Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My 'Spindle Cell Melanoma' Story....

Unbelievable that a month has already gone by since I last posted on my blog. So much of my garden landscape is shifting from late summer blooms to fall color already and most of these changes seem to have happened in just the past couple days. 
Or at least I just noticed?  I've been somewhat preoccupied with taking care of myself and getting a lot of rest.  Many of you have followed my dear friend Ashley's story of melanoma and because I have personally seen all that she went through it has given me a reason to be a strong advocate of awareness of our skin and seeking annual check ups for early detection for anything suspicious. I think it's especially important to use social media to reach as many people possible when it comes to our experiences - although I must be honest, sharing someone else's story is much easier than sharing my own.  When I shared with you last month that the results of my biopsy came back as stage IIa Spindle Cell Melanoma and that seeing a surgeon was my next step.

I think I should show you a photo of what that original melanoma looked like on my skin.  It's nothing like what is shown online or in doctors offices of what melanoma looks like. It's just a flesh colored tiny bump that was a little tender if I touched it. It had appeared around March / April time frame of this year on my forearm (just below my wrist). 

I had no idea how fast everything would happen.  I saw my surgeon on August 10th and was scheduled for surgery the very next day. It was explained to me that I would need an additional centimeter all the way around my original incision removed and a few sentinel lymph node glands under my arm removed to see if the cancer had spread.  Here is the outline of what the doctor said would be removed - the circle in the center was where they original tumor was before the first surgery.

My husband I showed up at the hospital early in the am and the first thing I had to have done, is to have dye injected for a scan into where the melanoma was originally removed, this is so that they could find and biopsy my lymph nodes under my arm - as these are the first set of lymph nodes my cancer would reach had it spread. The four very painful injections outlining the center circle. I am terrified of needles and all the numbing cream in the world did not help!!!  It took about an hour to have the dye reach the lymph nodes under my arm....all the while they x-rayed my entire arm as the dye traveled upwards.  Once that was complete I returned to my room and prepared for surgery.  I had an IV placed and visited with the surgeon again and he marked where the lymph nodes would be taken, marked the surgery site on my forearm, and explained the procedure one more time to me. The anesthesiologist came in and prepared a 'cocktail' for me and that is the last thing I remember. 

When I woke up I was in horrible pain under my arm however, I could not feel anything in my forearm because they had 'blocked' my pain - so I was somewhat numb from my elbow down (which was nice). I stayed in the hospital for a few hours and came home and slept...for days! My amazing family waited on me hand and foot and my mother came over and took care of me during the daytime while my husband was at work.  The best phone call was the following week when I was told all margins were clean and the lymph nodes showed no signs of spreading!  Just needed the follow up appointment with an oncologist to find out if any further treatment was needed.

My daughter wrote a wonderful post on Facebook about the past couple weeks to share with her friends about being an advocate about our own health - which I believe is worth sharing.

