When I was diagnosed with Melanoma cancer, I did not know anything about this kind of cancer. However, I found out that Melanoma Cancer is not just skin cancer. It is one of the most deadly forms of cancer because it can spread to lymph nodes, distant organs and brain.
My melanoma cancer journey started in August 2005 when I was diagnosed with Stage 1 melanoma from a mole on my left foot. I had my first surgery to remove the mole and all surrounding tissue that could have cancer cells. I could not believe this could be happening to me. But why not me? In 2015, it is expected that approximately 74,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma, resulting in nearly 10,000 deaths.
For many years, I prayed that the cancer would not return. Unfortunately, in February 2009, I felt a “pea” size bump under my skin on my left thigh. It was confirmed that the bump under my skin was melanoma. The melanoma cancers cells had spread and traveled from my left foot to my left thigh, which made me Stage III.
I was devastated that the cancer came back. I was told by my Oncologist that it was highly likely that I would have more cancerous tumors show up because all the cancer cells were probably not removed during surgery from my foot. My Oncologist was right. Again in May 2010 and then June 2011, I had more surgery to remove more tumors in my leg.
However, while having surgery in June 2011, my surgeon cut through a cancerous tumor by mistake and “billions” of cancer cells spread through my blood stream. Needless to say, once again I was devastated because my Oncologist told me that there was high probability that cancer cells would spread throughout my body causing the cancer to go to my internal organs and even my brain.
My Oncologist was right. Within months, in September 2011, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma because cancer had spread to both of my lungs, throughout my leg, and my chest. My prognosis was not good and I was put on chemotherapy. Traditional chemotherapy and radiation is not very effective at killing melanoma cells so I continued to progress. Since my condition worsened very quickly, I was given months to live. My doctor strongly suggested that I try an experimental drug in a clinical trial because traditional treatments were not working for me.
However, the cost associated with participating in the clinical trial would be very expensive for us. My husband is my only caregiver and he had to stop working to care for me. With no income and my medical bills mounting, we had no idea how we could afford to participate in the clinical trial. Needless to say, my condition was dire and the clinical trial drug might be my only hope and a second chance at life. We started the clinical trial but because of the financial burden on us, our savings dwindled. If we could not get financial help to continue the clinical trial, we did not know what we were going to do. Then, Lazarex Cancer Foundation literally saved my life by giving us financial assistance to be able to continue with the clinical trial. I am extremely grateful to the Lazarex team, including each volunteer and each donor.
My husband and I searched on the internet for any cancer service organizations that helped cancer patients. Lazarex stood out from the other organizations because Lazarex’s mission is helping cancer patients participate in clinical trials. Lazarex was a perfect match for me because Lazarex understood the importance of clinical trials and how clinical trial drugs can save lives. Since traditional treatments did not work for me, my only hope at this point was an experimental drug with a clinical trial. Lazarex made it possible for me to continue on with the clinical trial, receiving the drug that would save my life.
When I first called Lazarex, I was feeling nervous and overwhelmed to try to explain my situation to a complete stranger. I spoke to Tami Keeler, Patient Service Manager. Tami was very friendly and helpful. She was extremely kind and empathetic to my situation. I could tell this was just not a job to Tami. Tami genuinely cared about me as a person. When Tami told me that Lazarex could help me, I was overjoyed. Knowing I did not have to worry about some of the financial burden with the clinical trial was a huge relief on my mind and body. With one less thing to worry about, now I can focus on fighting my cancer. The day I called Lazarex was the day that changed my life forever!