Most people don’t really know what cancer I had. They know I had some kind of cancer “journey” (ugh), but they don’t know that I was hit with Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma.
That’s skin cancer to most people.
Skin cancer that fancied taking up residency inside a vital organ. In my case, my liver, and a chunky little bit of lung whilst it was at it too.
I didn’t get liver cancer. I didn’t get lung cancer. The skin cancer, that I once had removed from my back, whizzed it’s way through my blood system 9 years later, to take over my liver with no less than 13 tumours.
That’s Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma.
The largest was 10 cm, and the others probs weren’t far behind. I didn’t really care to know much more. That was enough, thanks.
My liver was failing, quickly, and I could spend, let’s say, another 14 days on this Earth…or try a lifeline in brand new Immunotherapy.
Well given that kind of choice, I’ll give the lifeline a go.
People don’t survive Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma. They just don’t. I’d tell you to Google it, but it’s far too scary. The odds are not good when it comes to Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma.
Stage 4 is code for “terminal”. It’s “you’re going to die from this” cancer.
Except I didn’t believe anything I was told, and I carried on inside my whirlwind to try and beat what I could of the horrible little bastard.
So the “life after” bit of this post title feels a bit weird. Because technically, I don’t feel like there is “life after” stage 4 metastatic melanoma, just an adjusted “life with”.
Even in the lucky position that I now find myself.
By some kind of miracle, the Immunotherapy worked better than my doctors had ever seen it work before. Those ugly tumours were far too big to shrink entirely, but the treatment did manage to wipe the cancer out of them.
If you could see one of my MRI or CT scans, you would see lots of ugly lumps, but none of them contain cancer, and none of them are trying to serve me my notice in life.
So technically, I don’t have cancer. But it still looms over me most days.
It still changed me as a person.
How it’s improved me
Let’s start with the positives. Because out of all of this, there has to be some, there just has to be.
I guess the fact that I am writing this section says it all.
It has made me a true optimist. I have to be don’t I? It’s what got me through the worst of it. It’s what allowed me to see that there could be a light at the end of that tunnel.
I honestly believe that things will always find a way of working out, no matter how awful they are. Sometimes this is my downfall, as it gives me a bit of a blase attitude…but is any problem really worth worrying about too much? Stay positive.
It’s made me realise what is important. Sitting at my desk for a minute past what I’m paid for isn’t something I’m prepared to do.
Whether I simply want to sit on my own sofa rather than work my behind off for someone else, or I want to spend time with friends or family, a boring 9-5 just isn’t going to hit my priority list.
It’s made me a bit “fuck it”. If you don’t like me, I could care less. Should I book that trip away? Yes, it’s not worth waiting.
I’m not saying I’ve managed to loosen my control on every aspect of life, but just every now and then, I remember how bloody awful 2016 was, and I just think fuck it.
How it’s damaged me
Not gonna lie, you don’t go through that and come out unscathed.
I don’t feel like life is all rosy. I live a very happy, content life, where I feel very lucky, but I feel a bit like an iceberg.
Way, way down, the scars are all still there.
Not a week goes by where I don’t think about the day that I was told I was going to die. Without picturing that hospital room.
Without wondering whether I’ll have to face it all again.
Not a day goes by without me feeling the discomfort in my liver, from the leftover tumours.
And on occasion, it makes me self righteous.
I’m not proud of that, but I have moments where I just think…”do you not remember what I went through?” “Do you really not understand?”
I know, it’s ugly isn’t it. But that’s the truth.
It’s like I want it to be forgotten, but I don’t quite want people to think that I could just simply be the same old “me” that I always was. Because the scars are there.
How it’s prepared me for childbirth
And I thought I’d chuck this one in, coz you know…relevant and all that.
Backtracking a little bit, I still find it entirely unbelievable that I could even be pregnant.
How on earth is someone who was once told they are dying, now sitting here, creating a whole new life?
But those thoughts aside, I honestly feel like everything I went through has brought both Ross and I into a really strong place when it comes to childbirth.
Now, I could be completely wrong, but I just feel like I know my strength. I know that my body is built to do this. My body has proved itself in so many other ways, I’m sure it can do childbirth.
I don’t mean it’s going to be easy, I just mean, I know I can do it.
I’ve sat in some horrific situations in a hospital, and I’m determined that this won’t be another one.
We’ve chosen a midwife led birth centre, and I’m headstrong on the type of environment I want to create for myself for the exact reason that I can’t add to my awful hospital experiences.
Ross and I have had way more thrown at us than we can ever imagine. It’s made us stronger than I could ever have imagined. We are the best team I could ever have wished for.
Sometimes, I just love my blog for a bit of a deep and meaningful. To get a few thoughts of my chest. I hope it’s been helpful for some, but if not…it was helpful for me.
Learn more about Melanoma, including Metastatic Melanoma, here.