      The last couple of weeks have been such a roller coaster of emotion for our family and I wanted to take a quick minute to share in hopes that everyone who reads it might be encouraged to see a dermatologist, pay attention to your body and trust your instincts.
About a month ago, Tracie - for those of you unfamiliar, she is the heart and soul of our family - went in for her annual appointment to have her moles checked. This is something she is super diligent about and is a huge advocate for protecting your skin, anti-tanning beds, and lost a really good friend to Melanoma after a very long battle. During her appointment, she reluctantly decided to ask her doctor to look at a small white growth on her arm. She felt a little silly because she thought it was a wart, it looked nothing like what you make sure gets checked out, but she knew it wasn't there before and she decided to mention it. Her doctor looked, breezed past it and went on with their appointment. At the end of the appointment, he decided again to take one more look at the small white bump and said that maybe they should do a biopsy. He said there is a very rare form of melanoma that shows up white and while he was SO sure that's not what it was, just to be safe, they should double check.
      The biopsy was done a few days later. This is always a stressful time for Tracie because skin cancer is legitimately her worst fear and she always holds her breath when she has to have things like this done. Then she got the call from the Doctor and all she heard on the other line was that the results came back and she was stage IIA for a rare form of Melanoma called Spindle Cell Melanoma. He said "Don't google it, just come see me tomorrow morning and bring Darin." (you know she googled it...)
      He explained that this form of Melanoma is rare, usually happens in fair skinned, blonde hair, blue eyed women but said he was very optimistic that everything would be okay but that they needed to do surgery and test her lymph nodes to see if it had spread, in which case, it would've been considered Stage III. At this point, Tracie was a wreck - skin cancer AND a surgery that would require needles (her 2nd worst fear) and more waiting for answers....you can imagine. I spent all of my hours reassuring her that she had done everything right, that her doctor had done everything right and that this was all going to be fine.
     Tracie went in last Monday for a pre-op appointment and was scheduled for surgery the very next day. She was amazing, Darin was amazing, the kids were amazing - it was AMAZING watching our family come together and rally around her, make sure she was comfortable and protect her. I've never been more proud to be a part of this family. We were told it would be about a week before we got any results back, but on Thursday afternoon, Tracie got the call that the area on her arm they did the procedure on came back clean and her lymph nodes looked great! So as usual, I was right and everything was fine - but it was scary and traumatic and our weeks were full of anxiety that I would never wish on any family.
     The point is, Tracie listened to her gut instinct and her doctor listened to his. She also made sure she went to her preventative care appointment and made the time to take care of her body. These are all things that I know I need to be better about and thinking about what could've been had she not been so diligent, is beyond comprehension.
So friends and family, go make your annual appointments for all your stuff, don't get too busy to take care of your bodies and never ever ever ignore your natural instincts. You are all too precious.
Tracie has been recovering like a champ this week and from now on will be considered a Melanoma Survivor. She has an appointment with an oncologist who will review her case and see if any further treatment is needed and will have to go in every 6 months to get checked and will have to continue to pay extra close attention to her body. I'm so so so proud of her for facing her biggest fears and for taking such good care of herself so that she can get back to taking care of the rest of us - God knows we would never be able to keep this big mess together without her.
(attached some pics so you can see what it looked like - not like any of the pictures you see so if something doesn't look or feel right, it probably isn't!)"

I haven't been able to use my left arm for the past three weeks and still have at least another week of healing - although I must say because of the help of my friends and family, I have been able to allow my arm to rest and heal.  So many have many great friends and family visiting, praying, sending well wishes, bringing us dinners, flowers and sending cards! The outpouring of love and support is overwhelming! 

I just saw my oncologist this past Tuesday and was told that because of the treatment (surgeries) that I already had on the 11th of August and that the results of those surgeries indicated clean tissue margins and that the cancer had not spread it dropped my percentage of reoccurrence from 85% to 5%.  No chemotherapy and no radiation treatment will be needed.  Like it was mentioned above i will see my dermatologist every six months or earlier if I see something unfamiliar.  If this cancer reoccurs it would in the same exact location - so being extra watchful of this particular area is very important.

Like my friend Ashley said so many times, early detection is key! She gave me a beautiful gift and SAVED MY LIFE in the process of losing her own!
Please friends I urge you to have your skin checked if you never have, or if you see something new on your skin! I am so lucky and feeling blessed that I had my doctor biopsy this spot and thorough in the testing. Thankful to the surgeon who scheduled me for surgery so quickly - as this type and many other cancers are not normally found early. Had I waited or my doctor 'just watched' this spot until my next appointment it likely would have been found at a later stage where my prognosis would not had been as good and the outcome may have been drastically different! xoox, tracie

To learn more about Spindle Cell Melanoma click here or here!
To see Ashley's story click here!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fishtail Cottage Garden 8/10/15

Since this is my weekly gardening post, I am very excited to show you a new antique oil painting rose print that I just added to my collection.  I started collecting these a few years ago and because they are so difficult for me to find, I get super excited when I come across one!  Isn't this just so pretty?  I love the torn spot and tattered edging of the canvas print.  These are being hung in my sitting room where I am enjoying all things roses!

I wanted to also thank so many of you who reached out about Ashley's story and sent prayers for good results of my biopsy after my post last week.  The results were not what I had hoped for -  the biopsy showed the tumor to be Stage IIa Spindle Cell Melanoma.  The next step is to get in next week to see a specialist and schedule another surgery to remove more tissue where my tumor was removed and have my lymph nodes checked under my left arm. I will let you know how that goes.  Just trying to keep good thoughts and keep my moments of panic and overwhelming thoughts of "what if" to a minimum! I found this quote on Pinterest recently and put it on my phone to remind myself to stay positive!

