*Trigger warning – if you’re struggling with anxiety, particularly health anxiety please read with caution as content may be triggering.*
This is a journal of our experiences, it’s always good to speak to your own doctor regarding any concerns. Also there’s a photo of his scar & stitches at the end so if you’re squeamish you may want to avoid!
I posted back in August about my husband being diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma, it was a huge shock for us, and things moved on fairly quickly following his diagnosis. I realised I hadn’t updated our journey on the blog so thought I would, and also share the affects it had, and continues to have on our mental health.
So John was diagnosed on 14th August, and he was scheduled to have surgery to remove the mole and a wider area around it. He also needed to had a sentinel
node biopsy, basically a procedure to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
Initially it took some time for the news to sink in. We were given a whirlwind of information and sent on our way. The cancer nurse was lovely and we knew we could contact her at any time. The week or two following the diagnosis, I struggled with my emotions. I needed to stay strong for my husband and also shield my children from what was going on. But, I was understandably anxious about what was to come and unsure of what the future held.
I practiced what I preach and I opened up to my parents, and they had the children while I spoke to our local
Macmillan team. I had a good cry, let out my worries and fears, and walked away feeling much better. Just talking to someone who understood helped me immensely. My parents were also a great support to us, always there to talk to us both. I’m really grateful to them. I felt much stronger and ready for what lay ahead.
Time seemed to drag and finally one month later, on 13th September we went to hospital for Johns operation. It was a long day, we were to be there at 7am, John had a small procedure to detect which lymph nodes needed testing. They spent a while debating on whether to test two or three. Eventually they decided on two – cue my anxiety asking why not just test the third to be safe! – after a long day anxiously waiting (& John being starving!) he was sent down for his operation at 18:30.
Time ticked on, and three hours later a sleepy, sore John was brought back from surgery. He had a large wound (in a brilliant question mark shape – or as my Moana loving daughter said “look it’s Maui’s hook!”) on his back and one incision under each arm. I left him to sleep and returned the next afternoon.
He was in good spirits, relieved this step was over, but we both knew the next stage was a nervous wait to see if the
biopsy showed a spread to the lymph nodes. The first week we didn’t think too much about it, I was busy caring for John, looking after the home and kids. We were all tired and the week went by fairly quick.
The week after we went back to the hospital for Johns dressing to be changed and some stitches removed. It was 27th September, and as the nurse was changing the dressing, she said she would check the computer for the results of the node biopsy. We had spoken in the car on the way to hospital about how we hoped we would get the results early…now we were and we both looked at each other nervously.
She left the room for what seemed an eternity. I had my fingers crossed by my side. She walked in and closed the door, I felt sick and braced myself for the news. Then she
said “no cancer in the lymph node” I think she could tell we were surprised. She went through the results, and said for the next three to five years he would need 3 monthly check ups. She also said the risk of reoccurrence is high, so we need to be vigilant. I appreciated her honesty, she was lovely but she didn’t sugar coat it, we were responsible for keeping a close watch on any changes. She said the dermatologist will rely heavily on us checking. Melanoma is known for being aggressive and sneaky, not always but it can be, so we knew we needed to be careful.
The nurse pointed out a couple more moles on Johns back that she wasn’t happy with, and said we needed to ask the specialist to check them.
We left feeling a mix of relief, hope, fear and uncertainty. We were so pleased the biopsy under his arms were clear, but still felt concerned that this could return. I also had a nagging thoughts about that third lymph node they didn’t check.
One month later in October John had his first “check up”. Another afternoon in the waiting room, and finally we saw the dermatologist. John went into another room with him while I sat with the kids. As they came out, the doctor
was talking about being referred and biopsies…”here we go again” I thought. Luckily, the moles the nurse had pointed out the doctor wasn’t too concerned about, and the biopsy & referral was about a skin rash John has had for years. Ok phew, we can relax for a while.
It’s now November and John is due back in few weeks for another appointment. This past week we’ve done our check of his moles, and another two look suspicious or have changed. So again, we will hold our breath until these are looked at.
It seems life feels uncertain at the moment, living check up to check up; but while things seem to be good and there is no evidence of decease we will enjoy that. Of course as each check up comes along, or we find another mole that’s possibly troublesome, we feel anxious and the fear creeps in. But we can’t live every second worrying the cancer is growing somewhere else. We have to live. So for now, that’s what we will do.