I was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic melanoma in Feb of 2020, at 24 weeks pregnant, and recently turned 38.
Well, let me back up a bit… I was on vacation in San Diego with my husband and 3 kids. I felt nauseated. So I went to urgent care. They told me it was nausea from the pregnancy and sent me home with anti-nausea meds. But I still felt sick.
So I went to another urgent care, who also said it was nausea from the pregnancy and sent me home. I only remember the first day of that trip. The rest is a blur that I was too sick to enjoy.
When we got home 2 weeks later, I fell. My husband wanted to take me to our local ER, but I had an OB appointment on Monday (it was a Saturday) so I said I’d just wait and she would take care of me. I had taken to taking baths when I felt sick so I tried again the next day. I fell again but this time my husband was there to catch me. He insisted we go in, and rushed me to the ER.
They found a massive brain tumor and sent me in an ambulance to the closest major hospital. I got hooked up with an amazing neurosurgeon and he agreed to take it out. He also got me the best oncologist in the area. All the while I was being told it was just fine.
Turns out it wasn’t. It was Stage 4 metastatic melanoma. We didn’t realize until my second brain resection when they removed a small cyst on my head that turned out to be melanoma. I’d had that lump for years but had been told my insurance wouldn’t cover cosmetic procedures.
So for years, I lived with that lump that was really skin cancer until it spread to a giant tumor in my brain. I had immunotherapy and other things, but none of that matters now. I spent years being told that the lump was cosmetic; all the while it was trying to kill me.
I’m so mad at the world. It’s been a year and a half and thus far my scans are clean. But we all know how cancer goes. Once you have it, it’s always looking over your shoulder. I have 4 kids now and I’m trying to make their life as full as I can while I’m still here. Only god knows how long that will be. I hope for a long time, but that’s all I really have now is hope.
By Jennifer Bitner