About My Melanoma

The ABCDEs of Detecting Melanoma
Image courtesy of http://www.drmarylupo.com/skin-cancers/index.html

My first experience with Melanoma occurred circa 1980. I visited the Beaverton Kaiser Clinic to obtain help with removing a large mole from my back. I was referred to Dr. Contorer, a dermatologist. As requested, he removed the mole from my lower back. While he had me on the exam table, he also requested permission to remove a smaller lesion from my mid back. I thought nothing of this until his follow-up call two days later.

Dr. Contorer said, “You have melanoma. The small lesion on your mid-back was a stage 1 melanoma. I have removed the melanoma, but as an extra precaution I took the liberty of scheduling you for surgery this coming Friday. Your surgeon will perform a wide area excision around the site. This will help ensure that no stray cancer cells are loose in your body. I urge you to follow up with this surgery because melanoma can be life-threatening if it ever spreads. This is serious, but I don’t want to alarm you. Keep in mind that ninety-five percent of patients, in good health, with stage 1 melanoma, survive for five or more years.”

The surgery was performed as scheduled and I survived. I assumed that melanoma had been excised from my body and would not return.

In 2012 – 2013, I developed a occasional dry cough, which was not alarming. In November 2013, after a busy day of yard work, including lots of leaf blowing, I developed a persistent deep cough. I assumed this was a bad chest cold. Two weeks passed, and my coughing worsened. My primary doctor suspected pneumonia; he ordered a chest x-ray and started a short course of antibiotics. His follow-up call came the next day, “I’m seeing some abnormal thickening in the area around your trachea and I have ordered a CT Scan. Can you come for a scan tomorrow morning?”

I reported to Epic Imaging for my CT Scan. I was worried: “Could this possibly be something worse than pneumonia, perhaps cancer, possibly a recurrence of melanoma from more than 30 years ago?”

The day following the CT Scan, my Doctor invited me to his office for a consultation. When Eddy and I arrived, he said, “You know it’s never good news when your Doctor invites you to his office to review the results of a CT Scan. It’s my job to tell you that you most likely have cancer in your lymph nodes, the ones located between your heart and your lungs. In addition you have a lesion in your right upper lung, probably also cancer, and a possible lesion in your adrenal gland. I am not sure what kind of cancer you have, probably Bronchogenic Carcinoma. Regardless, the location, size and number of your tumors suggest that your cancer is not resectable, meaning that it is not advisable to attempt to surgically remove it.”

During the next month we consulted with an oncologist, a pulmonary doctor, a thoracic surgeon and reviewed results of a PET Scan, MRI Scan, Bronchoscopy, and Mediastinoscopy. It took nearly two months to confirm that my cancer is metastatic melanoma, most likely from the original site on my mid back, and to prepare for a treatment.

In an attempt to be proactive while the medical community were doing their high-tech evaluations, I began actively researching alternative cancer treatment strategies. This put me in touch with a cancer treatment advisor who led me to implement immediate life changes in diet and dietary supplements (See Natural Treatment).

The medical community convinced me that I would be foolish to forego medical treatment. That treatment decision is described on the Medical Treatment page.

Medical treatment with High Dose Interleukin-2 in 2014 led to a stable period where my cancer was gradually receding, suggesting that the melanoma might have been successfully tamed. Three years later, in early 2017, I had a seizure, and imaging revealed a solitary brain tumor in my right cerebral cortex. The tumor was resected by a neurosurgeon at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU). That treatment decision is described on the Progression page.

Following surgery, I opted for stereotactic radiotherapy and immunotherapy with Keytruda, as described here and in following posts.