In this blog post, Cathy Moore shares the journey she and her husband John travelled together after he was diagnosed with melanoma at age 47. May is Melanoma Awareness Month.
Melanoma . . . The mention of that word still triggers my warrior’s instinct. My senses keen, I sit up straighter, and I am ready to listen. I want to know everything about this silent killer. You see, my husband, John Moore, was diagnosed with melanoma in May 2008. This is his journey, our journey together, and his battle, our battle, to win or to at least fight with a vengeance.
Statistics show most people will find their own melanoma. My husband did just that. He was shaving and noticed uneven jawlines. After trips to the doctor, antibiotics, and a biopsy the result was in: Stage IIIC melanoma in the neck lymph nodes with an undetermined primary (meaning they don’t know where the melanoma originated from).
Most melanomas are curable in the early stages of disease with more than a 90 percent survival rate. But not in John’s case — Stage IIIC is not early enough. Numerous scans, various specialty doctor visits, and after the final meeting with the oncologist a plan was in place. Our plan . . . the plan we would complete no matter what.
John’s mindset and courage to not let this disease beat him was unyielding. It carried him far. After a neck dissection surgery removing numerous lymph nodes from the neck, shoulder, and chest area there was no other sign of disease. As adjuvant therapy after surgery (hoping to delay or prevent return of melanoma), John completed radiation treatment and one full year of injections. Injections that were given at home three times a week by me. Injections that would drain him of energy and cause irritation to the stomach area from repeated injections. Injections that came with a BIG, BOLD WARNING – MAY CAUSE SUICIDAL IDEATION. These were the available weapons against Stage IIIC melanoma in 2008 and nothing could have prevented John from utilizing every resource he had to fight back.
Once you’ve completed the recommended therapies and your scans come back clean, life goes on. You slowly get back out and bike, hike, take a spin on the motorcycle, take a dusty Jeep ride, or race through the desert in the sand buggy leaving your worries blowing in the wind. I’ve heard this termed “wind therapy,” and it is amazing what a stress reliever it is. You actually live life. No more humdrum plans . . . you make life happen and you allow yourself enjoyment of people, activities, and trying new things that you may never have realized before melanoma came into your life. That is, until scan results return positive. Those words . . . “cannot rule out metastatic melanoma.” You admit it. You never really lost this nagging thought about “what if” or “when it comes back.”
What now? You pick up the battle sword and forge ahead. In 2013 some new options to wage battle against melanoma were coming forward from research efforts. After John’s Stage IV diagnosis in 2013 he told me, “I just have to keep staying one step behind technology.” That is exactly what he did with these new therapies until melanoma finally got an edge. The only edge it needed.
Melanoma was winning. It had metastasized to his lungs, liver, and brain. I watched John struggle to get out of bed. I watched him struggle to remember simple words. Blurred vision, full body rashes, fevers, your body fighting itself and your mind fighting against you. With all of this, melanoma never, ever broke his fighting spirit. I strongly stood beside and behind this man for his entire melanoma journey never allowing him to see the fear that I sometimes felt. We did not have time for fear.
One of John’s goals when he was diagnosed Stage IV was to educate people about the deadliness of this disease. It’s not just skin cancer. Vision changes weren’t just “old age.” He was not old! He was in his fifties. He accomplished his goal through interviews and participating with local hospitals and news media with stories of his experience.
My wish is to continue to honor his life by spreading awareness of what melanoma is. It is not just skin cancer. It does not always start on the skin. Visit melanoma.org. Read about it and then talk about it with friends and family. Follow Melanoma Research Foundation’s Self Screening Guide and learn the ABCDE’s of skin cancer. Can you spot melanoma? Take the American Academy of Dermatology’s quiz to find out. Get educated about skin cancer. Early detection is key.
And I have learned something too . . . I will be a melanoma warrior for life.
Native West Virginians, Cathy and John Moore moved west after a vacation to the Grand Canyon when they fell in love with the red rock desert of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. Cathy has worked in the medical field for 40 years. John, a welder by trade, worked for Arizona’s Port of Entry in St. George, Utah, where he mapped and issued permits for commercial vehicles to travel the highways. Cathy carries on John’s legacy by volunteering to help with skin cancer screenings at the local hospital through the American Academy of Dermatology’s SPOTme® Skin Cancer Screening Program and actively promoting skin cancer awareness every May during Melanoma Awareness Month.
Thank you, Cathy, for sharing yours and John’s story of courage and perseverance through adversity with our readers.
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