Thursday, October 18, 2012

And Then There Was Melanoma

The story everyone always wants to hear is HOW? How did you find out you had melanoma? 

Shortly after I had my second child in January of 2010, I discovered a small, pink bump growing on my neck. I wasn’t sure what it was, but since it stayed for a while, I decided it was a mole. My daughter, who was just a tiny baby, would reach up and grab it, making it hurt and also annoying me.

 Little Pink Bump

I went for my annual skin exam (which I had been doing for several years) in August and asked the PA to remove the bump because it annoyed me. She did.  I didn’t think about it again, except for the day they called me to tell me it was benign. 

Fast forward a year later to August 2011.  The pink bump/mole had grown back. This time it was much bigger and more annoying. It would itch and, on occasion, hurt. I didn’t make an appointment for my annual skin check because, hey, I had two kids under 3 and I was TOO BUSY.   By December, I decided I would call and make an appointment to get it checked out because something seemed strange about it. I made the appointment, which was a month and a half away. When the time  came, I was just too busy again.  I rescheduled for yet another month and a half in the future.  Too busy again, I rescheduled for a third time- May 17, 2012.  This time I went. My high school reunion was coming up in a few months and I didn’t want to go with this ugly mole on my neck (which I was now referring to as my “second head”).  I had a skin exam and asked the PA again to remove the mole. 

Second Head

She removed it. I left feeling a little insecure about the circular scar on my neck, but it was better than the ugly pink head.  I completely forgot about my follow up appointment for the pathology results. It was on a Tuesday and I missed it. I received a voice message the next day.

Hi, Anjannette. This is Nancy from Dr. Smith’s office. We need to see you. We made an appointment for you tomorrow at 1pm. No need to worry, though. If you cannot make it, please let us know.

I was a little unnerved, but I got over it quickly. I showed up the next day at the appointment.  After about 15 minutes, I was told I was having “surgery.”

She went on to explain that the biopsy showed I had “abnormal cells.”  They wanted to remove a wider area to get the cells out. If left in, these are the kind of cells that could possibly end up being malignant.  Here I was worried about a little circular scar, and now I was getting a two-inch, football shaped piece of skin removed from my neck.

I decided to text this info with the picture to my mom and my sisters. Not a good idea. My mom called me later because she thought I was telling her I had cancer. She was in tears.  I assured her, “No, mama. I am SO sorry. I shouldn’t have sent that in a text. I am fine. I don’t have cancer.” 


A week and a day later, my derm’s office calls my house, and I was unable to answer. Then they called my cell and left a message. 

Anjannette. This is Nancy from Dr. Smith’s office. We need to see you today at 1pm. It is urgent. Please call us if you cannot come in.

My heart sunk. I stopped what I was doing and called them back.

Me: Hi. This is Anjannette. Someone just called telling me that I need to come in at one today, that it's urgent.
Receptionist: Let me get the nurse.
Nurse: Hi, Anjannette. Can you come in at 1:00 today?
Me: Yes, I can. I just need to find someone to watch my kids. Can you tell me what this is about?
Nurse: No.
( 30 seconds of silence)
Me: Ok. I will be there. 

It was only 10am!!!!

I called my husband and told him what happened and asked him to come home for the kids.  I got on Facebook and asked my closest friends to pray. I called my sisters. One of them was laying out by a pool when I called. Needless to say, she didn’t want to be out there anymore.  My mom was at work. I wasn’t able to call her and didn’t want to, not until I knew what exactly was going on. When my husband got home, I jumped in the car. It was 11:30, but I couldn’t sit around the house any longer.

I made the 20 minute drive from my house to the office and during minute 19, I realized it was almost lunch time. There would be no chance of me getting in earlier, but I walked in and tried anyway. 

  The receptionist, who was ALL smiles, told me that the PA had left for lunch already. Oh, and she thought she had some errands to run, so she wouldn't be back until after 1:00. She then suggested that I go have some lunch and enjoy myself.

Enjoy myself?

I don’t know WHAT my face was conveying at that very moment, but I can tell you this- I was once told by someone that I didn’t particularly care for nor respect that my “face shows exactly how I am feeling.” Well, that lady must have been feeling some VERY ugly things just before I left.

I walked out and called my sister. The last thing I wanted to do was eat. Any other time I would be EXCITED by the idea of  sitting in Starbucks all by myself and having some coffee or even better, sitting down and enjoying some sushi for lunch, but I couldn’t. My stomach was sick. So I went to my second favorite place, Joann’s Fabrics. I walked around, taking in all the colors of the fabrics and made a call to a friend who had basal cell carcinoma in the past.  I left her a message. I called my sister again, who was researching everything on the web. Reading best to worst case scenarios, she thought it would just be basal cell, which is not deadly. After all, it was a pink mole, not one of those ugly black moles you see on the skin cancer exam cards.

When I got back to the office, it still felt like forever until I was seen. I sat, legs crossed, on top of the table, waiting for the PA to come in. First comes the nurse, asking how I was. I just looked at her like she was crazy. She said, “Yes. I know. Mindy will be in here soon.” The PA walked in shortly after, again, asking how I was doing. Again, I give her the crazy look.  Then she told me:

The results came back from your last biopsy. It is malignant melanoma.

Malignant melanoma.  I knew NOTHING about melanoma. NOTHING. I asked, “Will I be ok?” She began to tell me that I will need to see a surgeon and be referred to the MD Anderson Cancer center to meet with an oncologist.  I was numb. I was confused. I was speechless.   

I just sat there.
In shock. 

The PA and the nurse hugged me.  Then I was handed a pamphlet on melanoma. Before I left, I was told she would have the MD Anderson Center call me to schedule my appointments,but since it was Friday, I wouldn’t be hearing from them until at least Monday.  Monday seemed like YEARS away. 


  1. I'm so glad I'm reading this knowing how the surgery and further testing turned out. Reading it makes my heart heavy remembering.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It took me back to the day I was diagnosed....

    We'll never forget THAT feeling, will we?

    1. NEVER! Thank you, Chelsea, for encouraging me to do this. I have been much more at peace since I started sharing.

  3. I will never forget where I was when I got the telephone call. I was stunned. I immediately called a gal I had worked with, because her husband was a melanoma survivor and asked her some questions. The derm I has at the time didn't think the mole was anything, but it turned out differently. Thanks for sharing your story. Was this nodular?

  4. Hi Penny. Sorry for the late response. Yes, it was nodular. It looked nothing like I expected it to look. This is something that rocks us all. I can't imagine us ever forgetting the news.