Introductions

I’m Martha. I’m a wife, a mom, a former teacher, a God chaser, a fact lover and researcher. I have stage 4 Melanoma, it’s the “bad” skin cancer. When I was diagnosed it was in my lymph nodes. It’s now tried to move into my lungs and brain and I have a few large tumors under my skin that I can feel. In mela-land we call those “sub-qs.” I’m am in a clinical trial and planning to kick ass!

I am passionate about sun safety for adults and kids. I hope to use this blog to post updates about my cancer journey as well as tips for keeping you and your family sun safe! I have a 6 and 8 year old, so I am experienced at wrestling sunscreen on squirmy kids. I am also hoping to post many sunscreen reviews. What do you want to know about sunscreen? Chemical vs. mineral? Application tips? How to protect that pesky part in your hair? Stay tuned!

Now we are six!

Now We Are Six – A.A. Milne

When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new
When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more
When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever;
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.



Abigail Emma was born on June 6, 2006. She is our 6-6-06 baby and this June she turned 6! We told her this was more than just a mere golden birthday, it is a platinum birthday with a special birth date like hers! Here are some of my favorite baby photos of Miss Abby. She was such a sweet newborn. I had a number of complications during and after my pregnancy and she was SO good while we needed her to be good. (She is still such a good girl, but a much more feisty version of good!)



This photo reminds me of this Eloise Wilkin illustration from my favorite book as a little girl, Baby Dear.


My little bug after a bath! She was chunky, but compared to her big brother at the same age, she seemed so tiny!


Joey and Abby are the best of friends and still play together ALL THE TIME! I am so thankful they have one another and pray they will stay lifelong friends.

Abilicious, we love you so much and have enjoyed the past six years with you more than we ever could have dreamed. You made our family complete. Thank you for making me play everyday! I love you!

And an alarm clock made all the difference…

Our school district made a huge change in schedule on us this year. Last year Joey’s school day was from 9-3:30. The afternoons were so short and packed with homework, dinner, and early bedtimes for my sweet kindergartner. This year, school is from 7:45-2! I love our long afternoons. We have time for homework AND playtime! The mornings, however, are tricky to get everyone up and out the door for the school bus at 7:12! Joey bounces out of bed wide awake each morning when his Anakin Lego mini figure alarm clock sounds at 6.




My Abby-girl, however, does not bounce as easily out of bed in the morning. In fact, dragging her out of bed each morning has become more and more difficult. Yesterday, poor Danny fought with her and didn’t have her dressed until 7. So I decided to give her my old cheap-ie alarm clock to use in an attempt to help her be responsible for getting herself out of bed in the mornings. She wasn’t very excited about the “gift” at first, but after we pretended to be asleep and hit the snooze button when it went off, she decided it was big stuff! She proudly showed off her new alarm clock to Grammie and Daddy before bed.




So, did it work??? Like a charm! She bounced right out of bed and brought me her alarm to turn off (she can only manage the snooze button) and was dressed with teeth brushed by 6:15!!! Here’s hoping the charm of the alarm clock lasts more than one morning! I think Santa may be bringing her a Littlest Pet Shop alarm clock for Christmas! Instead of an alarm ringing, it meows and barks. Perfect for my sweet girl!

Post Surgery Update

Dear friends,

 

Thank you SO much for the encouragement and prayers. My surgery today went pretty well. There was a rough patch when there was an area they were working in which wasn’t numb. It was quickly corrected, but brought out my barely held in tears. Thankfully, it was the greatest team working on me and they kept me talking and distracted.

 

My team of doctors (oncology dermatologist, oncologist surgeon, and the best melanoma oncologist in AZ) talked about my case and they agree that my next step is localized radiation. So I will be meeting with a new member of my team in the next week or two, a radiation oncologist with hopes of beginning radiation on my back as soon as my incisions heal.

 

For the next few days, I will practice taking it easy and following some lifting restrictions. I’m not the best at this, so wish me luck!

My history with Melanoma

2009

September 15  Dermatologist removes “unconcerning mole” from my back

September 17  Diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma

October 2  Wide excision of mole area and sentinel lymph node removal in left and right groin

October 21  Removal of all lymph nodes from left groin

December 16  Port install and first high dose interferon treatment

2010

January 12  Finish high dose interferon treatment

January 19  Begin lower dose self injections

June 18  Port removal (horrible experience!)

