Q: How did you discover you had melanoma?
A: Online. I was engaged to be married when I noticed a small light brown line on the outside edge of my thumb nail. Being extremely busy with wedding planning, I didn’t think much of it. Some people said, “Try to file it away”, so I did. Some people said, “Oh, you must have hit it and it’s a bruise” and so it was dismissed. Immediately after our honeymoon, we learned we would be blessed with a baby! So exciting! After a great pregnancy and getting settled in, I started to feel uneasy about my discolored nail, which at this time was getting darker.
I had my first mole removed in 3rd grade, so was no stranger to the dangers of melanoma. Enter: Google. WebMD to be exact. I immediately said to my husband, “I have fingernail cancer” (no idea what it was called) to which he laughed and said, “No you do not! Is that even a real thing?”
My thought exactly. Is it?
First thing the next day, I called my dermatologist who said she couldn’t see me for a month. I knew I couldn’t wait. I made an appointment with a different practice and had the spot biopsied. They say it came back fine. When the nail started to grow back brown again, I saw the partner in practice with my normal dermatologist who thought it may be some sort of tumor. Okaaaaay? But here lies the lesson of listening to your gut. The month had passed and my dermatologist could finally see me. By this time the line was nearly black. She lifted my hand near her face, looked at me knowingly and said “I think you’re going to lose the tip of your finger.” Okay. I was fine with this. After all, I had a month to diagnose myself via internet and wanted this thing gone before it could spread.
I had a 3 month old baby boy at home.
The dermatologist pulled out her cell phone and called her friend who is a hand surgeon to ask him to please take me in as soon as possible. I was scheduled for a biopsy the next day.
While waiting on the results, we went on our family vacation- but it was tough to enjoy.
Once back at home, I received a call that it was melanoma in situ. After sending it to Sloan Kettering, they were confident that the best route was removal of the end of my finger.
So let’s do it already! My attitude from this point forward was “Take the arm! It’s only a finger…no, a half of a finger. I have 9 more.”
The next week I went for surgery.
Q: How old were you at the time of diagnosis?
Q: Can you briefly describe your experience, from the time of first seeing this…all the way through to post surgery…..
A: The day after surgery was brutal. I ended up in the ER with pain worse than anything I’ve ever felt…like someone was holding my finger to a hot iron and wouldn’t let go. Once this subsided, it was an easy recovery. Praise God, we got the news a week later that they had gotten clear margins.
Q: How has this changed your life?
A: Melanoma is always on my mind. I feel like a ticking time bomb. The thumb itself is a small issue. Baby buttons are hard, picking up heavy items can be a challenge.
I had a second surgery in 2014 to remove a bone spur in the thumb, but it has since grown back and I’ll live with it. A constant reminder.
Q: Does anyone in your family have melanoma?
A: My little sister has had several spots removed only recently, in her twenty’s. Other than that- not that we know of.
Q: What was your exposure to the sun/tanning beds from the time you were a child?
A: I went to the tanning bed in high school probably 2 months a year- before prom and before summer vacation.
Q: What would like to tell others about this specific type of melanoma?
A: Listen to your gut. Go to 27 doctors if you have to until you are at peace with your diagnosis.
Everything I read says this melanoma is common in African-American older women….I am none of those.
Cancer, melanoma, diseases in general, do not discriminate.
TWO side notes:
On the day of surgery, my family taped their thumbs down to show their support. Amazing!
God works in mysterious ways…in 7th grade I partnered with a girl in my class for our science project called “Thumbs Up!” The entire day we taped our thumbs to our index fingers and went about a normal day, noting what was difficult, and just how important thumbs actually are. Ironic!?
Thank you Christin for sharing your experience, strength and hope! Doing this helps others! Brave warrior, you are!