Written by Angie Gerndt
April 2017 from my Facebook page – As I sit here waiting for results, I look around at all the people waiting on the same thing I am…..many are in different phases of this horrible journey. Some have difficulty with their balance, some have lost their hair, some are here for the first time. I wonder when and where I’ll be in my journey the next time I’m here, or the next, or the next. Cancer certainly doesn’t care if you’re young, old, rich, poor, what your color of skin is. I wonder about all the caring staff here that work to make you comfortable during these appointments. Many of them not knowing what stage you are in, what results you’re going to receive. The staff are truly amazing as they give smiles, good lucks, genuine concern. I always used to feel I was a good strong supporter of my friends who have battled this horrible disease. I had three close friends/family members that passed away in 2013 from cancer. Each battling a different form of cancer. I’d always reach out and call, text, have conversation but I really didn’t understand what they were going through or what they were feeling. I’d wish them luck, tell them to be strong but did that do anything for them? I often sit back and wish I had done more to understand their concern, worry, pain. I am thankful everyday with what I have been given. I have a wonderful family, wonderful friends and coworkers that continually check in with me to see how I am doing. I could not ask for more. Thank you to my supporters that show me it’s ok to be scared, yet show me how strong I am as well. Just a rant as I sit and wait…..
Looking back to Summer of 2016 - Last summer, I noticed a small bump forming on the back of my leg (calf area). I ignored it thinking it was nothing, maybe an ingrown hair. As the summer continued, the bump continued to get bigger, looking like a pencil eraser at the end. It was clear in color, didn’t hurt, was soft to the touch. I hate needles and the thought of having this cut off scared the heck out of me. After my daughter said “Mom, this could be something serious, at least get it looked at”, I did. I was told it was probably nothing but a biopsy was completed and sent in to pathology. I was told I’d hear something back in a couple of weeks. In less than 24 hours, I received a call from my physician who asked that I stop and see him. I knew immediately that something was wrong. I had been diagnosed with an Invasive Malignant Melanoma. After I heard the words, I said “Cancer”, he said “Yes”. Melanoma treated early, is almost always curable; however, because this cancer had “drilled” down through my skin, there was a possibility it had spread to other parts of my body where it could be hard to treat, this could be fatal.
I knew then that my life would not be the same…would I be ok; would I die; who would raise my children? This occurred on a Friday. The next two weeks would be a whirlwind of unknowns and lots of tears. At this point, everything being a blur: Meeting with the oncologist; having my first PET Scan; meeting with a surgeon; having surgery on my leg to take the affected area out; having surgery to remove lymph nodes. I was so thankful when I was told they got it all. So now what? I would continue to have PET scans and dermatology appointments quarterly. I didn’t understand that Melanoma, while not the most common of skin cancers, causes the most deaths. I didn’t realize that Melanoma could return internally (reason for PET scans) or externally (reason for dermatology). I didn’t realize that this cancer would still consume me as we moved forward; that it would take a while for me to move the fear of dying to the back of my brain so I could function daily at work and home; that Melanoma and the possibility of dying would remind me how precious life is; how I need to slow down and appreciate life; how I need to take the time at night to talk to my kids about the day; how I need to take time for me; how I need to say I love you to those who mean so much to me. I know all of this now.
I am considered a Stage 2 Melanoma Survivor. My treatments will continue up to 5 years and I will, hopefully at that point, be able to stop the PET scans and just continue with dermatology. Please continue to be active, enjoying the outdoors with friends and family; however, be aware of the sun and the affects it can have on your body. Utilize sunscreen, wear a hat, be conscious of looking at your skin. If you see something that doesn’t look right or if your gut tells you something is wrong, get it looked at. Do not be scared. Had my daughter not told me to “Get it looked at”, I may not be here writing this article today.