June 30, 2010 Danny begins new job

August 9, 2010 Joey begins kindergarten

December 24, 2010 Last dose of Interferon

December 30, 2010 CT/MRI

January 7, 2011 Appointment with Dr. Cranmar, told a tumor was found on CT

January 21, 2011 Surgery to remove tumor

February 3 Clean CT scans

March 14, 2011 Begin DERMA trial

June 3, 2011 Clear CT scan

June 16, 2011 See Warneke about concerns of lumps on surgery scar

July 6 Surgery to remove tumors

August 8 Joey begins first grade, Abby begins kindergarten

August 26, 2009 Clear Scan

September 12, 2011 Derm appointment finds recurrence of lumps under scar

September 26, 2011 Surgery to remove tumors

Treatment Plan

Today was a big day of appointments! This morning I had my first appointment with the dermatologist at the Cancer Center. She was very nice and went over all my background infomation with me and then did a full body check for suspicious moles. She was very personable and the check was easier than I anticipated! She said I’m a pretty simple case and there are only two moles she wants me to watch. She instructed me to do monthly skin checks myself and only needs to see me every six months! After seeing Dr. Curiel, I was talked to by a health educator about sunscreen and wearing long sleeves(cue eye roll on my part) and given some sunscreen samples. I heart samples!

Danny and I took a break from the cancer center for lunch. After lunch, we met with Dr. Cranmer, my oncologist. He was FULL of information and made sure we understood his role as well as interferon and the controversy surrounding the treatment. Essentially, it’s not a super effective medication, but it does improve odds for some people and is the only treatment available. The current plan is for me to start Interferon next Wednesday, the 16th. I need to have a pulmonary function test, chest x-ray, and IV port put in before I can start. So, I have a busy few days in front of me! I will be having 20 days (4 weeks, 5 days per week) of high dose interferon followed by 11 months of 3x per week self administered (by injection) low dose interferon. Interferon is a protein the body makes naturally to fight infection. So, although I am hopefully already cancer free, Interferon will increase my immune system and help it defeat any remaining melanoma cells in my body. I am also starting an antidepressant tomorrow since 40% of patients on interferon struggle with depression and an antidepressant is considered part of the course of treatment.

In the last part of the afternoon, I took part in some “word games” as part of a study and had bloodwork drawn. At 4:30 we finally left to pick up the kids from my parents after a LONG afternoon! I’m glad to be home and have the appointments behind me. I dread beginning the treatment, but I am glad to begin putting it behind me!

Our New Routine

What’s life like as a Melanoma patient? At the moment, it’s pretty darn boring! We started a new family routine today that will carry us through my first month of interferon treatment and perhaps for awhile afterward. I’m hoping to be able take over most of the kid duty after that first intense month of treatment. At the moment the kids are going to school full days on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Danny drops them off at 9 and my Mom is picking them up at 4. Mom takes them back to her house and then Danny picks them up on his way home from work around 5:30. I predict they will be exhausted and I am going to learn new appreciation for those evening hours with them. (Or, they’ll be grumpy and I’ll just want to put them to bed like normal!) 🙂 On Wednesdays through my first month of treatment, my Mom will have the kids for the day and is going to help me with some laundry and housework. My Dad is changing his work schedule so he can watch the kids on Fridays. Once I start treatment, Danny will drop me off at the cancer center (very close to work for him) in the mornings and then drive me home at lunchtime.

It’s been a semi-rough day emotionally. Being a stay at home mom is SO important to me and although this is for a limited time, it’s tearing out my heart to not be able to take care of the kids. Cancer has taken away a little of my identity as a mom and it’s just another reason cancer sucks. My kids couldn’t be in better hands. I just talked to Mom and Joey did well today, but Abby is struggling. She’s been showing more anger lately. We’re trying to stay consistent with discipline and grace. Both kids ask about my drain and back. Abby is a little more interested in the drain and is already asking when I can “take it off.” We watched the Arthur episode about cancer with the kids last night. We haven’t explained that Mom has cancer. They’ve probably heard me talk about it on the phone. We’ll probably talk about it more specifically this week as we adjust to our new routine. Please pray for all of us as we adjust!