EXPERIENCE WITH MELANOMA
My name is Rachel D’Ambrosio. In March 2008, I was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin
cancer. I am only 11. This is my story.
I live in a beach community in Narragansett, Rhode Island. I have always
grown up on the water. My parents have a boat and all summer we water ski, kneeboard
and tube. We also have a pool where I swim all day, even at night too. I always wear sunscreen 30+ because I have light skin and red hair, putting me at risk for skin cancer. I was always told that the sun could cause skin cancer because of harmful ultraviolet
rays of the sun. But, until now, I never truly understood exactly what that meant.
I remember my Mom always checking my skin for freckles or spots called moles.
My Mom has blonde hair, blue eyes and very light skin. She has been having
spots removed from her body for a long time, all due to the sun. So I guess that’s
why she always checks me even though it is very annoying.
My mom noticed this spot on my back that she said seemed to be “changing”.
She told my Dad when I went to the doctors to have them measure it. The
doctor said it appeared to be fine but gave us the name of a Pediatric Dermatologist.
A Dermatologist is a doctor of the skin. An appointment was made and off
I have to tell you, I was very nervous going to the Dermatologist. I didn’t
want someone to check my skin from head to toe the way my Mother does. It was
kind of embarrassing. The doctor began at my scalp. Did you know you could get skin cancer up there too? She looked
at my face, neck, ears, body, arms, legs even fingers and toes. When she checked
my spot on my back, she said, “my gut feeling says it’s fine, I am 99.9% sure it is nothing to worry about.” “We can monitor it.” But,
my Mom wanted it gone and I am glad she did. Although, at the time, I was not
happy with her.
They brought in a tray of all sorts of things including needles, which I hate the most!
The needles were used to numb the skin so they could cut out the spot and stitch the skin back together. Once they give you the needle, you really don’t feel a thing.
They send the skin to another doctor who looks at the tissue under a microscope.
They are looking for typical (normal) cells, atypical (changing cells) or cancer.
My Dad got the phone call on a Wednesday night a week and a half later. The
doctor said I was diagnosed with Melanoma In-situ, which means the cancer was on the epidermis, the upper layer of my skin. She also said I had to go in for surgery to remove more tissue to make sure they got
all the cancer.
My surgery was scheduled for Good Friday at 8:30 in the morning. The surgery
was done by a Plastic Surgeon because of the large cuts and amount of tissue they have to take. These doctors are trained in making the best scars. Although,
my Mom, Dad and I told him we didn’t care about how big or large the scar was because all we cared about was that the
cancer was gone.
This surgery was different because now I had five needles poking me in the back to numb the area. And it took longer. But, it wasn’t too bad. My Mom
and Dad told me they cut a lot and deep. They also said there were so many stitches
they couldn’t count and that they would eventually dissolve. They sent
this tissue back to Boston where they could biopsy it. A few days later, we got
the phone call again. This time the tissue was cancer free!
Now I’m just waiting for the stitches to dissolve. I also have to
go to the doctors every three months, but that is OK compared to how it could have been.
If my Melanoma was not caught in time it could have spread to the rest of my body.
I might have had to get chemotherapy or radiation; instead I am cancer free.
My Mom pretty much saved my life! My new saying is, “Make a positive
out of a negative by teaching others”.