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Christina

Meridian, Idaho
Age:
36

Keywords

I am a three-time melanoma survivor and only 36 years old. I am also married with two boys. My life changed forever when an unwelcome intruder came knocking at my door. That intruder was called MALIGNANT MELANOMA. At the time, I was 7 months pregnant with my second child. I knew melanoma was the deadliest form of skin cancer, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be handed that diagnosis. I guess I did spend countless hours in the sun in my youth—playing sports, life-guarding, teaching swimming, snow skiing, boating, etc—and I had a dark tan to prove it every summer, for many years. I even used tanning beds off and on in my early 20’s.

I thought I was one of the “lucky ones” at the time of my original diagnosis because we had caught it early. Statistically, I was given a 90% cure rate. So, after the initial shock of my diagnosis wore off, I was relieved that we were only dealing with stage 1 melanoma. It was almost 2 years later when that unwelcome stranger made a return, this time to my lymph nodes. Just like that, seemingly overnight, the melanoma had returned. This time, it was more than just a wake-up call. Now I was dealing with stage 3 disease. I was considered N.E.D. (no evidence of disease) after surgery. Unfortunately, my remission only lasted 5 months before the melanoma made another return. This time it was in a vital organ–my lungs, and it was growing very rapidly.

I can’t begin to tell you how frightening it was to hear the words “stage 4 metastatic melanoma” from my doctor at the time. At this point in my journey, I already knew what that meant and I had seen the survival statistics—I was keenly aware that I was in the fight for my life now. Instead of settling for a “death sentence” and giving up though, I had determined in my mind to be a survivor. And I knew I could do it. I had all the tools that I needed—a supportive family, friends, church, and community, a brilliant and experienced doctor and healthcare team, a strong and healthy mind and body, and most importantly the right attitude to not give up and surrender. I was determined to remain optimistic and hopeful, and to fight like hell. It was then that I decided I would give melanoma a run for its money.

I am so grateful for my health today—to be alive and with my family still. I now want to share my experiences with others and give hope to other melanoma warriors. Three years ago, I felt that I had a mission and so with the help of two other melanoma survivors, I created a foundation for survivors of melanoma. We have built a large support network in our community and continue to speak in high schools educating the youth about the dangers of unprotected UV exposure.

What I am most grateful for through my experiences is the perspective that I have gained and the invaluable life lessons that I have been taught. I have learned to appreciate life more, not take anything for granted, live in the moment, not “sweat the small stuff”, and most importantly, I found my inner strength and confidence that we are STRONG ENOUGH.

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