I am writing to tell you about my experience with melanoma and to share the important role that the Melanoma Foundation of New England has played in my life.
When I was diagnosed with melanoma in 1989, what little I knew about the disease was extremely inaccurate. Naively, I just thought the offensive mole would be removed and that would be the end of it. My education came quickly. By 1995 when the melanoma metastasized and I became a stage 4 patient, the fear was incredible. I didn’t expect to live beyond the predicted 12 to 18 months. Yet I did, and today I am doing well, although never considered “out of the woods.” I never know what the next scan will bring. Being a long-term survivor obviously is a blessing, but it comes with a host of fears and issues that I deal with daily.
Although I never considered myself a support group kind of person, about 18 months ago I began attending a monthly support group sponsored by the Foundation. It has been so helpful to be able to discuss my concerns with others who truly understand how unpredictable melanoma can be, and I believe that sharing my experience has given hope to others who are just beginning their journey. It also has made me aware that melanoma does not discriminate, affecting young and old, fair and dark complexioned, and all economic classes. This past winter, my husband began attending the Foundation’s Caregiver Support Group, which is held on the same evening as the group I attend. Talking with others has helped him handle the stress of being on the other side of the disease, and he too has been able to support others. We both look forward to our monthly trips down Route 3 from our home in New Hampshire.
Through the Foundation I became aware of Billy’s Buddies and recently became a Buddy myself. I’m hoping that my experience will save someone else from going through some of the frustrations I went through, simply because I was unaware of what resources were available or how to be an advocate for myself. As a Billy’s Buddy volunteer, it gives me a great feeling to be able to help others, even in a small way.