Since May is Melanoma Awareness Month, I’ve invited others affected by melanoma to guest blog on the 7th, 14th and 21st. I’ll wrap up the Melanoma Awareness month by blogging again on the 28th. Today’s blog is written by Tom Armitage. Enjoy.
Do you know how men never want to go to the doctor? No matter what! “Oh, it will go away and besides it doesn’t hurt.” Well do I have a story for you! One day I noticed a small lump on my scalp under my rapidly receding hairline. But worse than that, my wife also noticed it. Before I knew it, my family doctor was looking at the lump. He said it’s a common cyst and should be removed before it causes trouble. Well, it wasn’t a cyst but instead it was termed a “vascular mass” and sent to the lab. It was not cancerous but the margins around the mass contained some melanoma cells. Was I surprised!
After receiving a diagnosis of 4th stage melanoma, the first thing I did was to find out as much about the disease as possible. It didn’t take long to learn that it wasn’t a pretty picture. The second thing I did was to realize that cancer may change my life at some point but I wasn’t going to change my life because of cancer. So, I didn’t. I continued to do everything that I would normally do. After all, there is nothing on my bucket list. No need to skydive, sail the 7 seas, or run with the bulls in Pamplona.
But, there I was, 64 years old and wondering what the hell was going to happen next. After all, I had no symptoms and the melanoma was discovered by accident. Then I met Mo. He kept telling me “this is not a freight train” as we explored my options and I became more anxious about doing something, anything to start a treatment. Another test? What was he waiting for? I began to realize that I was on a journey—–through a jungle and Mo was my guide. Although I knew Mo was an oncologist he was more like a mentor who was priming me to succeed. Mo made me feel that we were a team. We decided to try a new drug called Ipilimumab.
Here I am, 67 years old, minus one pituitary gland, and cancer free. I’ve graduated to a PET scan every 6 months. So as far as I am concerned, I have no worries until the night before my next scan. I go through long periods of time not thinking of my diagnosis. Am I afraid it will come back? Not really, I know it will. I have a healthy respect for my situation but until it changes, I will follow the good advice of a friend that I walk with three mornings a week. Right Foot!…..Left Foot!……Breathe!…..Repeat!
So, what’s with the positive attitude? In my early thirties, I was pretty sure I was going to die. No, seriously I thought I was going to die. It was traumatic. There was no medical evidence to support my contention and anyone who could dispel it was no longer living. When I was three, my father died at age 38, his father at 36, and both my namesake uncles at 28 and 34. Was I next? I grew up without a father and so did my father. My biggest worry was that my two young children would have this same experience. After I passed 38, I felt thankful and never looked back.
Thirty years ago I realized that every day was a gift and after being diagnosed with melanoma, I am continuing to enjoy each day as it occurs. I am thankful for all my blessings and Doctor Mo.