At 17 years old, I was diagnosed with melanoma. I was about to start my senior year of high school. Instead of going to the first football game of the season, I spent the first weekend of the school year recovering from surgery to remove all the traces of cancer in my body.
My melanoma diagnosis
The summer before my senior year in high school, my parents noticed a mole on my lower back. We decided to remove the mole, purely for cosmetic reasons, at my local dermatologist. The mole was sent in for testing, and less than a week later, my parents got a call from my dermatologist telling us to go to MD Anderson.
We arrived at MD Anderson’s Melanoma and Skin Center, where I was informed that the mole was melanoma. My doctor, Merrick Ross, M.D., said we needed to take immediate action to remove any other remnants of cancer that might be in my body.
The scariest part was that the cancer had come from a random gene mutation; it wasn’t because of sun exposure or a gene I inherited from my parents. Even though I’ve been careful in the sun my whole life, I still got melanoma.
My melanoma treatment
My melanoma diagnosis was extremely frightening, and it was the last thing I thought I’d be dealing with going into my last year of high school. My family dealt with everything that came at us, though, quickly scheduling my surgery with Dr. Ross and changing my schedule for recovery. We braced ourselves for the road ahead.
In August 2013, I underwent surgery. Dr. Ross removed the tissue surrounding the mole and multiple lymph nodes closest to where the cancer was. I’ll never forget waiting for the call that my cancer was gone. It was one of the most stressful times my family has encountered. We were prepared, but worried, about what the next step would be.
"My senior year didn't go exactly as planned"
Luckily, my road wasn’t as challenging as the one that many people have to face. When the results came back, we learned the cancer had been completely removed and hadn’t spread yet.
Still, my senior year didn’t go exactly as planned. For more than two months, I had to stop swimming. (I was the captain of my high school swim team.) Because of the massive scars on my back, my body needed that time to heal. I couldn’t even lift my backpack, and after the surgery, I couldn’t walk for a few days.
MD Anderson really helped with my recovery, and I’ll be forever grateful to the doctors and nurses who helped me throughout the surgery and today, at all my yearly check-ups. I am so grateful for all the help and care I received from my family and everyone at MD Anderson. I couldn’t have beaten cancer without those people in my life.