A blog about us…and journey with Melanoma

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All clear for 2 years

We got the news last week that Mike is still clear of melanoma (no evidence of disease) from his latest pet scan. We are thrilled to say the least. We spent the entire weekend waiting for results and went to Pier 39, Rainforest Cafe, and the aquarium to keep ourselves occupied. I have to say that Scan time sucks and it has a way of making you feel so lonely. Now that Mike is two years out, his scans will only happen once a year as opposed to every 6 months…a good thing!

As we rejoice, we will not forget our fellow melanoma warriors who are fighting this horrible disease.

2 years ago….

2 years ago I found an oozing spot on Mike’s torso. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that this freckle could equal a stage 3 cancer diagnosis and that our lives would be affected by melanoma: An aggressive cancer that doesn’t have a cure; A cancer that is the number one, fastest growing cancer among young people (25-29); A cancer that can lay dormant for years and suddenly come back with a vengeance.

In those two years we have both changed. We have gotten “somewhat” used to the emotional roller coaster of scans every 6 months. Mike has changed his lifestyle and he is healthier than ever. I have become obsessed with melanoma research.  Some think I shouldn’t focus on it so much, and I agree and disagree.  It is my way of feeling in control of the uncontrollable.  I have to feel prepared so we know what to do if Mike has a recurrence.  I choose to read the good stories – and the bad – because that is reality.

In those past 2 years we have seen people lose their battles and we have met some amazing melanoma warriors.  A few weeks ago we had dinner with these lovely ladies (the lady on the right end is Mike – haha).

Survivors

With the exception of Mike, they are all Stage 4 melanoma survivors and patients of Dr David Minor at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.  All of them had remarkable results with bio-chemotherapy treatments – a mixture of chemo and immunotherapies and one of the hardest treatments out there as it requires hospitalization.  Hanging out with Tina, Suzanne, and Christina was so important to us and we are truly blessed to know them. The next day after our dinner, Christina had her scans to see if Yervoy was working (she had one tumor left after bio-chemo) and she got the wonderful news that she is officially in remission.

Anyone with cancer knows that scans are a form of necessary torture.  Mike is due for his scans in August.  2 years later, we still have scanxiety but we also have hope.   There are so many survivors.. and Mike is one of them.

May-hem

May was a crazy month for our household.  Many of our family members decided to be born in May, including our two children who are separated by 2 years and one week and my brother and sister in law, in addition to many others that are near and dear to us.

One thing we enjoy doing each year is throwing a big double birthday party for the kids.  So we invited 60 of their classmates and had a “treasure hunt” at the lovely Junipero Serra County Park in San Bruno. Other than the violent wind and the end of the world prediction on the same day, it was a great day of fun.

Birthday invite

Jack and Aidan hunting for treasure hunt rocks

In addition to being Melanoma month,  May 4 was the Melanoma Research Foundation’s Wings of Hope gala in San Francisco.  I joined the event committee and helped them with a bit of marketing and PR in addition to the fun task of collecting bottles of gin, scotch and rum from my generous friends for the party.  The best part: Mike and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a number of long term Stage IV melanoma survivors…. Erick Davis, Suzanne Lescure, and Kari Worth – all patients of Dr David Minor at Cal Pacific Medical Center. Suzanne and Kari were both recognized for their contributions at the event and it was so uplifting to meet them.   Here are some pics of the gala:

Mike and Emily and MRF event in San Francisco

May was fun, but I am looking forward to an event-less June!

Dear 16-year-old me

Earlier this year, we got an email from the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund asking if we knew young people with melanoma for a video they were making (Mike was considered too old at 43.. haha!).  David Cornfield was just 32 when he died of melanoma – his wife is featured in the video and has carried on his legacy.  Yesterday the producers contacted us with their completed video “Dear 16-year-old me”..but I had already seen it because it has become so popular on YouTube so quickly.  I am sharing it with everyone I know because it is so moving and they absolutely nail it….what I have been trying to communicate to people – that young people are not immune to cancer – especially melanoma – and that if you catch it early you could save your life.  I hope you will watch it and share it with your friends and family.

Thankful for the Roller Coaster

Last week Mike got the news that his scans were once again clear, 18 mos after diagnosis. And once again it was PURE TORTURE waiting for the call from the doc – and PURE RELIEF when we got the news.  Our life would have changed so drastically if we had gotten bad news.  But instead we celebrated in Vegas this past weekend with 3 other couples. We had a blast!

Someone asked me if the clear scans meant Mike had beaten melanoma.   I would love to say yes…but we really don’t know the answer to that because melanoma is different than most cancers.  Many people with other cancers can say they are “cured” 5 years out.  But Melanoma often comes back unexpectedly –  5-20 years later.   I don’t think we will ever live without the fear that it will return – unless they find a drug for this horrible disease.

So for now, we will just continue to live our lives as normal as possible and enjoy every moment.  Life is a roller coaster ride – some parts are scary and some parts are fun…

Vegas Roller Coaster

The New York, New York Roller Coaster in Vegas

 

 

 

6 Month Increments of Normalcy (kind of)

So another 6 months have passed and that means it’s PET scan time for Mike.  We are 18 mos out from a Stage IIIa melanoma diagnosis.  It seems our life is now broken into 6 month increments.  Waiting for the scan results is scary.  We know of multiple people who have gotten bad news from scans even though they felt completely normal.  That is how melanoma rolls.  But the the good news is that when Mike hits 2 years, he will only have PET scans once a year.

I have to say that we have enjoyed the past 6 months of normal life.  Life certainly isn’t the same as it was before a cancer diagnosis, but now we realize that it will never be.  And that is just fine with us.  So as we wait for scan results over the weekend, we will appreciate the past 6 months of health and normalcy.  The fact that we can pay our bills, go to work, school,  dinner, etc. is something we try to appreciate (well, most of the time).  There are so many others suffering from illness and they just can’t do the mundane tasks we all take for granted.  So please take a moment to appreciate your life, your health, your everyday mundane stuff because you are truly blessed to have these things.

Em

Margaritas for Melanoma

Emily and Mike

Our first ever Cocktails for a Cure was so great!  Thanks to everyone who came.   We raised over $3000 for for the Melanoma Research Foundation and we are on our way to $10,000 by the end of 2011. 

My favorite part of the night was honoring Darren Farwell , my high school friend who lost his battle at age 32 to melanoma. Darren’s friend Devin helped me we give away some protective sunware items from UVSkinz.com  – a company that Darren’s wife started after he died. 

My other favorite part was when my 9 year old daughter stood in front of 50 people and told them to “check their buttocks” for melanoma.  It was hysterical, but so true!  And we ended up winning one of the raffle prizes – one week at a Florida condo – it wasnt rigged, I swear! 

All in all, it was so nice to see everyone and I hope more people will come to my next one – especially others with melanoma who live around the area. Margaritas for Melanoma is just the beginnning for us.  Our next event will be in the Spring so stay tuned!

Emily and Mike

Mike’s Firstgiving Page: http://www.firstgiving.com/mikemcauliffe