Okay so onto this weeks garden and flowers here at Fishtail Cottage!  Our temperatures have persisted to stay in the 80's here in Seattle. Which means watering is a constant task and the progress of the landscape seems to be moving at faster pace than in years past.  The front of the house has continued to stay gorgeous with the changing colors of the Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangeas.  They are showing all three colors at once. 
Now don't laugh, but I purchased four more of these beauties to continue along the picket fence line. About three days after I planted them, all of the leaves shriveled up and fell off and so I cut the blooms off so the plant could focus on rooting itself and getting established.  It's been almost two weeks and look, they are already showing new life! Now I just have to wait about three more summers for them to look like my current ones. I guess that is why (for me) the garden is always fun to share, because it is always evolving and changing! 

A few cheerful blooms that are loving this heat is the Stella de Oro Daylilly, Malibu Yellow Poker Plant and Arum italicum 'Marmoratum'.
Also, Guara, Prairie Mallow Knautia Thunder and Lightning and French Perfume Rose.
I finally have identified a couple of my roses through you! I am still hoping someone can help identify this rose - here are three different stages of its color.  The blooms have lasted for weeks and weeks - starting out in a pinky orange color and then fade to white.  Any thoughts?
Thanks for coming over and taking a look at my garden post for the week xoxo, tracie

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fishtail Cottage Garden 7/27/15

You can see in the photo below, I have some new roses from Heirloom Roses that need to be planted.  I've been keeping them watered and I excited to get them in the ground soon so they can start getting established here at Fishtail Cottage. I've been enjoying the garden from a distance this past week and haven't been able to do my weekly chores, because of a bump on my arm that I had removed last week. 

 As most of you know I lost my friend Ashley Trenner to Melanoma two years ago and because of her, I am not only crazy about sunscreen when I am gardening but also very proactive when I see something on my skin that is new and concerning. I just saw my dermatologist on January, however,  I had several new spots appear on my skin this spring and summer that made me nervous.  Of course all the ones I worried about were fine, but at last minute I showed my dermatologist something 'different' a little white bump that was on my forearm.  He didn't like the looks of it and scheduled a surgery for the following week (meaning last week).  I am still waiting anxiously for the results...tomorrow the stitches will be removed.  So because of my recent week, I think it's a good time to share with you Ashley's story again click here to see the video.  One thing that I have been using when I am out in the garden that I absolutely love are these Sunscreen Bands  can use them for any type of outdoor activity, safe for both kids and adults.  All you do is slip one of these bands on and apply sunscreen and watch the band change color, as the sunscreen wears off, the band alerts you to reapply sunscreen or get out of the sun.  It has come in very handy for me because I get busy out in my garden for hours and forget how long I've been exposed.  However, using these sunscreen bands have been a fabulous reminder for me! And I am hoping it will prevent more surgeries and scarring on my skin!

I hate that all that sun exposure so many years is affecting me now and there is nothing i can do about it other than be diligent about having my skin checked.  Do you get yours checked?

If you would like to order some of your own Sunscreen Bands click here
Okay, so now for my weekly garden post.  I have certainly enjoyed taking a week off, however when I walked the garden this morning I see my chores are multiplying by the day! 
We had a great deal of rainfall (not complaining) a few days ago which has allowed most of the grass to become green again, and watered areas I just can't get to. Not to mention the deep soak for the entire garden is essential now and then. The Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas have turned a deeper pink this week and are so pretty! 

The David Austin Boscobel Rose has bloomed this week and it's so fragrant. An addition to my garden I can already say I will not be disappointed in.

Also have a couple unnamed roses I am hoping someone out there can help me identify? Suggestions are so helpful...and I dislike having unnamed roses in my garden.

And a few more pretty blooms that are occurring in the garden that I must share with you this week. Rose of Sharon towering over my patio area (both pictures one and two). Then the gorgeous Baronne Prevost, Gladiolus and lastly the dainty Johnny Jump Ups!

Thank you so much for coming by today to see what is going on in my landscape, I hope you are all enjoying a beautiful week! xoxo, tracie

Please follow me on Instagram if you don't already!
Also, here is the link again to order those Sunscreen Bands.