Guest Blog Post: Christin’s Experience with Subungual Melanoma

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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.

thumb Rowe before

Before

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.

thumbbefore

subungual melanoma

 

 

Q: How old were you at the time of diagnosis?

A: 29

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.

Thumb Rowe after

After

 

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!

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'Guest Blog Post: Christin’s Experience with Subungual Melanoma' have 6 comments

  1. June 19, 2015 @ 4:37 pm Amy Ohm

    Christin – Thank you for sharing your story! Personal stories bring such hope to those on the journey. I am a melanoma warrior too and can relate to your fears, faith and courage. Fight on and keep sharing. Find purpose in your situation always. My melanoma experience inspired me to start http://www.treatmentdiaries.com. Lot’s of folks on a similar journey helping one another through those events in life only those who can relate can truly understand. Encouraged by your words!

    Reply

    • June 19, 2015 @ 5:54 pm Christin

      Thanks Amy! I’m so glad that Timna gave me this platform. If it prompts one person to go to the dermatologist, then it’s served it’s purpose.
      God Bless!

      Reply

  2. June 19, 2015 @ 7:25 pm Jo Ann

    We are all so proud of Christin!! I am her aunt on her Dad’s side and I know of no one in the immediate/extended family who has had any melanoma.

    Reply

  3. November 15, 2015 @ 12:51 am Giselle

    Thank you for sharing your journey Christin may God bless you
    I’m scared that my mom might have this, it’s only been about 4 months
    When she’s gotten this light black line straight down the middle of her thumb nail
    I told her last night I was searching online what it was because it was very weird & I told her that nail fungus doesn’t present itself as a straight black line down the middle & it was weird that it appeared slowly out of nowhere & everything I read said it could be melanoma of the nail, it really scared me 🙁 she just brushed it off as if nothing
    She didn’t really take it seriously
    I don’t know how to go about this, I really want her to get it checked out but don’t know if she’ll really take it serious & go
    I love my mom with all my heart & I would never want anything to happen to her :/
    She’s never had any trauma to that nail, it’s just very strange! It’s a straight light black line down the very middle of her thumb nail
    Do you think any doctor could check it out?? Or does she have to go to a dermatologist? She doesn’t have health insurance which is why I know she doesn’t go to the doctor because of how expensive it can get
    Any advice would be helpful 🙏🏼
    Thank you and hope your doing well, very inspirational the way you handled your journey

    Reply

  4. January 28, 2016 @ 2:20 pm Tami

    I am 57 and was just diagnosed with Melanoma in situ of my left thumb nail. Noticed a dark thin line in the nail about 6 months ago. Mentioned to my doctor when I had my checkup and she sent me to a dermatologist. The dermatologist immediately got me an appointment with a hand surgeon who performed the biopsy. The phone call from the doctor was difficult. Couldn’t believe this was true. Scheduled to have a lot of my thumb removed in a week. Prayers needed.

    Reply

    • June 20, 2016 @ 3:35 am Diana Canal

      Tami, I truly hope your surgery went well and they removed all of the melanoma! Prayers for you-Diana (Christin’s mom)

      Reply


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