Since May is Melanoma Awareness Month, I’ve invited others affected by melanoma to guest blog on the 7th, 14th and the 21st. I’ll wrap up the month by blogging again on the 28th. Today’s blog is written by Molly Menard.
I am not a blogger. I had to google what blogging is all about. I am sure this is not your normal kind of blog, but here it is. I am sharing with you the dates I replay over and over again in my head. Many things that happened in between are painful and I don’t like to think about them. Hell, the stuff below is painful. But is there anything about Melanoma that’s not?
Mark, my husband, walked out of our bathroom one night in his boxers. I remember it just like it happened a minute ago. “I think my mole is changing” he said. I could not tell, but then again, I never paid it any attention, it was always there. We googled moles and came across pictures and at that time, the ABCD’s of Melanoma (sometime between 2007 and 2011 they added the E to the ABCD’s of melanoma). His mole did not look like anything we saw. So we did not worry.
A few months later I said to Mark, “I think you’re right; your mole is getting bigger. Maybe you should call and get it checked out.” He put it off. We were not too worried.
One day in late June, Mark was wrestling around with our youngest daughter Stacy who was 7 at the time. Mark grabbed his abdomen and dropped to the floor. Stacy’s foot had rubbed against her daddy’s mole, ripping it off. Mark decided to have it taken off. His appointment was right before the 4th of July.
A few days after the 4th, the phone rang, “Hello, this is Dr. Smith from the dermatology clinic at Balboa Naval Hospital. Is Senior Chief Menard available?” I knew right then that something was wrong, because really, how often do doctors call you at home? She told me his biopsy results were in, he had melanoma. She had already made his appointment with Dr. Chan, the surgical oncologist. I remember thinking, “If he’s going to get cancer, at least it’s this one.”
Before July was up, Mark had surgery – a wide incision and lymph node biopsy. Dr. Chan gave us the news that one lymph node from his groin came back positive, the melanoma had traveled. Another surgery was scheduled in a few weeks. They were going after more lymph nodes, this time in his leg. That is when we knew it just got serious.
December 25th 2009.
It had been two and half years since Mark was diagnosed with stage III Melanoma. In that time, Mark had a number of surgeries, scans, treatments and we lost count of the number of doctor appointments.
After putting the kids Christmas presents under the tree, Mark and I crawled into bed shortly after 1:00am.
I woke up almost an hour later. Mark was having a seizure. The next thing I knew, I was on the phone, repeating over and over 10182 Voge St, our address. 14 minutes later, the paramedics arrived. I hung up the phone with the 911 operator. Two paramedics and six firefighters were crammed into our bedroom and the hallway outside. I sat on the hallway floor shaking. Mark finally came too. He was confused. His first question to the paramedic, “Where’s my wife?” All that is going on with him and he was worried about me.
5:00 a.m., I call our moms from the hospital, crying, begging for them to pray.
6:20 a.m., Christmas morning, four hours after Mark had his seizure; I sat next to my husband, holding my husband’s hand, trying to be brave. The ER doctor sat on the other side of Mark’s hospital bed. Mark looked scared. I was scared. We knew what was going on. We knew what the doctor was going to say
“The CT scan shows one tumor in the……..” I have no idea what he said after that. I was rejoicing! One tumor! Not multiples – just one! Thank you God, just one! We can fight one! It was a small victory for us. Thank God! Just one!
I called “the moms” with the news. Both moms had already booked their flights, they were on their way. Our neighbors loaded all of our Christmas presents into their car, along with our daughters and brought them to the hospital. By 9:00 am, we were celebrating Christmas on the floor of Mark’s hospital room. I was praying, begging God, “Please don’t let this be our last Christmas”. Shortly after the presents were opened, Mark’s best friend came to pick up the girls. We had no idea what was going to happen next and we did not want the girls to see it.
December 27th, 2009.
5:50 a.m., they came into the room to get Mark. They were taking him into surgery to remove the tumor from his brain.
December 25, 2010.
We are all smiles. The girls (ages 10 and 13) are sitting on the floor waiting for daddy to pass out their Christmas gifts piled under the tree. I am thanking God for giving us this Christmas. Mark was doing well. He had retired from the Navy in November after a 22 year career. We moved from San Diego and bought our very first home in Iowa. He was on a successful BRAF study. Things were looking up. I was thanking God.
July 14th, 2011.
10:03 p.m., four years after being diagnosed with stage III melanoma, 8 surgeries and 5 failed treatments, my husband died. Mark died at the age of 41. Mark died because of a mole.
It has been almost three years since we lost Mark. I think back to the phone call with Dr. Smith often. I had no idea. Mark had no idea. How could a stupid mole he had his entire life kill him?
I tell people about doing self-skin exams, I tell them about the ABCDE’s of melanoma. I have set up free skin cancer screenings for anyone who wants to come. I warn parents and teens about the risk involved when using tanning beds. I have gone to local schools to talk to students and staff about melanoma. I have planted trees at our local school, so the kids can play on a shaded playground.
I am still fighting melanoma. I promised Mark I would not stop fighting.
– Molly Menard
The below photo is of Molly and her daugher Sarah, taken on Saturday, May 3rd at the Steve Yates Melanoma Awareness Golf Tournament in Waterloo, Iowa. Molly and Sarah held a free skin cancer screening at the event where nearly 50 people were checked for skin cancer by two dermatologists from the University of Iowa, Dr. Amanda Tschetter and Dr. Krishna Mutgi. Keeping that fighting promise to Mark, Molly coordinates a free skin cancer screening each fall in her home town of West Branch, Iowa. This year’s screening is scheduled for Saturday, October 4th.