metastatic disease.  The MRI showed no metastatic disease.   The neck CT scan was not back yet, but they assumed no metastatic disease from the preliminary results. 




This was GREAT news for us!  This is the BEST news we could hope for today.  There is NO cure for melanoma, but you can live with "no evidence of disease" or "NED" for some time.  Some people stay "NED" for only months and others for years.  So, only time will tell.

After a fun, silly visit with Urvi, Dr Kim came in.  Dr. Kim confirmed "NED" and we had a good visit with him as well.  I love how Dr. Kim will sit and play my "well what if...." games.  "Well what if we would have come today and the scan would have showed X...."  "and what if it showed Y" and "what if XYZ"?  "What if we come in 3 months and the scans show X"?   He doesn't shut me up, he just goes along and answers my questions.  I sure love Dr. Kim.

After leaving MD Anderson, we needed to rush back to our side of town to get Sadie from Pep Squad practice.  Apparently it was raining while we were inside and the roads were flooded!  It was crazy trying to get out onto the freeway!   We made it with 1 minute to spare to get Sadie, picked up Ashlynn and went to dinner to celebrate "NED".  We even let the kids get dessert (which we never do)!  

Crazy "flood" drivers.



Nothing like trying to get home in a hurry!
Too much water!
Dessert!
Daddy and Sadie

Meet "NED"



We are so happy that Steve is NED!  We are also VERY realistic to the fact that there is NO cure for melanoma.  Steve can be NED 5 years or 5 days.  The melanoma can reappear at any moment.  But today, we celebrate NED.  We celebrate being the BEST you can be while fighting melanoma. 

Thank you to everyone for your love, prayers, and support. You're the best!!! 
Peace, Love, Cure Melanoma!