Chapter One: Cancer

Cancer. When you hear the word you immediately think of death, sickness, chemotherapy…family. I remember the day like it was yesterday. Sitting in the chair for a routine eye exam at my local WalMart. Everything was going the same as every other exam I have had until I saw the look. Suddenly, the once smiling and happy doctor had become solemn and serious. Honestly, I had no idea what the look was for, I just knew that whatever she found was not good. Cancer never crossed my mind.

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After the examination was complete, she sat down and explained what she feared she found. Melanoma. Cancer. A tumor in my eye. I never heard of tumors in your eyes, or melanoma on anything other than your skin. She told me not to worry, that it may just be a freckle but she wanted me to see a specialist to verify. She was sending me to a Retina specialist to be seen the next day.

I saw the top Retina Specialist in the area. I spent six hours having different tests run on my eye. At the conclusion of the appointment, the doctor came into the room explaining that it was not melanoma, it was only a freckle. A wave of relief came over me. He said I needed to monitor the freckle every six months for growth. If the freckle were to grow any larger, it would be considered a melanoma tumor.

I left the office more confused than when I arrived. As time passed my eye began to develop a small lump above my eyelid that was visible to the naked eye. I went in to see the specialist for my six-month check-up but was told that it had grown, however, it was still just a freckle. As months progressed, my eye began to bulge and the lump on my eyelid was growing. I began having migraines, and my vision was decreasing. Several more months passed and as things progressed,  I decided to see the doctor again, before my scheduled appointment.

They did all of the same imaging and testings, placing the results on the screen for us to review together. The images appeared different in color to me. I’m not a doctor, so it was just an observation. Again, the same specialist came in to discuss the results and again assured me that everything was okay. It is still a freckle, he said. This time, however, I questioned the results. I asked about the change in color from the last images and asked if there were any further testing that could be done to be certain that this was not in fact melanoma. There was one more test that determines the depth of the “freckle” compared to the sonogram results. I was sent down the hall to have the new CT scan of my eye and brought back to the room to await the results.

My heart sank when a second specialist came into the room with my other doctor. He was very upset that I had not been given the CT scan sooner. Within minutes my world was turned upside down. It was confirmed, I had uveal melanoma. The new specialist gave me his cell phone number and told me to expect a call from him later that evening. He was sending me to an Oncologist in Philadelphia immediately to start treatment, and he would be calling me with the appointment when he had everything arranged.

Just like that, everything else that I was struggling with came to a complete halt. Those problems didn’t seem to even compare anymore to what I had just learned. At the time, the only thing that I could think about was getting better so I could still be there for my kids and my husband. This was just the beginning of what has since become one of the most defining moments of my life. This was just the beginning of my journey to The Renewed Life.

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