I was born in 1972. I’ve been married to my wife, Michelle, for 11 years…but we’ve been together since we were 19 years old. We have two sons, Jack (9) and Hayden (6). I’m a real estate lawyer at Minden Gross LLP. Outside of work, I coach my boys in baseball, t-ball, soccer and hockey (6 separate teams each in 2010 and 2011).
My Experience with Melanoma
I have a lot of the risk factors; redhead with freckles and pale skin, spent childhood playing sports in the sun, many bad sunburns at a very young age.
My first diagnosis was in 1998. Sentinel node biopsy. Malignant melanoma (but no spread).
In February 2002 we had Jack.
My second diagnosis was in August 2002. Same place but under the skin. Treated as if first occurrence had spread. Odds of survival – 50/50 to live 5 years.
Then treatment. After many consultations in US and Canada – had all lymph nodes removed under right armpit and then 1 year of interferon (high dose for 1 month with daily treatments in hospital and 11 months of low dose needles at home). This was a tough treatment.
In June 2004: Hayden was born using frozen sperm sample (we had only one chance).
Now: monitoring but no further occurrences.
Since the Diagnosis
I had no idea that Malignant Melanoma, which started with a small bump on the outside of my skin, was so aggressive and had the potential to be so deadly. When it grows deep, it is not just a matter of “getting it off.” I find that to be the most common mistake people make.
I am so grateful to be alive. I am so lucky to have a wonderful wife who stood by me, stands by me and supports me every step of the way in everything that I do. It was her strength that helped get me through the treatment and has given me the opportunity to help raise two wonderful sons. My parents were also very strong. Now that I am raising two boys, I am not sure how they held it together. I know it would be tougher on me to see my son sick than to be sick myself.
I also found out very quickly who my true friends were. There is nothing that points that out more clearly than a serious illness. Many people in my life seemed to disappear very quickly. It is the people who can still look you in the eye when you are sick that you want to keep around.
Advice I’d Give
Enjoy the sun and live your life but make sure to cover up in the sun. I can promise you that the joy you get from a suntan is not worth the interferon injections or worse.
As an adult you have a choice to cover up in the sun or not. Kids are too young to be given that choice. Sunscreen feels like crap when you put it on. Given the choice to put it on, kids will say no. Make the kids cover up and wear sunscreen. Give them a chance to be protected. You could be saving their life. Avoiding burns as a child could make the difference.
I have had many skin and cancer docs over the years. Most of them have been excellent. One stands out. Thank you Dr. McCready. Thank you for keeping me alive. Thank you for treating me with respect and dignity and taking an interest in me and my family and not just my “case.” Thank you for trying to understand what it is like to live with Melanoma even though, thank goodness, you have not. You are one of the good guys.