5 years of Melanoma and counting!

This week will mark 5 years since being diagnosed with nodular melanoma.   I've approached cancer as more of a speed bump than a stop sign in living my life.  

I was talking with some folks about my cancer diagnosis and how I've dealt with it over the years. The question came up about where do I see myself in 5 years.  I chuckled because it reminded me of an interview question...  My first gut reaction - alive.  That is the #1 priority!   

Those that know me, know I'm stubborn and highly independent.  I'd like to think that is part of the reason why I've done well with fighting this.  In almost 5 years there has been a very little period of time when I ever felt like and considered myself a cancer patient.  And honestly, I didn't like it one bit!  

I continue to move forward.  It would have been easy for me to pack up and go home when I was first diagnosed.  I know my family would have appreciated that.  But in my mind that was letting cancer define who I am and win.  

So what's changed?  I get asked that question a lot also.  We all think we are invincible!  Nothing is going to slow us down or stop us!  I can't say that this has changed me a lot (I'll leave that up to my family and friends to comment on haha!).  But I will say that there are some thing's that I view and approach differently.  

1.  CAREER WANTS AND NEEDS: I was very ambitious with my career.  Partially because I enjoyed what I did and partially because I wanted to be successful.   When you get a slap in the face reminder that life is short, you stop and reevaluate that.  Do I need the long hours, stress, etc?  Is a large paycheck worth it?  Is a big title worth it?   The answer is yes and no.  I think you just have to find the right balance and environment.  And remember that without good health, none of these matter.  

2. ENJOY THE MOMENTS:  there were a number of times in the past I could remember skipping out on things with family and friends to do work.   I try and remember my priorities!   Work will always be there.  

(At a packer game in Green Bay 10/11/15)

3.  HEALTHY LIVING:  I am totally guilty of putting off annual physicals, taking the easy meal vs the healthy meal, skipping the gym for about any excuse I could think of.  I'm still not great, but getting better!  Ok, ok, I still skip my annual physical, but let's be honest - I was getting blood work every 3 weeks and scans every 3 months.  That's WAY more through than any other physical I've had!  

4. TRUST YOR GUT:  we know our bodies best.  Go with what feels right!  Fight for what you deserve!

5.  BE HONEST: no sense in holding back in what you think or feel.   Share that with others.  

6.  BE HOPEFUL AND OPTIMISTIC: I've never been much of a Debbie downer.  Ok cancer, it sucks!  There is no sugar coating it.   I share my story and experiences because I want people to be hopeful!  (And maybe proactive in taking care of yourself!).  Melanoma is highly treatable if caught early!  There has been so much change in the last 5 years of treatment of melanoma!  And more things coming every day!  

So those are a few things I've learned along this journey.  Disclaimer, remember I'm an engineer not a writer haha!!  

Here's a little collage I did showing 5 years of treatments and adventures.  


Cheers,
Erin

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4 comments

  1. Actually Erin, I was terrified that you WOULD pack up and move home. Let me explain......I felt that if you came home, you would have given up. You have a lot of me in you, and I understand your decisions. Friends and family kept telling me, to tell you, to move home, so I could "take care of you". I told them that if you moved home during your worst times, it would be your way of saying it was over. It ain't over! While I have hated the miles between us, I have also been comforted by them. I know that is something you will understand. I love you to the moon and back! ~Mom

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  2. Erin- congratulations. I have been following your blog for awhile (silently but not stalking 0-;) since I got diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma in 2012.

    Can relate to a lot of the characteristics you described above including stubborn (just ask my wife), refusing to give up (kept working through even the brain tumor diagnosis, staying busy and active helps), honesty and trusting your instincts.

    I have also been stable since @ the fall of 2012. Have done clinical trial with weekly trips to LA for BRAF and PDL1, followed by 2 cycles of yervoy, and am on @ my 25th infusion of PD1 now. Also had 4 surgeries, including brain surgery, and am (not really bragging here I hope; if it is bragging it's got to be a twisted form of it), the European and American record holder for number of brain tumors treated with Gamma Knife (98 treated at Univ of Colorado) as well as longest time spent in the machine (over 4.5 hours in one particularly grueling session). The doctors called my case a "medical miracle" but I'm just grateful to still be able to hang with my wife (a native of WI btw 0-;) and kids.

    Have recently started a blog (thus my need to break silence here/get out of my nerdy engineering mentality) to share this story, in case it might help someone. www.98braintumors.com

    Here's to wishing you 5 more years of healthy, contented and melanoma free living!
    Sincerely,
    Leland @ 98braintumors.com

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  3. Hi Erin,
    I was in the audience for the short talk you did to our leadership team on Tuesday this week. I just wanted to say thank you for doing that. It meant a great deal to the people in the room to hear your storage. Everyone was moved by your story and your courage. Thank you for making the time.

    Sincere Regards

    Craig Kennedy
    SVP Supply Chain Management
    Merck & Co.,

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  4. EY, I loved this article because I could feel your amazing spirit throughout! I can't wait to see what you experience in the next 5 years and beyond! You can accomplish anything if you keep your great attitude and approach to life!

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