Introduction to Kathy’s Daughter
Hi Family, Friends and Loved Ones,
I’d like to explain the page name. For those of you who may not know, Kathy was my mom’s name. My mom lost her battle with cancer in December of 2002. My mom has been an amazing source of strength in my life both before her death and after. And during this trying time in my life, I am finding myself surrounded by her love and comfort, not in the physical way that I long for, but in the spiritual bond I feel I have with her, and the strength she exhibited during her much too short, but painfully long battle with cancer. So for me, it seemed fitting that I choose a name that represents the amazing sense of pride, strength and joy I have being Kathy’s Daughter. In addition to the honor of being Kathy’s daughter, I am blessed to have the love, care and strength of my amazing dad Tony as well. I really don’t know how I could face this battle without him by my side.
Some of you have already seen this in email form, but for some, I wanted to have this as the first post so that those of you who weren’t on the initial email know the full story.
I was diagnosed on March 25th with Melanoma, or skin cancer. On April 7th I went in for surgery to have the tumor completely excised and the sentinel lymph node biopsied. On Wednesday April 15th, I was told that the melanoma has spread into the sentinel lymph node in my leg. I met with the team of doctors I will be working with throughout my treatment yesterday, and have some more news and information I would like to share.
So although the cancer has metastasized, and I am now a Stage III, that diagnosis is very broad. Stage III itself has various levels, and at this point the cancer cells were found at a microscopic level, in only one lymph node out of the two that they removed, so at this point I am considered Stage IIIA, which if any of you are as bad about using Google as I am, produces much better prognosis results than general Stage III, or any of the later stages. The doctors are hopeful that since there were only cells found on a microscopic level, that there is a very low chance that they will find any more cells in the remaining lymph nodes, or that the cells have made it to any other part of my body. Hopeful as they are, they do not feel the risk is low enough to not recommend the lymph node surgery and the Interferon treatment. They explained these processes to me as purely preventative in my case, at least until they know more from the other lymph nodes.
The surgery as I explained to some of you is going to be more intense than the first. I will go in on Monday and stay in the hospital 1-2 days. They will make a larger incision in the groin area to remove the entire lymph node basin. When they remove the basin, the artery in the leg becomes exposed. They will have to move some of the muscle in my thigh to protect the artery, which will cause some permanent nerve damage in my leg. This damage will not impede the function of my leg, just the touch sensation on the upper thigh. The bigger risk with lymph removal is a condition called lymphedema. This condition can cause permanent swelling in my leg. In order to prevent this they will have me working with a physical therapy team that specializes in lymphedema that will teach me various exercises, massages and provide me with stockings that will all prevent significant swelling. They said it is to be expected that I will have some swelling that will be permanent, their job will be to minimize that as much as possible. They said that many people are able to resume their normal lifestyles including running after having this surgery, it will be necessary for me to put a lot of work into my health, and being active every day and eating healthy.
The next step will happen four weeks after the surgery, when I am well into recovery, probably around June. This will be the beginning or “Induction” phase of Interferon. During this phase I will have to go to the hospital five days a week, for one hour a day for an IV drip that is a high dose of the drug. Interferon is a chemical that occurs naturally in your body when your immune system is fighting something. The research has shown that by doing this high-dose induction phase coupled with the lymph node surgery, they can significantly reduce the chance of recurrence. The side effects at this phase are significant, though from what I can tell, somewhat better than chemotherapy. I will feel like I’ve been hit with a really bad flu for the four weeks, and probably will not be able to work. There is some hair thinning, but they said that most people do not find it significant our overtly noticeable. They will have to monitor my liver function and white blood cell count, as these can be affected while on Interferon, but they assured me that all effects on the body are not permanent, and repair themselves once the medication is stopped. One of the larger side effects they mentioned is depression. Not just that cancer is not depressing enough, but there is actually a chemical imbalance that is produced in some people, and the depression can be pretty bad in some people. So they will be setting me up with a therapist prior to starting the Interferon so that I have someone I am comfortable with prior to the Induction phase.
The next phase they call the “Maintenance” phase. This is a 48 week treatment, with a much lower dosage of the Interferon. Much like a diabetic, I will be administering my own shots, three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. They fully expect during this phase that I will be able to resume my normal life, go back to work, and feel and act normally. Modifications will be made if that is not the case. For the next two/ two and a half months I will not be able to work, my work has said they will maintain my health insurance, but I will not be getting paid during this time, so I will be applying for social security disability.
So, as scared as I am for the surgery, and the idea that some things in my life will probably never be the same again, I have a better sense that this is just a necessary prevention, not the beginning of the end. I hope I explained everything to you guys, and please feel free to send me any other questions, support, and any email addresses for anyone I missed or may not have current addresses of .