Out of all the days I've been alive, there aren't too many days that I can recount so vividly. Of course there's my wedding day and the birth of my children. and then there's the day I was first diagnosed with cancer in September 2006…I'll never forget that day or the day I started my first chemo treatment. I'll never forget the day I held my mamaw's hand as she took her last breath or the day my best friend passed away. I'll never forget being told I have cancer for the second time and then….for the third.
Three years ago today Aaron and I woke up early after staying the night at a 4 star hotel in Nashville, TN. It was the first time we have ever stayed somewhere that nice, and without our kids (thanks to Nana for keeping them).
I remember snapping this picture of the sunset from our hotel room:
It felt like we were on the honeymoon we never got to go on. The only bad thing was I couldn't eat any of the room service breakfast the following morning. I had to be NPO. The reality was, today wasn't a fun getaway, it was surgery day at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to hopefully rid my body of my third melanoma recurrence. This was the first time I had ever had surgery at Vanderbilt, and I was a little nervous to say the least.
After getting changed into my little hospital gown I was then wheeled to the radiology department for Lymphoscintigraphy. This is where the nuclear medicine technologist gets me prepped and makes sure I'm centered on their machine. Once prepped, the radiologist injects the tumor in my back with 6 syringes full of radioactive material. The radioactive material feels like a nest full of venomous wasps that are on steroids stinging viscously over my back. No joke…the stuff is poison and it hurts!!! After being injected..we wait for the the radioactive tracer to drain to my lymph nodes and then we scan to see which lymph nodes "light up". All of the black spots you see on each groin in the picture below are the nodes the surgical oncologist removed during my surgery. (side note--they also inject you with blue dye. Alivia thought it was pretty cool that for a few days after surgery I was peeing blue)
After I was finished in Radiology I was wheeled back to pre-op to get my IV started for surgery. My hubby hugged me and kissed me and we prayed for a successful surgery. I can't say I remember much of the rest of the day. Other than my Post Op nurse saying I was the best patient she had all day. Aaron said I was telling jokes and that's about all I could get out of him….I must've been putting on quite a show :-)
Thankfully two weeks later at my followup visit we got amazing news. All of the melanoma was surgically removed and required no further treatment other than scans and full body exams. I am currently being followed every three months and have high hopes to move to 6 months visits after my next checkup this February.
I share this story to reflect and to celebrate 3 years with No Evidence of Disease!!! I've met so many amazing cancer warriors through this journey. I've seen some hear those amazing No Evidence of Disease words and I've seen some hear the words, "there's nothing more we can do." I've watched this very disease ravage my best friend's body but it can't touch our soul. With that said, I'm so very thankful for life, I'm so thankful that although I may be a "cancer patient" by golly I'm one of the healthiest cancer patients there is. And I'm bound and determined to do everything in my power to stay that way.
Thanks for all your love and support. Choose joy and do your part to stay healthy. Make the call to a dermatologist for a skin check and as always share the love and spread the lotion. Much love to you all in 2014!!!