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Myra Cacace 3The Finger of God...LIVING with Metastatic Melanoma
By Myra Cacace GNP-BC

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I grew up in North Miami Beach, Florida in the 1960s and early 1970's. I was one of those red-headed light skinned people, who wanted to be tan but only succeeded in getting more freckles. SO I added the iodine to the baby oil, slathered it on and fried like bacon for hours on the beach. That was before the days when we learned about the unhealthy consequences of too much sun exposure.

So of course, when I learned that this was harmful, I stopped those bad behaviors switching (reluctantly) to sunscreen with SPF 4 or 8. And since I live in Massachusetts now, I only used sunscreen when I was on the beach. In my more mature adult years I never really burned, but did find out that I had a significant amount of sun damaged skin. Who cares? I thought...I'm no fashion model, but I did stop spending so much time in the sun.

Fast forward to April 2017. I got a new job and they wanted me to have a TB test for my pre-employment physical. Since I already reacted to this skin test I had to have a chest X-ray instead (this has to happen every 5 years and my next one was not due until April 2019). Two days before starting work I got a call that was the beginning of big changes in my life.

The X-ray showed that something was growing on my lung. More X-rays...CT scans...MRIs...PET scans...removal of the right middle lobe of my lung (October 2017) and a surprising and perplexing diagnosis

STAGE 4 METASTATIC MELANOMA!


You see, with all that sunning I did in my early teens, I never had a melanoma. I dutifully visited my dermatologist every 6-8 months since 1987, and never had more than a few basal and squamous cell lesions removed through the years. The theory is that there was probably a melanoma that went undetected, resolved itself and then metastasized without my knowledge (or permission, I might add).

I immediately thought of my friend, Pam who found a spot on her scalp and was in heaven 16 months later. OY!

Thankfully my story is turning out to be much more hopeful...there has been an amazing amount of research about treating melanoma done in the last 5 years, and I am being cared for by the experts in melanoma at Massachusetts General Hospital. I received Opdivo (Nivolomab) ,which is an immunotherapy treatment that revs up my own body's defenses to seek and destroy the melanoma. I did not lose my hair, was able to work and live my usually busy life. My quarterly surveillance CT scans and every other exam I have had this year show that I am cancer free...so far!

There are a few lessons to be learned by my experience:

1. I continue my strong belief in what I am calling the "finger of God". Had I not changed jobs, when would I have found out about the melanoma? So far, I thank God, who is on my side.
2. I took the opportunity to rearrange my life to do the things that are important and let go of some of the activities that are not.
3. I sit in the shade with SPF 15 on, even in my back yard!
4. I don't listen to the yells of my 6 grandchildren when their mothers slather on the SPF 50...and I keep my thoughts to myself...I use to laugh at my daughter and say, "Why do you have to slather on so much "cream cheese" on your poor kids? They are only going out for 2 hours..."

Of course the first thing my son-in-law did when he was told of my diagnosis, was bring me a tub of real cream cheese and TOLD me that I would be using sunscreen from now on! I guess he likes me?

I finish by writing how grateful I am to my friend, Maura Flynn, who was my first call because I know that there is not much she doesn't know about the treatment of melanoma. She calmed my fears, gave me names, has been a great source of moral support to me this year and asked me to become involved in The Children's Melanoma Prevention foundation

So I will finish this post and hit the donation button on the Children's Melanoma Prevention foundation website and ask all my friends and associates to do the same! I'll keep you posted from time to time...hopefully for a LONG time.

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