Friday, February 21, 2014

Pediatric Melanoma...Yes, There IS Such A Beast!

Melanoma knows no limits or boundaries of any kind. It has been known to cross the placenta of a stage 4 warrior and be born in her baby...and kill that baby before she was two years old. Her mother died before she did...again, of melanoma.

So while we now understand that a baby can be born with melanoma, there is something else that is not understood by many, and that is that children can get melanoma. Children. Minors. Our youngest members of society 18 years and younger. Two years old. Nine. Twelve. Anywhere along the 1-18 year spectrum. Anywhere in the world! It's happening and with increasing frequency.

I'm finding that while many adults do not grasp this can happen to their children until it does, I'm also learning those who are oncologists and oncology nurses do not understand children can get this disease. And, just as in adults, pediatric melanoma is color blind. This is NOT a  Caucasian's disease.

Just as with adult onset melanoma, there is much to be learned about pediatric melanoma. But there are a few misconceptions I'd like to clear up right now.

One. Often these children are too young to have been in a tanning bed...strike that root cause off. And they've never been sunburned either. Strike that root cause off the list. They DO practice even safer sun once diagnosed, but UV burns are not the cause of pediatric melanoma. Genetics seems to play a large role. And so does the great unknown. Do NOT assume that if your child has never been sunburned or been in a tanning bed that he or she cannot get melanoma. I know some parents who will beg to differ with you and will set you straight.

Two. Pediatric melanoma often DOES NOT present the same way adult onset melanoma does. Yes, look for the ABCDEs of moles and other places, but look for pink spots that look like warts. Look in their hairline and on their scalp. If you, as a parent, notice a new spot, growth, or changing place that you do not like the looks of, get it removed. ASAP. I don't care what the doctor says. Seriously. This is not their child. It is yours and that place needs to come off and be sent to pathology. Hopefully once lab results are in you can breathe a sigh of relief. But, if it's melanoma, you need to know! And, you need to get your child in the hands of a pediatric melanoma specialist. Get your child to St. Jude or to MDA. Contact me and I'll help you and put you in touch with other parents going through the same thing and they will help you get your child where he or she needs to be.

Three. This is striking children 18 years and younger with increasing frequency. Children of ALL skin tones and I cannot stress that enough. ALL skin tones...from the palest to the darkest and all in between.

MDA has a great page on their site dedicated to pediatric melanoma (look at the 6 tabs underneath the "Childhood Melanoma" heading).

St. Jude has info.

Here's an article that discusses pediatric melanoma. Pay special attention to page two where it discusses what it looks like in children.

We're in a changing world. More and more children are being diagnosed with cancer. Melanoma diagnoses are on the rise worldwide among ALL demographics...including minor children.

Be proactive. I don't want to scare you with this possibility...but I'd rather scare you now than for melanoma to terrify you, and rock your child's world and your family's world, later.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Miss Mary, a 98 year old, 46 year melanoma SURVIVOR!

(Note: this is also a note on Melanoma Prayer Center on Facebook)

Today, February 5, 2014, I went with my dear friend and Warren Plains United Methodist Church Board Chair to a local retirement/nursing home. There was a woman there, Miss Mary, that she wanted me to meet. She told me Miss Mary is 98 years old, sharp as a tack, and had had melanoma. She had me at "98."

Well, Miss Mary is a trip! Laughing, smiling, recalling the stories of earlier years that my friend wanted her to tell. She's a real day brightener. And then my friend told her why she wanted us to meet. And Miss Mary's tone changed a little and she got serious.

She looked up at me from her chair and told me, "They never gave me any medicines." And then she started running her right hand up and down her entire left side and she said, "They cut me all up and took out all my lymph nodes back in 1968."

That was all she said about it. It was in the past...way in the past. She talked about the 22 years she later spent looking after her husband after he suffered a most debilitating stroke. She kept him at home and waited on him. For 22 years. That was how she wanted it. God gave her the strength and grace she needed and she'd do it all over again because they were TOGETHER! There's no human way I can possibly write how she said that word, "together."

I couldn't help but think about her on my way home. For them to have removed all her lymph nodes and cut her up like that, she must have been somewhere in the stage 3 range. In 1968. No meds, at all.

And here she is. 46 years later. At 98.

A survivor!

And a true story of HOPE!