More from Chris
My sister Leanne was born on Dec. 22, 1988 in our hometown of Franklin MA. At the time of her diagnosis, she was working for Olympia Sports in Franklin.
Leanne was a popular girl involved in a lot of sports. She played on the Girls Varsity Hockey team, the JV Softball team and throughout her short years she also played basketball, soccer, did gymnastics, ballet and dance. She was going into her Jr. year in high school at the age of 16 when she passed away on Sept. 14, 2005.
Our Family’s Experience with Melanoma
(written by Brenda, Chris’ mom)
On June 14, 2005 it started out to be a normal day, but an exciting day for Leanne and for all of us. She left the house early that morning to get her license. We were all so excited and couldn’t wait for her to come home and give us the good news that she passed her driving test.
She returned a couple hours later smiling the biggest smile as she bounced through the door to give us the good news.
She was so excited and asked if she could drive to her grandparents house to show them that she was now a legal driver. She drove 20 miles to visit them and let them share in her wonderful news. After leaving their house she ventured off to visit her friends and show she now had the freedom of driving on her own. Her last stop was her best friend’s house where she stayed a couple of hours and watched a movie. She wasn’t feeling too good so she headed home. Upon returning home at 9:50 pm she told me she wasn’t feeling well and was going to bed. Within 10 minutes of her going into her room she was screaming in excruciating pain. I went running into her room and she just kept screaming that her shoulder hurt and her stomach. It was so bad that 911emergency was called. By 10:10pm they had arrived and they took her to the hospital. After spending hours and tons of tests being done on her they finally relieved her of her pain and decided to admit her. Still with no results, she was now resting comfortably in her room and going to sleep.
My husband was away on a training session and was flying in that night. I headed home at 5:00am with my oldest son Chris and to make a call to check on my other two sons who were dropped of at their Aunt’s home. When I finally did get home I waited for her doctor’s office to open so that I could inform her doctor that she was in the hospital. Finally it was 8:00 and the doctor’s office opened so I left a message to have him call me as soon as possible. It was about 15 minutes later that the hospital called to talk to me and told me that they were going to run some more tests. I had asked if they knew what was wrong with her and at the moment dead silence fell on the phone.
The doctor was kind of hesitant with every word she was saying but yet was not saying what was wrong. I then asked her what was she trying to tell me? I then asked her are you trying to tell me she has cancer or something? Never thinking that her answer would be yes. She said, “Yes, your daughter has cancer.” Not sure of what kind yet, but yes she did have cancer. I asked her to do nothing until Leanne’s doctor called them. I couldn’t believe my little girl had cancer. I didn’t know what to think or do but I did know that I wanted her doctor to decide whether or not to transport her into Children’s Hospital in Boston. I once again called and told them I needed to talk to her doctor right now and that it was an emergency.
He picked up the phone right away and I proceeded to tell him what happened. Within minutes he called me back and told me he had spoken with the doctor at the hospital. He confirmed what they had told me and said he was sending an ambulance to move her into Children’s Hospital. The rest of the day was a nightmare. I had to tell my parents and my oldest son, who at the time was only 18 years old and had just graduated High School. I decided to wait to tell my other two sons, who were only 10 and 12 at the time, until my husband was back home and we knew all the facts. I did tell my husband that she was taken to the hospital and that she was being moved to another hospital for more testing that they didn’t know what was wrong with her. He couldn’t wait to get home to be with us.
My brother picked him up at the hospital and broke the news to him about his daughter having cancer. We decided this would be better for him to hear before he got to the hospital so he had some time before seeing her. Once he arrived to the hospital and hugged all of us we sat down with the doctors to hear what they had to say. This was the worst day of all of our lives. They told us she had stage 4 metastatic melanoma cancer.
The worst was yet to come. They then told us that she probably only had two weeks to live.
Leanne was a fighter and not only lived more than two weeks – she lived two months to the date before God called her home.
Losing Leanne has forever changed all of our lives. She is the first thought every morning, all day and the last thing at night I think about. Her father and her brothers miss her horribly. She was a huge part of all of our lives. Our only daughter and their only sister as well as my parents her grandparents’ only granddaughter. Life will never be the same with out her but it does get more manageable.
Since the Diagnosis
We all were so totally surprised how quickly this cancer can spread. Melanoma doesn’t need to learn to spread like all other cancers – it knows how to spread. Unfortunately, Leanne’s cancer location was never found. She did see her dermatologist and had had moles removed in the past. One year before her diagnosis she actually had a black mole, that was the size of a pea removed. It had potential and she had to go back and have the margins widened to ensure that nothing would become of it.
Our family and friends came together for our entire family. They were all angels sent to us for the support that we needed and they truly gave to each one of us.
We will always remember Leanne. She was such a beautiful young girl. She was always laughing, smiling and just as silly as can be. She always stuck up for the underdog. She made everyone feel so important to her like they were really special. She will always be remembered. During the time she was sick, people in her hometown lit candles up and down both sides of our street, up connecting streets and around the town. The townspeople would gather each night bringing more candles, lighters and others to help light the candles. Leanne was amazed at all the candles being lit for her and found comfort that so many people came together to pray and show their support to her.
Advice We’d Give
My advice for everyone would be: regardless of skin color, you need to see a dermatologist yearly and more often if your doctor feels necessary.
Thanks to the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund for making the video to spread the word on the seriousness of malignant melanoma.
I would also like to thank the Melanoma Education Foundation for all the work they do spreading the word thoughout schools on Melanoma Awareness.
Thanks to Dr. John Goldman, who fought for my daughter and aggressively searched for any study or treatment that could save Leanne. He was so kind and supportive to everyone of us but especially to my daughter Leanne.
Thank you to all the nurses at the Boston Children’s Hospital for their support, patience and kindness with Leanne and my family.
We have a site set up in memory of Leanne here.
Many thanks for your help and support!