I so wish I had come across this site or thought about looking into it years ago. Now I'm here it will be a random stream of thoughts and experiences.

I will be 45 on the 5th March - that's this Tuesday.

I'm a self employed textile designer - lately it's been going really well.

I live with my partner of 20 odd years and we have a adorably funny 7 year old boy who in my eyes is a miracle baby after 3 failed IVF attempts and more or less giving up hope.

My mum had breast cancer in her early 40s. She had mastectomy and was on (a drug I can't remember the name of right now!) for the rest of her life.

Sadly at 69 she discovered she had colon cancer that had already spread to her liver. They suggested palliative care but she insisted on trying chemotherapy (she was a tough cookie)

My mum passed away just 3 months after diagnosis. After her first treatment of chemotherapy she died at home in bed from a heart attack - her friend was with her. I miss her terribly and 8 years on I still feel bad that I wasn't with her., even though I know I shouldn't.

 

So here I am. In 1998 I had a melanoma removed from my left arm. It was small and thin and after 5 years of check ups I was discharged as cleared.

Since then I've always been careful in the sun - but admit I may have lapsed occasionally.

In August 2012 I noticed a small mole on my right thigh had become slightly raised - on further inspection the skin was slightly broken. This was just before I went on a trip to Croatia for 10 days.

Once back I immediately went to my doctors who referred me to the Homerton Hospital. Why didn't I go to the doctors before I went away - I would have at least got my hospital appointment as soon as I got back?

It was removed 2 weeks later ( why did it take so long - why did I just not contact the Royal London Hospital directly where I went in 1998?)

2 weeks after that I got the results - in a terrible manner, they phoned me to tell me if the date for my operation was OK, prior to my follow up appointment. When I got to my appointment, knowing the results already, the consultant didn't even know why I was there 'you had a mole removed in 1998 - so how can I help you?'

Eventually she got up to speed and agreed that yes it was a melanoma and I was then transferred to the Royal London and after much indecision I had more of the mole site removed and a Sentinel Lymph node biopsy in January.  It is now 5 weeks later and I've just had the results that the lymph node was positive. They told me that standard procedure was to have all the lymph nodes of my right groin removed.  I came out of the hospital totally numb, upset and not sure how to digest all the information I'd been given..

Should I have had the SLNB sooner? Have I left it to spread - how did my mum cope - she was so strong and didn't cry whilst I was in floods of tears. Here I was with my partner, him being strong and me in tears again thinking about our 7 year old son.

Following a lovely chat on the phone with a specialist cancer nurse a couple of days later,

I wrote an email to my two older brothers.  (I had also spoken to them all) just to put things into some sort of order -

 

"Just to fill you in and writing it down just helps.
I spoke to the specialist cancer nurse today who has put me in the picture a bit more, or at least has pulled together all the things I was guessing and put them in a realistic setting.
My melanoma was found in my sentinal lymph node - this is the main guard node nearest the the primary melanoma site. The fact that it is in that node indicates that it will be in other nodes. Now that they have this knowledge the automatic standard procedure is to remove all the lymph nodes of the affected area - ie. my groin. Thus hoping to rid me of the melanoma altogether. This does not mean that it won't come back - but the intention is to try and stop it or at least delay it.

 
Side effects - I am more than likely to get lymphdemia - which will cause my leg to swell/pain/discomfort and it can only be controlled not cured. She was pretty honest about that as it's the whole of my lymph nodes to that leg so it's fairly certain I will get it. So my life style will have to change a good bit if it affects me too much. The hope is that I can manage it with massage/exercise and wearing a big sock! But all in all it's doesn't sound great so I'll just have to try and come to terms with it.
At first I thought she was presenting it to me as you may not want to go ahead with this because you are young and it will affect your life significantly - but then as she went on she seemed to turn it towards the fact that I've just got to come to terms with it because....

 
What if I didn't have the operation?
The melanoma may spread to other organs such as liver/lungs or appear as a lump. The latter can be treated with removal but the former is more difficult to treat.

 
So I have to make the decision of carrying the melanoma in my body knowing that it may well come back and not be treatable or be treatable
Or, having the operation and living with the side effects, hoping that it will stop the melanoma coming back but with no guarantee

 
I'd like to find out if there is any statistical data to say that removing the nodes is more beneficial but I am more or less thinking that the operation is inevitable as I'd rather my family has me with a fat leg rather than not at all. I don't think I can live with the risk

 
I'm seeing the GP on Monday to mull this all over with him.
The nurse will tell me on Tuesday who is actually operating on me as that hasn't been made clear.

 
Besides all this:
I'm waiting to get an PET scan - this will show up any cancer spread to any other parts of my body - it's my main focus of worry prior to the next stage and may alter the necessity of the lymph node removal - ie not worth doing - I'm buggared. Until I get this result it's all very uncertain. I'm not even sure how conclusive it will be - shame I didn't request this at the onset via Westfield then at least i might have been better prepared.

 
Part of me wishes I'd never had the diagnostic of the lymph node as I would have presumed I was clear and just carried on with my life until it hit me again as there seems to be no total guarantee that it won't come back anyway!

 
Anyway - better to write it down so you can take it all in and offer any questions you think I should be considering/asking."
So on Monday I'm going to my GP just to talk to someone outside of the family and to see what he has to say.
I'm worried and scared, but want to be positive as having read lots of comments on this site, there is lots of hope and definitely support.